Daniel Radcliffe, Erin Darke on Being the First Corona Hoax

Daniel Radcliffe and Erin Darke.
Photo: Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

As the ancient proverb dictates, no international pandemic is complete without an accompanying celebrity hoax. In the case of our current global crisis, that honor was bestowed upon Daniel Radcliffe. In mid-March, a Twitter account with the handle @BBCNewsTonight reported that the actor had contracted coronavirus, making him “the first famous person to be publicly confirmed.” The tweet was shared hundreds of times before Twitter suspended the account, including by journalists at the New York Times and Politico. Another journalist, me, also thought the tweet was real for a split second and texted Radcliffe’s long-time girlfriend Erin Darke, who’s a friend, asking if she and Daniel were okay. By the time my text had gone through, I realized that I was, in fact, an idiot whose non-existent journalism degree should be rescinded.

Soon afterward, BuzzFeed spoke to the people behind the hoax, a group of 33 anonymous people who said they did it because “it was funny, that they were manipulating people’s minds, and that the internet was lowering people’s IQ.” They chose Radcliffe because “we needed someone who was famous but not famous enough to be unbelievable.” Radcliffe himself good-naturedly joked about the rumor days later during a round of pre-scheduled press for Endgame, a play he was performing in across the pond until the pandemic shuttered it. In one interview, he wondered if those behind the hoax had chosen him because he “looks ill all the time.”

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