Just in time for Halloween, the right has found a new scare tactic warning parents that drug cartels are targeting children by disguising fentanyl as candy. The bogus claim was touted by Georgia’s Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker during a recent speech, which Jimmy Kimmel skewered during his show Tuesday, Oct. 25.
After playing the clip — in which Walker claimed Mexico and China were disguising fentanyl as candy — Kimmel quipped, “Very compelling statement about Mexico and China from a man who couldn’t locate Mexico or China on a map of only Mexico and China.” He added, “Halloween is a scary time for Herschel Walker, because when kids show up at his house, he’s not sure if they want candy or child support.”
Kimmel went on to joke that this isn’t the first time theories have been floated about drugs being disguised as Halloween candy. He then spoofed the Peanuts classic, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, showing the scene where all the kids describe what they got, before Charlie Brown quips, I got a rock… of crack cocaine.”
The fentanyl-as-candy claim dates back to about August, when the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a statement warning parents about an allegedly “alarming emerging trend” of rainbow-colored fentanyl pills targeting children. The DEA also issues annual warnings about drugs and marijuana-laced snack foods winding up in trick-or-treat bags even though these urban legends get debunked every year.
Nevertheless, the claim quickly found purchase in Republican political and media spheres. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel popped up on Fox News at the end of September and claimed “every mom in the country” is worried about kids getting ahold rainbow-colored fentanyl. And a few weeks later, several Republican senators got together to create a PSA on the supposed issue.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Mariah Francis, a Resource Associate with the National Harm Reduction Coalition, explained that colored pill production isn’t some new way for cartels to entice children, but a way to distinguish goods or mimic authentic pharmaceutical versions. She also noted that the idea that cartels, or other distributors on the illicit market, want children to mistake their pills for candy is “utterly divorced from reality.” She noted that giving it away for free as Halloween candy also isn’t exactly a good way to turn a profit.