Social media users spread false accusations about major public figures and their supposed involvement in previously sealed court documents related to Jeffrey Epstein, the Associated Press reports. Some of the false accusations included names that were in the document release, while other names weren’t in the papers at all. Two people singled out in viral false claims containing images made to look like snippets from court documents were late-night host Jimmy Kimmel and physicist Stephen Hawking, who died in 2018. In both cases, the images were used in an effort to tie the men to illicit activities involving Epstein. Posts that shared the images had received tens of thousands of views on X and other social media platforms.
Hawking is mentioned twice in the document, but there is no reference to any “proclivities.” Kimmel does not come up in the documents at all. Ahead of their release, social media users wrongly claimed that his name might appear, spurred by a comment New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers made on ESPN’s “The Pat McAfee Show.” Kimmel said in response on X that he had never met Epstein and that Rodgers’ “reckless words put my family in danger.” Other major public figures social media users have falsely claimed are named in the documents include Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, Elon Musk and many more. The records come from a 2015 lawsuit filed by Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s victims, against Epstein’s former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, which was settled two years later. U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska, who ordered the release, said most of the names were already public. About 60 of 250 records currently being released had been made public as of Thursday evening, with more expected in the coming days.