June 17, 2020

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Fans of “Walker, Texas Ranger” know Chuck Norris as a fighter and a survivor.

And they have no reason to believe he died of the coronavirus.

Norris, the action-film star known for his martial arts expertise, has been the target of misinformation for years. In fact, a Facebook scam claimed he was dead back in 2012. He wasn’t. He just turned 80 in March.

Celebrities are often the targets of misinformation — specifically death hoaxes. According to false online claims, Will Smith and his son Jaden, Lee Majors and Clint Eastwood have all died in the last two years.

They haven’t. And in the age of COVID-19, this is another type of misinformation to look out for, especially considering one of the first major U.S. news stories about the coronavirus came after Tom Hanks contracted it (he actually did, although the Simpsons did not predict it).

A Twitter account masquerading as the BBC spread a false rumor about Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who portrayed Harry Potter, and his girlfriend, actress Erin Darke contracting the coronavirus. But, back to Norris (before he roundhouse kicks me for my digression.)

Social media users have started spreading a hoax saying Norris died June 10, but the post is actually a long-winded joke.

“Corona Virus claims a black belt,” the June 11 post reads. “Carlos Ray ‘Chuck’ Norris, famous actor and fighter, died yesterday afternoon at his home in Northwood Hills, TX at the age of 80.”

But if readers continue on a few more paragraphs, the joke is soon revealed.

“However, after his minor inconvenience of death, Chuck has made a full recovery, and is reported to be doing quite well,” the post says. “It has also been reported that the Corona virus is in self isolation for 14 days due to being exposed to Chuck Norris.”

Click here to read the full fact-check.

How to fact-check COVID-19 graphics

In this newsletter we’ve covered red flags to watch out for when you see coronavirus data and graphics. The MediaWise team follows up those lessons with some tips for being your own fact-checker when it comes to infographics. Watch the video»

Go even deeper as a coronavirus fact-checker

Still hungry for more COVID-19 fact-checking tips? The Stanford History Education Group put together a comprehensive free curriculum that will teach you, your family and your friends how to think like a fact-checker when you see a claim about coronavirus online. Check it out»

Are 52 thoroughbred horses available for free after their owner died from COVID-19?

This is an outdated and misleadingly edited Facebook post that originated in 2011 after a longtime horse breeder died in Ohio. Read the fact-check»

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Alex Mahadevan is a senior multimedia reporter at MediaWise. He can be reached at amahadevan@poynter.org or on Twitter at @AlexMahadevan. Follow MediaWise on TikTok.

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Alex Mahadevan is director of MediaWise at the Poynter Institute. He has taught digital media literacy to thousands of middle and high schoolers, and has…
Alex Mahadevan

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