The anonymous professor who died of COVID-19 shockingly turned out to be a ‘hoax’

A professor at Arizona State University does not exist.

Anonymous professor died of COVID-19
Picture of BethAnn McLaughlin

What first looked like a tragic story — a professor who was forced to work in-person and later died from COVID-19 — now appears to be a strange hoax. 

Multiple reports suggest that the Twitter account @Sciencing_Bi, who claimed to be a professor of Native American descent, may have been fake. It appears the account was the creation of BethAnn McLaughlin, the head of a group called MeTooSTEM, which intends to combat sexual harassment in scientific fields.

In June 2020, the account @Sciencing_Bi claimed on Twitter that her employer, The Arizona State University, forced her to give lecturers in person to around 200 students, which led to her getting the coronavirus. On July the 31st, McLaughlin announced from her Twitter account that the @Sciencing_Bi had died from COVID-19.

Anonymous professor died of COVID-19

However, The ASU officials said they had no records of a faculty member dying from COVID-19. They added, the university never hired a professor matching @Sciencing_Bi’s description. The institution had also closed its campus in March.

The ASU spokesperson Katie Paquet told a news outlet, “We have been looking into the matter for the last 24 hours and cannot confirm any connection with the university. We have been contacting several deans and faculty members, and no one can recognize the account or who might be behind it. Unfortunately, this appears to be a hoax.”

Meanwhile, Twitter suspended both the accounts @McLNeuro and @Sciencing_Bi, telling multiple outlets the accounts had violated its “policies”. All of the tweets from both accounts are no longer accessible, but screenshots of some posts are available.

The account @Sciencing_Bi had tweeted for years about her experiences as an indigenous woman, being LGBTQ (Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender questioning) in academic circles, and, more recently, her long, suffering from COVID-19.

Many people familiar with the account pointed out inconsistencies with @Sciencing_Bi’s stories, including (now-inaccessible) instances where it used stock images to accompany apparent real-life experiences.

After claiming her dean had asked her to take a DNA test to prove her lineage, @Sciencing_Bi requested people to support her by transferring donations to McLaughlin’s Venmo account.

The Head of the MeTooSTEM has rejected that she had created @Sciencing_Bi.However,  McLaughlin did admit that she had access to the account and she reportedly refused to reveal @Sciencing_Bi’s actual identity.

McLaughlin even held a Zoom memorial for @Sciencing_Bi, which was attended by only five people.

This is also not the first case of controversy surrounding McLaughlin. Earlier this year, a report revealed that McLaughlin, while heading MeTooSTEM, allegedly “sidelined people of color and bullied volunteers, activists, and fellow leaders.”

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