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Some On Twitter Mourned COVID-19 Death Of Professor. Then They Found Out She Wasn’t Real.

BethAnn McLaughlin poses for a portrait in Boston on Nov. 29, 2018.
BethAnn McLaughlin poses for a portrait in Boston on Nov. 29, 2018.
Boston Globe/Boston Globe via Getty Images

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Last Friday, former neurology Professor BethAnn McLaughlin posted on Twitter that her friend, an anonymous twitter user who was a queer and indigenous professor in the STEM field at Arizona State University, had died from COVID-19. 

McLaughlin blamed the university for forcing its professors to continue teaching after the pandemic had begun. People on Twitter who had interacted with this professor mourned, some were angry with ASU. And then ASU announced that they did an investigation and that the dead professor was actually a hoax. 

She was a hoax created by BethAnn McLaughlin, a former professor at Vanderbilt who rose to prominence for launching MeTooSTEM, and who also received criticism from colleagues for verbal abuse and problems in the organization.

We dive into the saga and it’s quick unraveling.


Amanda Heidt, science reporting intern with The Scientist magazine who’s been following this story; she tweets @Scatter_Cushion