News

Michael Stenger's Death Fuels Conspiracy Theories

The cause of death of the former U.S. Senate sergeant at arms is unknown as of this writing, but that didn't stop the internet from inventing a cause.

Published Jun 28, 2022

UNITED STATES - MAY 15: Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger prepares to testify during the Senate Appropriations Committee Legislative Branch Subcommittee hearing on the FY2019 funding request and budget justification for the Senate Sergeant at Arms and the U.S. Capitol Police on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Image Via Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

In June 2022, Politico reporter Katherine Tully-McManus and Fox News reporter Chad Pegram reported that 71-year-old Michael Stenger, who served as the U.S. Senate sergeant at arms from April 2018 until the day after the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, had passed away.

When this news broke, there was little information available about the cause of Stenger's death. In the absence of this information, coupled with the timing of Stenger's death (news broke about Stenger's death shortly after the committee investigating the Capitol attack announced a surprise hearing), many people on social media began to speculate about the circumstances surrounding Stenger's passing.

While an official cause of death is still unknown, Fox News has since reported that Stenger was suffering from cancer (though Snopes has not, as yet, independently confirmed that this is true).

Was Stenger Scheduled To Testify as Committee's 'Surprise' Guest?

A few hours before news broke about Stenger's death, the Jan. 6 committee announced that it was holding a surprise hearing to receive new witness testimony.

Word of a new hearing caused plenty of speculation about who would be testifying. Political pundits offered guesses that ranged from documentarian filmmaker Alex Holder to former President Donald Trump's Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. While some theorized that Stenger was scheduled to testify (and that he was murdered in order to prevent his testimony), it has since been reported that Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to Meadows, was the person scheduled to provide testimony to the committee. In other words, the notion that Stenger was killed to prevent testimony is unfounded because Stenger wasn't scheduled to provide testimony in the first place.

Was Stenger Shot and Killed?

"As the cause of Stenger's death was initially unknown, some social media users set about to invent one." Some users claimed that Stenger had been shot and killed by a person driving by in a car:

The rumor that Stenger was shot and killed appears to be the result of some social media users conflating Stenger's death in June 2022 with the 2013 death of a different Michael Stenger. In fact, the text in the above-displayed tweet is taken practically verbatim from a case report dealing with that earlier murder.

In sum, an official cause of Stenger's cause of death is still unknown, but there have not been any credible reports to indicate that his death involved foul play. Furthermore, Fox News has reported that Stenger was suffering from cancer.

Sources:

CNN, Ryan Nobles, Zachary Cohen and Annie Grayer. “Former Meadows Aide Will Testify before January 6 Committee on Tuesday, Sources Say.” CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/27/politics/cassidy-hutchinson-former-meadows-aide-testify-january-6-committee-hearing/index.html. Accessed 28 June 2022.

“Oakland: Police Identify Sunday Homicide Victim.” East Bay Times, 2 Dec. 2013, https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2013/12/02/oakland-police-identify-sunday-homicide-victim/.

Palmer, Ewan. “Michael Stenger’s Death before Jan. 6 Hearing Sparks Conspiracy Theories.” Newsweek, 28 June 2022, https://www.newsweek.com/michael-stenger-dead-senate-sergeant-arms-jan-6-agitators-1719769.

People v. Lepe, No. A161222 | Casetext Search + Citator. https://casetext.com/case/people-v-lepe-15. Accessed 28 June 2022.

“Senate Sergeant-at-Arms in Charge of Security during Jan 6 Riot Dies.” The Independent, 28 June 2022, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/michael-stenger-sergeant-at-arms-during-january-6-b2110748.html.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

Become
a Member

Your membership is the foundation of our sustainability and resilience.

Perks

Ad-Free Browsing on Snopes.com
Members-Only Newsletter
Cancel Anytime
default