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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke April 15, 2020

These headlines don’t prove “fake news” about COVID-19 deaths

If Your Time is short

  • Lenard Wells was a retired Milwaukee police lieutenant who then taught at the University of Memphis.
  • News stations that ran stories about his COVID-19 death described him differently in headlines depending on his connection to the region.

COVID-19 has killed more than 125,000 people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. But a Facebook post suggests that reports of fatalities related to the coronavirus are overblown, or even manufactured. 

"Corona is so bad, this guy died twice! #FakeNews," reads the text above what look like screenshots of two news articles. In the first, a headline reads, "69-year-old retired Milwaukee police lieutenant died from COVID-19." A photo underneath shows a man in a suit and glasses. The second screenshot shows the same picture but with this headline: "University of Memphis professor dies from coronavirus, report says."

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.) 

Featured Fact-check

The headlines are authentic: On March 22, the Fox News affiliate in Milwaukee reported on a 69-year-old retired police lieutenant who died from COVID-19. On March 23, the Fox affiliate in Memphis reported on the coronavirus death of a University of Memphis professor. Both stations aired the same photo with their stories.  

That’s because Dr. Lenard Wells spent 30 years working for the Milwaukee Police Department before he started teaching at the University of Memphis, according to news reports. He was an instructor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. 

The two reports describe the same person’s (one) death. We rate this Facebook post False.


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These headlines don’t prove “fake news” about COVID-19 deaths

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