On February 3 2020, Twitter briefly lit up with delight over apparent swears from the normally sanguine John Kerry, who had purportedly taken to Twitter to state that any rumors that he planned a 2020 presidential run were “fucking (or categorically) false”:
Although the tweet circulated in the form of screenshots rather quickly, it was hard to come by in terms of retweets — which is often an indication a tweet was fabricated rather than deleted. Some people responding to screenshots of the tweet asserted exactly that:
In the screenshot above, the tweet is timestamped 4:41 PM on February 2 2020. At 4:51 PM the same day, Kerry indeed sent a tweet without “fucking” in it:
In that respect, the staggered timestamps were compelling. It seemed that the person was claiming that the tweet had been faked based on what they believed was an edited version of Kerry’s tweet — but that tweet was timestamped just under 15 minutes before to the surviving tweet above, making it seem plausible that the initial tweet had been real.
In previous pages, we have discussed the immutability of Twitter’s date and timestamping features and their usefulness in verifying certain elements of a claim. One manner in which deleted tweets can be partly preserved is through the “embed” function, which is available only when the tweet itself is live.
In this case, Kerry’s “fucking” tweet seemed to have lived for a short time on the site before it was replaced with a less sweary version of the same sentiment. Media and politics-focused site Mediaite appeared to be on the ball that Sunday afternoon, quickly embedding the original tweet in its 4:59 PM post on February 2 2020.
The embedded tweet — easily identifiable as deleted due to deleted tweet’s different visual format — read:
As I told the reporter, I am absolutely not running for President. Any report otherwise is fucking (or categorically) false. I’ve been proud to campaign with my good friend Joe Biden, who is going to win the nomination, beat Trump, and make an outstanding president.
As is evident in Mediaite’s coverage, John Kerry did tweet and delete a denial he intended to run in 2020, using the word “fucking” alongside “categorically” to emphasize his position:
The tweet’s apparent rapid replacement led to rumors that it had been fabricated rather than quickly deleted and replaced — but it was real.