A new right-wing conspiracy theory suggests that Democratic Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania has been replaced by a “body double.”
Fetterman, who has been hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center for five weeks for depression treatment, became the subject of the theory Friday after a cropped photo of him smiling was shared on social media.
Commentators claimed, without evidence, that Fetterman had been replaced with a lookalike after secretly dying or being incapacitated during his ongoing hospitalization.
However, the conspiracy theorists failed to mention that the photo of the alleged “double” is not new. It was taken May 22—just after Fetterman, then lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, was released from the hospital following a stroke.
The image, provided by the Fetterman campaign, can be seen in an article published on the website of NPR station WESA on the same day. It shows Fetterman and his wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman, posing and smiling as they leave the hospital.
The photo of the supposedly “fake” Fetterman being taken last year raises questions about the timeline of the conspiracy. The conspiracy theorists do not appear to be claiming that anything is awry with photos of Fetterman taken before or after May 22, 2022.
For the theory to be true, the supposed “replacement” Fetterman would have briefly appeared in May of last year, only to be replaced by the actual Fetterman after the photo was taken. It is unclear what purpose that would serve.
The notion of Fetterman being replaced with a “fake” after suffering his stroke also makes little sense. Fetterman’s post-stroke health issues, such as difficulties with speech, were used as ammunition by Republicans during his 2022 campaign.
Presumably, if the Fetterman campaign were involved in a plot to replace their candidate with a doppelgänger, his replacement would not have had health and speech issues that could be seized on by political opponents.
Regardless of the theory being false, the supposedly suspect photo quickly spread on Twitter after being shared by conspiracy theorists that included some prominent figures on the far right.
“I’m not one to push conspiracy theories, but John Fetterman’s face looks totally different,” tweeted conservative author and anti-Muslim activist Brigitte Gabriel.
“That’s not Fetterman!” tweeted actor and conspiracy theorist Randy Quaid.
“They literally replaced fetterman, this is insane,” lawyer and former Republican congressional candidate Jason Roberge tweeted.
“I think a DNA sample is in order, here,” tweeted Juanita Broaddrick, a conservative commentator and former nurse best known for accusing former President Bill Clinton of rape. “LOL. That’s not Fetterman on the right.”
“It’s a miracle … In only 3 weeks, John Fetterman got a total head replacement,” prominent right-wing troll account @catturd2 tweeted. “Man, he has some good doctors.”
“Either that aint John Fetterman or dude literally got his head shrunk,” tweeted author Steve Tobak.
“Guys,” talk radio host Mark Kaye tweeted. “That’s not John Fetterman.”
“I’m bald and white with a goatee, and I’m a more convincing stunt double than this guy,” failed Republican U.S. Senate candidate James Bradley tweeted. “Send me to the senate!”
“I’m just gonna say it: this is not John Fetterman,” tweeted user @texan_marshall. “John Fetterman is either completely mentally incapacitated or dead, and this is his body double/replacement”
“Do the Democrats think the American people are this stupid to think that Fetterman 2.0 is the same man as 1.0?” @Whazdatflower tweeted. “Either a doppelganger or clone. Cannot wait until we see the hump and him in public. Not going to happen because Fetterman is deceased. Let him lie in peace.”
Several issues—including lighting, the angle that the photo was taken and the way that it was processed—could plausibly explain why Fetterman may appear somewhat different in the photo that some are claiming shows a different man.
The senator’s wife also shared to Twitter a video of herself and her husband leaving the hospital on the same day that the photo featured in the conspiracy theory was taken.
The video shows the couple wearing the same clothes as in the photo that some have deemed suspect. Fetterman can also be heard briefly speaking in the video, with a voice that sounds the same as it did before and after he was supposedly “replaced.”
Some on Twitter responded to the conspiracy theory and its believers with disbelief and mockery on Friday.
“‘They’ve created a Fake John Fetterman’ is my favorite new loony conspiracy theory,’ writer Jeet Heer tweeted.
“Apparently, the far-right Twitter world has started a conspiracy theory that Sen. Fetterman has been replaced by a look-alike … who has his exact facial features down to the crook in his nose?” tweeted journalist Ryan Deto.
Newsweek has reached out via email to the office of Fetterman for comment.