Fact Check

Did George Floyd Actually Die of a Drug Overdose, as Tucker Carlson Claimed?

This rumor has been around ever since Floyd's autopsy was released in 2020.

Published Dec 29, 2023

 (Chad Davis / Wikimedia Commons)
Image Via Chad Davis / Wikimedia Commons
Claim:
George Floyd's autopsy revealed that he died from a drug overdose, not of asphyxiation or heart failure while being pinned to the ground by Minneapolis police.

According to the ruling of the Hennepin County District Court, Derek Chauvin, an officer of the Minneapolis Police Department, murdered George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, on May 25, 2020, in an excessive use of force. According to the opinions of Americans who defended Chauvin's actions, the police officer played no role in Floyd's death. They claim instead that Floyd died of a drug overdose.

Most recently, this has taken the form of a video on X, formerly known as Twitter, posted by conservative news host Tucker Carlson on Dec. 28, 2023. The video was liked over 53,000 times and reposted by U.S. Rep Majorie Taylor Greene:

(@mtgreenee on X)

Floyd's toxicology report was not clean — he did have levels of fentanyl, methamphetamine and THC in his blood at the time of his death. However, two separate autopsies found that Floyd did not die of a drug overdose.

On June 6, 2020, Scientific American published an opinion article by 12 doctors called "George Floyd’s Autopsy and the Structural Gaslighting of America." The authors argued that Black people killed by police will have their entire life, character and body, examined and scrutinized to justify the exoneration of the police officers involved in their deaths. We referenced the article in our 2020 coverage of Floyd's criminal history. In our coverage, we also examined the details of Floyd's autopsies. We will do so again here.

Floyd received two different autopsies after his death. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office released its autopsy on June 3, 2020. It found that Floyd died of "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression." In more standard English, he died of heart and lung failure caused by the way police restrained and subdued him.

Floyd's family asked experts to conduct an independent autopsy around the same time. While the full report is not available publicly, the summary is. It said he died from "asphyxiation from sustained pressure."

The two causes of death are more similar than they might initially appear — the functioning of the heart and lungs is quite interlinked. If one of the two organs stops, it's not long until the other does.

Two, independent autopsies confirm Floyd did not die of a drug overdose. We therefore rate this claim as false.

Sources

Baker, Andrew M. CARDIOPULMONARY ARREST COMPLICATING LAW ENFORCEMENT SUBDUAL, RESTRAINT, AND NECK COMPRESSION . 20–3700, Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office, https://www.hennepin.us/-/media/hennepinus/residents/public-safety/medical-examiner/floyd-autopsy-6-3-20.pdf.

“Chauvin Murder Conviction Upheld in George Floyd Killing.” AP News, 17 Apr. 2023, https://apnews.com/article/chauvin-murder-appeals-court-6941a6074dcc310c85e4f3eab2be97eb.

“George Floyd’s Autopsy Report Is Not New, Does Not Say He Died of an Overdose.” AP News, 26 May 2023, https://apnews.com/article/fact-check-george-floyd-autopsy-new-892530421961.

“Https://Twitter.Com/Mtgreenee/Status/1740494731581268442.” X (Formerly Twitter), https://twitter.com/mtgreenee/status/1740494731581268442. Accessed 29 Dec. 2023.

“Https://Twitter.Com/TuckerCarlson/Status/1740492824468976126.” X (Formerly Twitter), https://twitter.com/TuckerCarlson/status/1740492824468976126. Accessed 29 Dec. 2023.

Lee, Jessica. “Background Check: Investigating George Floyd’s Criminal Record.” Snopes, 12 June 2020, https://www.snopes.com/news/2020/06/12/george-floyd-criminal-record/.

Neuman, Scott. “Medical Examiner’s Autopsy Reveals George Floyd Had Positive Test For Coronavirus.” NPR, 4 June 2020. NPR, https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/2020/06/04/869278494/medical-examiners-autopsy-reveals-george-floyd-had-positive-test-for-coronavirus.

Robles, Frances, and Audra D. S. Burch. “How Did George Floyd Die? Here’s What We Know.” The New York Times, 2 June 2020. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/article/george-floyd-autopsy-michael-baden.html.

Shen, Ann Crawford-Roberts, Sonya Shadravan,Jennifer Tsai,Nicolás E. Barceló,Allie Gips,Michael Mensah,Nichole Roxas,Alina Kung,Anna Darby,Naya Misa,Isabella Morton,Alice. “George Floyd’s Autopsy and the Structural Gaslighting of America.” Scientific American Blog Network, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/voices/george-floyds-autopsy-and-the-structural-gaslighting-of-america/. Accessed 29 Dec. 2023.

Vera, Amir. “Independent Autopsy and Minnesota Officials Say George Floyd’s Death Was Homicide.” CNN, 1 June 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/01/us/george-floyd-independent-autopsy/index.html.

Jack Izzo is a Chicago-based journalist and two-time "Jeopardy!" alumnus.