Arrest of the vice-president of Pfizer falsely reported by a “satirical” site

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False claims about the arrest of Pfizer Vice Chairman Rady Johnson quickly circulated online after an article was published by the Vancouver Times, a known author of conspiracy theories and conservative satire.

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A website known for publishing conspiratorial hoaxes and satirical content claimed that Rady Johnson, the executive vice president of Pfizer Inc., was arrested last Friday.

The Vancouver Times website reported that Johnson, who is also chief compliance, quality and risk officer for Pfizer, was arrested by federal agents following the release of incriminating documents.

“Rady Johnson, the executive vice president of Pfizer, was arrested at his home and charged with multiple counts of fraud by federal agents. He has been taken into custody and is awaiting a bail hearing,” the Vancouver Times wrote.

“This comes as thousands of classified Pfizer documents have been released showing the true risks of the experimental vaccine,” the website reported.

A tweet from “Trevor Lloyd-Jones” posted the next day quickly garnered thousands of likes and retweets. In the tweet, Lloyd-Jones wrote, “It’s begun. The VP of #Pfizer was arrested at his home and charged with multiple counts of fraud by US Federal Agents.

A link to the Lloyd-Jones tweet was later embedded in the Vancouver Times article with an update stating: “Twitter has started censoring this article. To fight censorship, send a report to Twitter and tell them this link is safe. Alternatively, you can always RT the tweet (from Trevor Lloyd-Jones) below.

The censorship claim refers to a protection put in place by Twitter to prevent users from following untrusted or dangerous links. The warning appears when you click on the Lloyd-Jones tweet article.

“The link you are trying to access has been identified by Twitter or our partners as potentially spammy or unsafe, in accordance with Twitter’s URL policy,” the warning reads.

The claim then started to spread on social media and was later proven to be false by several fact check points.

A similar incident to this happened last year when the same self-proclaimed “satire website” falsely claimed that Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla had been arrested. The claim also went viral on social media and was later found to be false, Reuters fact checkers reported.

Bourla’s article mentions that the reason no other major media outlets reported on the incident is because police “ordered a media blackout, which was immediately approved by a judge.”

According to Dan Evon of Snopes, a popular fact-checking site, this tactic is often used by sites like the Vancouver Times to persuade readers to fall into the trap.

“Conspiratorial news websites often claim there has been a ‘media blackout’ in an attempt to explain why their fictional stories are not covered by the mainstream press,” Evon wrote. “The reason the mainstream press hasn’t covered this story, however, is that the Pfizer CEO hasn’t been arrested for fraud.”

Although there are several articles copied from other independent blogs reiterating Johnson’s arrest on the Internet, there has been no coverage of the subject by mainstream news sources. Additionally, there are no arrest records related to Johnson’s alleged detention.

Evan Santiago is a reporter for the Charlotte Observer and writes for the publication’s Service Journalism Desk. He is originally from New York and is currently based in Queen City where he works to help local readers with the challenges that come with everyday life in the modern world.



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