Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.
Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.
I would like to contribute
The online story has been circulating since at least 2000, targeting not only Reid but several political figures. Other versions have featured the surnames of President Donald Trump, former President George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton and Al Gore, among others.
A Reid version was posted to Facebook in 2013 and is being re-shared recently. The post claims a genealogy researcher named Judy Wallman was working on her family tree when she found that the former senator from Nevada has a great-great uncle, Remus Reid, who was "hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889," and whom Wallman also shared as an ancestor.
The post displays a black-and-white photograph that is supposedly Remus Reid standing on a platform as a noose is tightened around his neck. It isn’t him. The image actually depicts outlaw Tom "Black Jack" Ketchum, who was hanged in New Mexico in 1901 for attempted train robbery, among other crimes.
All versions of this claim end with the politician’s office — in this case, Harry Reid’s office — issuing a statement to Wallman that attempts to spin the life-story of the supposedly criminal "great-great uncle" into something more legitimate, calling the ancestor a "famous cowboy," who "passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed."
The 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.)
With good reason: The entire account is fabricated.
Harry Reid is simply one of many political figures to be implicated in this bogus ancestry spin job.
We rate this Pants on Fire!
Facebook post, Oct. 29, 2013
Colorado Encyclopedia, Thomas E. Ketchum, 2000
Snopes, Did Donald Trump Have a Horse Thief Ancestor? Oct. 15, 2000
OurStrand, A LITTLE KNOWN FACT OF TEXAS HISTORY, May 20, 2001
March 16, 2015; March 17, 2015
FactCheck.org, Harry Reid’s Outlaw Ancestor?, Jan. 29, 2009
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.