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Fact check: Viral posts falsely claim Ruth Bader Ginsburg had already died

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 9/19/2020 Devon Link, USA TODAY
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The claim: Ruth Bader Ginsburg died a year and half ago and was replaced by a body double

Flowers and light candies outside the Supreme Court. © Alex Brandon, AP Flowers and light candies outside the Supreme Court.

As America mourns the loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a gender equality pioneer, respected legal mind and pop culture icon, some conspiracy theorists are suggesting the grief is long overdue.

“She died a year and a half ago ... the body double could not keep up the act anymore and was about to be exposed...” Richard Cordes posted on Facebook in the late evening Sept. 18, soon after Ginsburg died.

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A similar post claims Ginsburg has been dead for two years. Michael Pietrobono named potential news items that could clog up the news cycle "to limit Trump's popularity." The third thing listed was a major death. 

"Today we have #3 - 'They' declared RBG dead .... finally! She's been dead for over 2 years now!"

USA TODAY has reached out to both Cordes and Pietrobono for comment.

Ginsburg's many public appearances and continued service to the court prove that she was very much alive until Sept. 18.

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a group of people on a street: People lay flowers and light candies outside the Supreme Court Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Washington, after the Supreme Court announced that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died of metastatic pancreatic cancer at age 87. © Alex Brandon, AP People lay flowers and light candies outside the Supreme Court Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Washington, after the Supreme Court announced that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died of metastatic pancreatic cancer at age 87.

Ginsburg's public appearances

Over the past two years, Ginsburg’s been spotted many times. She's given talks in front of large audiences and recorded video interviews with national outlets.

Just a few weeks ago, on Aug. 30, Ginsburg officiated an outdoor wedding for family friends. The bride, Barb Solish, tweeted a photo of the ceremony. Solish wrote that both she and her husband, Danny Kazin, tested negative for COVID-19 before the ceremony. The wedding photo was Ginsburg’s first public sighting in months, and also her last.

In September of last year, USA TODAY reported on Ginsburg speaking in New York City. And in February of this year, Ginsburg spoke at Georgetown's law school in Washington, D.C. At the time, USA TODAY reported: "Upon her latest recovery, Ginsburg embarked on a series of public speaking engagements that would tire someone half her age. Her appearance Monday at Georgetown University Law Center was her fourth this month."


Gallery: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies (The Corpus Christi Caller Times)

USA TODAY has found no evidence the woman featured in these photos and videos was not Ginsburg.

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She served on the Supreme Court this summer

Ginsburg certainly has participated in Supreme Court proceedings in recent terms.

Last October, USA TODAY reported on Ginsburg's in-person participation in the Supreme Court's oral arguments as a new term began. 

Since the Supreme Court went virtual in March, when COVID-19 crippled the country, Ginsburg continued to hear cases remotely. On May 6, she made headlines when she participated in a telephonic oral argument from her hospital bed at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where she was recovering from a gallbladder condition.

a group of people performing on stage in front of a building: People gather under a mural of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the U Street neighborhood in Washington, DC. © Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP People gather under a mural of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the U Street neighborhood in Washington, DC.

Ginsburg faced several bouts with pancreatic, lung and colon cancer over the last 20 years. In July she announced she was fighting her fifth battle with cancer, which had spread to her liver.

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She began chemotherapy treatments in May but died from complications of her pancreatic cancer in her home in Washington, D.C., the evening of Sep. 18. Ginsburg had said that her treatments were going well in a July 17 statement.

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Our rating: False

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made many public appearances in the past 18 months and continued to serve on the court through the summer. There is no evidence to suggest she died a year and half ago and was replaced by a body double. We rate this claim FALSE because it is not supported by our research.

Our fact-check sources:

Contributing: Richard Wolf

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Viral posts falsely claim Ruth Bader Ginsburg had already died

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