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.