During the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on Monday, Clinton accused her rival of believing “that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.”
“I did not. I did not. I do not say that,” Trump replied. Clinton was probably referring to a viral tweet from 2012, which does say that:
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
As our Fact Checkers noted in June, Trump said years later that he meant the tweet as a “joke” — although he clearly believes climate change is a hoax of some sort.
Shortly after the exchange between Trump and Clinton, though, something very confusing happened on Twitter: another viral tweet started spreading, claiming that Trump’s campaign had deleted the tweet in question. The following image was provided as proof:
Trump and his campaign have rarely deleted his tweets due to controversy, but it has happened. Last year, for instance, a tweet of his sending “best wishes” to everyone, “even the haters and losers,” on September 11th disappeared — although one of Trump’s manual retweets of it remains online to this day.
It seems that quite a few people really wanted to believe that Trump’s campaign had done it again tonight while the candidate was still on stage, despite the fact that the original tweet was right there, still on Twitter, available for anyone to see.
Although he’s deleted his original tweet, the damage is done. Several other accounts copied the image and tweeted the same claim about a deleted tweet, and those claims subsequently went viral on their own. Some journalists also picked up on the claim, believed it, and repeated it to their own followers, helping to spread the rumor rather quickly across Twitter.
When Trump lied about saying China started climate change boat, why did his campaign delete the tweet saying that? They think we're stupid?
— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) September 27, 2016
Comedian Patton Oswalt, who has more than 2 million followers, tweeted, “Oh my God. Trump’s campaign is furiously deleting his Tweets from back in his timeline,” with the hashtag #WinstonSmith, in reference to the protagonist of George Orwell’s 1984. It seems likely that he was referencing the confusion about Trump’s global warming tweet.
It’s worth noting that if Trump’s campaign was, for some reason, interested in erasing the candidate’s tweeted statements about global warming, they’d have a lot of deleting to do. He’s tweeted 101 times about global warming, according to a new archive of all of Trump’s tweets from 2009 to the present. The vast majority of those tweets claim in some way that global warming is a hoax.
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