Mass shootings are regularly accompanied by claims that shooting survivors and victims’ family members are "crisis actors." In fact, such smears against the survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, earned PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year in 2018.
Unfortunately, the old playbook remains intact: The mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, touched off a new round of social media posts claiming crisis actors abound in the wake of mass shootings.
An image posted to Facebook on Aug. 8 featuring the photos of three women wrongly suggests that they’re the same woman playing the parts of a shooting victim and the mothers of shooting victims.
"JUST SO YOU KNOW NOT ONLY WAS SHE A MOM OF THE CALIFORNIA AND ORLANDO SHOOTINGS, BUT SHE WAS A VITCIM (sic) OF THE Las Vegas SHOOTING TOO!!" the image says followed by three laughing-while-crying emojis.
Accounts commenting on the post took the claim even further. One suggested the woman pictured also looks like "the alleged mother of the girl supposedly killed in Charlottesville." Another placed her "at the Boston Marathon, at the Levoy Finnicum standoff in Oregon, and at Sandy Hook."
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
That is because the image is a collage of images of three different women.
The woman in the bottom left photo is Susan Schmidt-Orfanos, whose son, Telemachus "Tel" Orfanos, survived the Las Vegas shooting only to die during a shooting at a bar in the Los Angeles suburb of Thousand Oaks that left 13 dead in 2018.
In the image posted to Facebook, the three women have light skin and are wearing glasses. They all have wavy brown hair and glasses, but they do not look identical. And searching for other photos of the women, ones in which they aren’t under duress and in some cases not wearing glasses, the differences are even more acute.
All three women are different individuals who have experienced gun violence up close.
We rate this Facebook post Pants on Fire.
Facebook post, Aug. 8, 2019
PolitiFact, "PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year: Online smear machine tries to take down Parkland students," Dec. 11, 2018
CBC, "Wounded Manitoban hid under wheelbarrow to survive Las Vegas massacre," Oct. 3, 2017
BBC News, "Orlando shootings: Grieving mother begs for gun law to change," June 13, 2016
CNN, "Orlando shooting: 49 killed, shooter pledged ISIS allegiance," June 13, 2016
BBC, "Las Vegas shooting: At least 59 dead at Mandalay Bay Hotel," Oct. 2, 2017
Business Insider, "At least 13 dead, including gunman, at college-bar mass shooting in Los Angeles suburb of Thousand Oaks," Nov. 8, 2018
BBC, "Thousand Oaks: Las Vegas shooting survivor among dead," Nov. 9, 2018
Orlando Sentinel, "Mom of Pulse victim Drew Leinonen: ‘I am my son’s voice,’" June 7, 2017
The Washington Post, "Pair survived the Las Vegas massacre. A California shooting took one away," Nov. 11, 2018
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