Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Who Is Not in a Coma, Returns to Supreme Court

Baseless online conspiracies about the justice’s health marred her absence.

Kevin Dietsch/CNP/ZUMA Wire

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made her return on Monday to the Supreme Court for oral arguments for the first time since announcing she underwent surgery in December for cancer. Her public appearance comes after false conspiracy theories about her health proliferated online, and after her attendance at a Friday private court meeting.

Ginsburg’s public absence from the bench because of her lung cancer treatment was her first since she joined the court in 1993. Internet hoaxers latched onto her brief hiatus and began pushing baseless rumors that she had died, or in one case, was secretly put into a medically induced coma.

The conspiracy theories reached an apex when Sebastian Gorka—a presidential ally, former Trump administration official, and Fox News commentator—tweeted in January about being suspicious of Ginsburg’s absence. Prior to Gorka’s tweet, the theory had been percolating on the internet, especially following one dubious story citing an unknown message board poster claiming to be close to Ginsburg who alleged she was being secretly kept in a medically induced coma. That anonymous post, key to the conspiracy’s online proliferation, appeared January 27 on 8chan, the crass and sometimes racist message board.

The theory spread across the internet, including lightly moderated private Facebook conspiracy groups dedicated to the fringe internet conspiracy theory, QAnon.

The seeds of conspiracy about Ginsburg’s health were originally sown online by “Q,” the anonymous poster behind the QAnon phenomenon, who, on January 5, asked his followers, “What ‘off-market’ drugs are being provided to [RBG] in order to sustain minimum daily function? What is the real medical diagnosis of [RBG]? Who is managing her care?”

 

AN IMPORTANT UPDATE

We’re falling behind our online fundraising goals and we can’t sustain coming up short on donations month after month. Perhaps you’ve heard? It is impossibly hard in the news business right now, with layoffs intensifying and fancy new startups and funding going kaput.

The crisis facing journalism and democracy isn’t going away anytime soon. And neither is Mother Jones, our readers, or our unique way of doing in-depth reporting that exists to bring about change.

Which is exactly why, despite the challenges we face, we just took a big gulp and joined forces with The Center for Investigative Reporting, a team of ace journalists who create the amazing podcast and public radio show Reveal.

If you can part with even just a few bucks, please help us pick up the pace of donations. We simply can’t afford to keep falling behind on our fundraising targets month after month.

Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery said it well to our team recently, and that team 100 percent includes readers like you who make it all possible: “This is a year to prove that we can pull off this merger, grow our audiences and impact, attract more funding and keep growing. More broadly, it’s a year when the very future of both journalism and democracy is on the line. We have to go for every important story, every reader/listener/viewer, and leave it all on the field. I’m very proud of all the hard work that’s gotten us to this moment, and confident that we can meet it.”

Let’s do this. If you can right now, please support Mother Jones and investigative journalism with an urgently needed donation today.

payment methods

AN IMPORTANT UPDATE

We’re falling behind our online fundraising goals and we can’t sustain coming up short on donations month after month. Perhaps you’ve heard? It is impossibly hard in the news business right now, with layoffs intensifying and fancy new startups and funding going kaput.

The crisis facing journalism and democracy isn’t going away anytime soon. And neither is Mother Jones, our readers, or our unique way of doing in-depth reporting that exists to bring about change.

Which is exactly why, despite the challenges we face, we just took a big gulp and joined forces with The Center for Investigative Reporting, a team of ace journalists who create the amazing podcast and public radio show Reveal.

If you can part with even just a few bucks, please help us pick up the pace of donations. We simply can’t afford to keep falling behind on our fundraising targets month after month.

Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery said it well to our team recently, and that team 100 percent includes readers like you who make it all possible: “This is a year to prove that we can pull off this merger, grow our audiences and impact, attract more funding and keep growing. More broadly, it’s a year when the very future of both journalism and democracy is on the line. We have to go for every important story, every reader/listener/viewer, and leave it all on the field. I’m very proud of all the hard work that’s gotten us to this moment, and confident that we can meet it.”

Let’s do this. If you can right now, please support Mother Jones and investigative journalism with an urgently needed donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate