In a video monologue that has been viewed more than 1.1 million times on Twitter, a bodybuilder named Justin Y. O’Donnell claimed that “my dad just let me know” that the secretary of defense had sent a nighttime text message to all active members of the military demanding that they get a Covid-19 vaccination by 10 a.m. the next day or face a court martial.
After receiving this text, O’Donnell claimed, “Twelve F-22 pilots, the most highly trained pilots in the world, walked off the job.” He added that “16 crew members for B-52 bombers walked off the job.”
“To date, no pilots from the 1st Fighter Wing have resigned their commission due to the COVID-19 vaccination mandate,” said a spokesperson for Joint Base Langley-Eustis, according to Reuters, while a spokesperson for Barksdale Air Force Base called the viral story “misinformation” and “completely false,” Reuters reported.
Nonsense from a misinformation website
This nonsense originated with a September 1 article from a site called Real Raw News. The site’s proprietor, who goes by the name Michael Baxter, wrote that a group of pilots had resigned en masse after receiving a 4 a.m. text message demanding they get vaccinated by 10 a.m. (Baxter’s article didn’t say the text was sent by the secretary of defense in particular.)
The site’s invented tales have prompted numerous other fact checks. The site even features a “disclaimer” that says, “Information on this website is for informational and educational and entertainment purposes. This website contains humor, parody, and satire. We have included this disclaimer for our protection, on the advice on legal counsel.” (The bold type appears on the website.)
Baxter did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday afternoon.
From Instagram to Twitter
Copies of the video posted by various US conservatives generated tens of thousands of additional views.
O’Donnell didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday afternoon. But he posted a new Instagram story in which he wrote, in large type, that, “FYI,” the story about the F-22 pilots had been fact-checked by Reuters and that the government was denying pilots had quit.