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The news that former Secretary of State Colin Powell had died was barely minutes old when anti-vaccine activists and conspiracy forums online lit up with messages celebrating his death as proof that COVID vaccines don’t work.
On Monday morning, Powell’s death was announced by his family in a Facebook post that revealed the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had “passed away due to complications from Covid 19.”
The post confirmed that Powell had been “fully vaccinated,” adding: “We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment. We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather, and a great American.”
What the post didn’t say is that Powell was 84 and suffering from multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood, as well as Parkinson’s disease, all of which would have significantly impacted his body’s ability to fight COVID-19 and limited the effectiveness of the vaccine.
But the anti-vaxxer community conveniently ignored these details, and simply took the fact that Powell was fully vaccinated as evidence that the vaccines don’t work.
Members of these online networks, whose numbers have swelled significantly during the pandemic, gleefully shared the news of Powell’s death on messaging platforms like Telegram, which has become a haven of COVID misinformation.
Others continued to push the debunked claim that Powell should have been prescribed unproven medications like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.
“Another victim from the Covid-19 vaccine,” one Telegram user wrote, while another asked: “Fully injected. Will the sheeple wake up?”
QAnon conspiracy followers also got in on the act, claiming that Powell was killed because he knew too much about what they believe is a global child sex trafficking operation run by Democrats.
“Powell knew where the Clinton /Obama bodies were buried,” one member of a prominent Telegram channel called We The Media, wrote. “No doubt that he was suicided.”
But such conspiracies were not limited to the fringes of the internet. Fox News anchor John Roberts tweeted that Powell’s death “raises new concerns about how effective vaccines are long-term.”
The Fox News host quickly deleted the tweet following an avalanche of criticism, but it simply adds to the litany of COVID misinformation being pushed by the right-wing TV network.
Roberts subsequently said he deleted his tweet “because many people interpreted it as anti-vax. It was not.”