In March 2020, country music fans were saddened by the news that "Pickup Man" singer Joe Diffie had died from complications of COVID-19, the coronavirus disease. While fans of the singer mourned the loss, some social media users attempted to obfuscate the cause of Diffie's death to further an unfounded claim that hospitals were inflating reported death counts from COVID-19 in order to increase funding.
One such social media post racked up more than 100,000 shares within a week:
Another person claimed that Diffie had actually died from lung cancer, not COVID-19:
There is no truth to these claims. Country musician Joe Diffie did not die from lung cancer, and the hospital did not alter the cause of death.
A few days later, on March 29, his Facebook page was updated again with a statement announcing that he had died due to complications from the disease:
GRAMMY®-winning country music legend Joe Diffie passed away today, Sunday, March 29 from complications of coronavirus (COVID-19). His family requests privacy at this time.
In addition to these official updates from Diffie's social media pages, his wife, Tara, also disputed the claim that the singer died from lung cancer. On April 18, she took to Instagram writing that he "did NOT HAVE LUNG CANCER." She further explained that the confusion may have started because Diffie's father, also named Joe, had died from lung cancer a few years prior:
my husband @officialjoediffie did NOT HAVE LUNG CANCER. his father passed, same name, November 2018 to stage IV lung cancer. STOP STARTING FAKE NEWS. I’ve seen multiple posts and it’s upsetting to all of us.
The social media posts falsely claiming that the musician the died from lung cancer, not COVID-19, attempted to downplay a disease that, as of this writing, has killed nearly 170,000 people dead worldwide, including at least 40,000 in the United States. In addition, these posts are also causing the Diffie family pain and going against the wishes of the late singer.
When Diffie was first diagnosed with COVID-19, he told his fans to "to be vigilant, cautious and careful during this pandemic."