President Donald Trump routinely passes along false and misleading information that has been circulating online. On Monday, he appeared to be the one starting it.
Shortly before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, she made a request about what should happen to her seat on the Supreme Court. “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” Ginsburg said, according to NPR, which reported that the 87-year-old justice dictated the note to her granddaughter, Clara Spera, in the final days of her life.
But during a “Fox & Friends” interview Monday morning, Trump claimed, without evidence, that Ginsburg’s “dying wish” might actually have been written by a top Democrat like Rep. Adam Schiff of California, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York or Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.
“I don’t know that she said that, or if that was written out by Adam Schiff, and Schumer and Pelosi,” Trump said. “That came out of the wind. It sounds so beautiful, but that sounds like a Schumer deal, or maybe Pelosi or Shifty Schiff.”
This baseless claim appears to be a Trump original. Questions about the legitimacy of Ginsburg’s “dying wish” were not circulating online in any significant way before his Fox News appearance.
But after the appearance, social media has filled with false claims echoing Trump’s conspiracy theory and taking it even further into the land of nonsense. On Twitter, users continued to spread their false claims that Ginsburg dictated the note to her “8-year-old granddaughter.” (Spera is a lawyer who graduated from Harvard Law School in 2017.) They have cast doubts on the integrity of NPR’s reporting. (Nina Totenberg, the NPR reporter who published the detail about Ginsburg’s last wish, is a longtime Supreme Court reporter who has been close to the Ginsburg family for decades.) And they have sought to portray Democrats spreading false rumors about Ginsburg’s death as part of a political power grab.
In an appearance on MSNBC on Monday, Totenberg confirmed her account of Ginsburg’s statement and said that others in the room at the time witnessed her making it, including her doctor. “I checked,” Totenberg added, “because I’m a reporter.”
Schiff, one of the congressional Democrats who Trump speculated might have invented Ginsburg’s request, responded on Twitter, saying “Mr. President, this is low. Even for you.”