Early Wednesday, Oprah Winfrey denied an absurd conspiracy theory that she had been arrested for sex trafficking after a raid on a home she purportedly owns in Boca Raton. The theory, which spread online late Tuesday, seemed to stem from numerous false reports and YouTube videos claiming that Harvey Weinstein testified against Winfrey and numerous other celebrities to lessen his prison time.
“Just got a phone call that my name is trending,” Winfrey wrote. “And being trolled for some awful FAKE thing. It’s NOT TRUE. Haven’t been raided, or arrested. Just sanitizing and self distancing with the rest of the world. Stay safe everybody.”
It’s difficult to discern how the rumor started, but according to NBC News reporter Ben Collins, it started with QAnon. The same conspiracy alleges that Tom Hanks was arrested for pedophilia and is being held in Australia, rather than staying under quarantine—and that Weinstein testified against celebrities including Celine Dion, Ellen DeGeneres, and Bob Saget to lessen his sentence.
One video associated with the conspiracy, purportedly leaked bodycam footage from a law enforcement officer involved in the raid, was clearly fake—and came from an account that describes itself as satirical in its “About” page.
The theory also promotes the idea that coronavirus is, somehow, a covert operation by the U.S. government—echoing the paranoia of figures like Sheriff David Clarke, whose dangerous COVID-19 tweets were recently removed.