Fact Check

Is U.S. Actor Sam Elliott Really Dead?

A frequent producer of junk news managed to trick some readers into believing that the popular actor had died in July 2019.

Published July 15, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 26: Academy Award-nominated actor Sam Elliott onstage at the 2019 National Memorial Day Concert at U.S. Capitol, West Lawn on May 26, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Capital Concerts Inc.) (Getty Images)
Image courtesy of Getty Images
Actor Sam Elliott died in July 2019.

A frequent producer of junk news and sharebait misinformation managed to sow doubt in the minds of some readers in July 2019 after falsely claiming that the U.S. actor Sam Elliott had died.

On July 14, the website ConservativeTears.com posted an article with the headline "Sam Elliot [sic], Famous for Mocking Liberals, Dead at 83." The article reported that:

"Actor and meme king, Samuel Brutus Elliot [sic] passed away peacefully in his sleep today at the age of 83 ... Elliot [sic] had often said with great satisfaction these past few years that the 'Laugh at a Liberal' meme series, for which he had authorized use of his well-known image, was the most satisfying part of his long and accomplished career. That is really saying something from a man who was featured in such classic films as 'Roadhouse Blues' and 'The Big Lebowski'. 'Acting is just make believe. It doesn’t matter,' said Elliott, 'The plague of Democrats in our beautiful nation is all too real and it has to be confronted.'"

The description of Elliott as a "meme king" refers to a set of memes that superimposed "no-nonsense," anti-liberal and pro-conservative messages over images of Elliott, whose bushy moustache and laconic style have contributed to his status as a beloved character actor. He frequently played cowboys in a series of Western movies during the 1970s but is probably best known to younger readers as "The Stranger" from the Cohen Brothers' 1998 film "The Big Lebowski."

Several factors establish that the report of his death was a hoax. Firstly, the source, ConservativeTears.com, is part of a network of websites and social media accounts operated by Christopher Blair, who produces a high volume of junk news and misinformation, much of it inflammatory, which he presents as “satire.”

Furthermore, the report contained several glaring inaccuracies: As of July 2019, Elliott was 74 years old, not 83; his middle name is Pack, not Brutus; his last name is Elliott, not Elliot; his marriage to actor Katharine Ross has lasted 35 years, not 22, and had not "dissolved"; and the couple has only one child, not five.


ConservativeTears.com.  "Sam Elliot, Famous for Mocking Liberals, Dead at 83."   14 July 2019. 

Palma, Bethania.  "Fake News Purveyors Apologize for 'Satire' Story Calling Fallen Soldier a Deserter."   Snopes.com.  30 October 2017.

All Movie Guide/The New York Times.  "Sam Elliott."   20 July 2013. 

Reno Gazette-Journal.  "Actor Sam Elliott to Be Grand Marshall."   19 June 1994. 

New York Daily News.  "On the Personal Side ..."   30 April 1984. 

Magruder, Melonie.  "Straight From Her Heart."   The Malibu Times.  31 December 2008. 

Dan Mac Guill is a former writer for Snopes.