Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat candidate for governor in Texas, has been the subject of widespread mockery after he announced that he was taking a step back from the limelight to recover from an undisclosed disease.
“After feeling ill on Friday, I went to Methodist Hospital in San Antonio where I was diagnosed with a bacterial infection,” O’Rourke tweeted on Sunday. “The extraordinary team there — from custodians to nurses and doctors — gave me excellent care and attention, including IV antibiotics and rest.”
“While my symptoms have improved, I will be resting at home in El Paso in accordance with the doctors’ recommendations,” he added. “I am sorry to have had to postpone events because of this, but promise to be back on the road with you as soon as I am able.”
O’Rourke’s remarks were quickly seized upon by meme lords on social media, who insinuated that O’Rourke had contracted monkeypox. Numerous meme-makers produced images and videos of O’Rourke’s complexion filling up with monkeypox scars and boils.
Many conservatives jested that the Democrat had been concealing a contraction of the disease that mainly affects the “men who have sex with men” community, which NBC News reported as “Sex between men, not skin contact, is fueling monkeypox, new research suggests.”
“The claim that skin-to-skin contact during sex between men, not intercourse itself, drives most monkeypox transmission is likely backward, a growing group of experts say,” the article states.
Others asked why the media hadn’t asked O’Rourke’s team for a full disclosure on the details of his infection.
Reuters very quickly stepped up to issue a fact-check to argue that the monkeypox claims were false. The publication pointed out that monkeypox is a virus and not a bacterial infection, and that anyone rushing to accuse O’Rourke of contracting the disease had failed to present any evidence backing up their claims or substantiating their questions.
“The claims are false. Doctors diagnosed Beto with a bacterial infection, which they treated with antibiotics. His symptoms continue to improve and he will be back on the road as soon as he is able,” said a spokesperson for O’Rourke in a statement to Reuters.
Reuters’ final verdict is that there is “no evidence” that O’Rourke contracted monkeypox.