Fact check: Tweet endorsing shoplifting as a way to prevent spread of COVID-19 is a fake

Ella Lee

The claim: The CDC tweeted it's "more ethical to shoplift" and leave the store to prevent the spread of COVID-19 than it is to wait in line and pay

An Instagram post claims the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested shoplifting to save lives this holiday season. 

"It is more ethical to shoplift and leave the store to prevent the spread of COVID-19 than it is to wait in line and pay. Please protect others," a tweet purportedly sent from the CDC's official Twitter account reads. 

A screenshot of the tweet was shared to Instagram. The account that shared it told USA TODAY that the post was a joke.

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Tweet is fake

Belsie González, a senior public affairs specialist for the CDC, told USA TODAY that the tweet is fake. 

"The tweet you described is not from any CDC source, it does not come from our Twitter account or any other CDC official channel," González said in an email.

An advanced search of the CDC's Twitter posts confirmed that the agency has not made any tweets that includes the word "shoplift" or the phrase "more ethical to shoplift."

The sham tweet appears to have originated on the Instagram of comedic writer Cory Snearowski, who shared the fake screenshot and other purportedly fake CDC tweets in a Twitter thread

Snearowski did not respond to USA TODAY's request for comment. 

Before Thanksgiving, the CDC released coronavirus-friendly shopping guidelines, suggesting people shop online during Black Friday and the holiday season and use curbside pick-up or other contactless services to retrieve those items. It also suggested limiting in-person shopping to open air markets, while remaining masked and 6-feet away from other shoppers. Other CDC holiday guidelines can be found here

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Our rating: False

We rate the claim that the CDC tweeted it's "more ethical to shoplift" than wait in line amid the COVID-19 pandemic as FALSE because it was not supported by our research. A CDC spokesperson confirmed to USA TODAY that the agency did not post the tweet, which USA TODAY independently confirmed through an advanced Twitter search. 

Our fact-check sources:

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.