(NEXSTAR) – Days after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, a series of tweets by a now-suspended Twitter account went viral for a serious accusation against Gov. Greg Abbott and his office. The tweets, which only exist as screenshots now, claim a representative of the governor offered a victim’s uncle money to publicly speak out against stricter gun laws.
But the claim was false, and the account attached to the thread — “MyCancerJourn3” — was already suspected of making bold accusations and falsifying connections in the wake of tragedies. CNN reporter Daniel Dale wrote Friday that he’d spoken to the person linked to the account, who “refused to answer a bunch of questions.”
“I’m confident in saying there’s no reason to think the story was anything but fiction,” Dale writes.
According to the tweets, the “uncle” of one of the victims was followed home by a representative who said he was “willing to pay us to stand with the Gov and say we don’t need stronger gun laws.”
After further investigation, “the man behind the account” told the outlet the tweets had been posted as a hoax by “an unknown person who had somehow gained access to the account,” CNN reports. A reporter for The Daily Beast got the same response.
In a statement, Gov. Abbott representative Renae Eze said the claims were completely false, writing: “This did not happen and would never be allowed to happen.”
Nevertheless, the thread erupted across social media before the claims could be debunked, with many notable journalists and politicians falling for it. The fact-checking site Snopes also explains the account had replied, in part, “F– you,” to one user recommending the allegations be verified before people retweeted them out.
The thread received hundreds of thousands of likes and about 70,000 retweets before being taken down.
Disproven claims aside, Abbott, a staunch gun-rights advocate, has weathered some harsh criticism since the Monday shooting. In addition to a national spotlight on his response, the governor has also faced unexpected vocal critics at many of his in-person briefings on the tragedy.
On Wednesday, Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate — and fierce Abbott detractor — Beto O’Rourke confronted Abbott in a press conference. The former U.S. representative approached the stage and said, “You are doing nothing.” He could also be heard calling the event “totally predictable.”
Abbott, who has served as Texas governor since 2015, is widely opposed to restrictive gun laws. Last year, the 64-year-old signed into law House Bill 1927, often referred to as the “permitless carry” bill. Going into effect in September 2021, the bill allows Texans ages 21 and older to carry firearms without a license or training. While there remain some exceptions to the law, it nonetheless remains a hot-button issue in the state.
The shooter behind the massacre that left 19 children and two teachers dead is known to have legally purchased AR-15-style rifles, one of which was used in the shooting.
On Friday, Abbott said none of the laws enacted in 2021 were relevant to the Robb Elementary shooting. Instead, Abbott urged more resources for mental health.
Meanwhile, both Abbott and Uvalde police have been knocked for seemingly amorphous accounts of police response to the shooting. Abbott assured Texans Friday that he’d been “misled” by law enforcement officials, saying he was “livid” and that both the FBI and Texas Rangers are investigating to “get to the bottom of every fact.”