If you believe everything you read online, then you may be convinced that Queen Elizabeth died last week. The rumors have been spreading for months. She was suddenly absent from many public appearances and many claimed that the annual Christmas message she shares with the United Kingdom may have been a deepfake.
The conspiracy grew larger when Prince Charles’ wife Camilla Parker Bowles was officially dubbed the the future Queen Consort, in the event of Elizabeth’s death. In the days following, the 95-year-old Queen was diagnosed with Covid-19. Was the monarch’s death being “soft launched” by the Palace?
Enter Hollywood Unlocked, a celebrity news site run by Jason Lee (no, not the star of Mallrats). On Feb. 22, the site posted an “exclusive” news item claiming that the Queen had died, allegedly per an emotional guest at British Vogue EIC Edward Enninful’s wedding.
Of course, many who were not months deep into the conspiracy theory found the report to be skeptical. Why did this random site, which largely reports tabloid gossip on Black American celebrities, have an exclusive on the Queen of England? And what even is the point of the Royal Family keeping the news hidden?
Lee stood his ground and reaffirmed his own reporting on the news. BuzzFeed later looked into the story, which offered a possible though not fully confirmed explanation of the misinformation being spread. According to their reporting, the smoking gun at Enninful’s wedding was reacting to news that Mark Lanegan had passed, confusing the fact that Lanegan had performed with Queens of the Stone Age with the Queen herself. That feels almost as shaky of an explanation as Lee’s “exclusive.”
Hollywood Unlocked kept their story up for days but finally retracted. “Although I’ve never been wrong when breaking a story because this involves The Queen this is one time I would want to be,” Lee said. “And based on Wednesday’s report from the Palace, I can say my sources got this wrong and I sincerely apologize to the Queen and the Royal Family.”
On this week’s Don’t Let This Flop, Rolling Stone‘s podcast about TikTok and internet culture, hosts Brittany Spanos and EJ Dickson discuss whether or not the Queen’s death is being soft launched, AnnaLynne McCord’s disastrous Putin poetry, the “five crush theory” and their love for Angus Cloud.