Long-running hoax resurfaces after Nashville school shooting: report
A woman pays her respects at a makeshift memorial for victims outside the Covenant School building at the Covenant Presbyterian Church following a shooting, in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 28, 2023. (Brendan SMIALOWSKI/AFP)

A long-running hoax is back, pushed by right-wing internet trolls, and circulated in various forms for almost a decade after major mass shootings, PolitiFact reported on Tuesday.

"Hours after the March 27 school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, social media users began to speculate about the identity of the shooter who killed six people," reported Loreben Tuquero. "'Sooo the school shooter was a trans female identified as Samantha Hyde,' read one Facebook post. The post included a few photos, including one of a blond-haired person holding a gun, and another of a person wearing glasses and smiling. Another Facebook post read, 'Formerly Audrey Hale, Nashville Christian grade school shooter was a transgender female identified as Samantha Hyde, 28… transgender or not I hope it rots in hell!' It featured the same photo of the person wearing glasses and smiling."

In fact, the picture is altered, and not of Hale, the actual suspect in the shooting. Internet trolls have circulated the name "Sam Hyde" as a suspect in a number of mass shootings since 2015. Sam Hyde is actually "a comedian whose name and photos have repeatedly been used by internet hoaxers," said the report.

Moreover, Tuquero continued, the invocation of Hyde is not limited to mass shootings. "PolitiFact has debunked several claims mentioning Hyde and other variations on his name, related to the downing of jets in Ukraine, explosions in Beirut, and even the Chinese spy balloon’s appearance in U.S. airspace earlier this year."

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Hale was initially identified as a woman. However, reports later said that Hale has recently identified using "he/him" pronouns, and goes by "Aiden" on some social media platforms.

Officials have said that Hale, who was killed in the struggle with police, left behind a "manifesto" — though its contents are unclear — and personalized the weapons used in the attack, which were bought legally even though Hale was under treatment for mental health issues.