On October 7 2020, Imgur u/smobey shared a screenshot of the following circulating tweet:
The text said:
Leo Varadkar warns introducing a rent freeze could create a ‘nightmare scenario’, where landlords would be forced to sell their extra houses, which would then drive house prices down, allowing low-income people to get on the property ladder.
Imagine being such a piece of dung that your “nightmare scenario” is people being able to buy houses. The corporate duopoly that runs the United States facilitates people like him doing things like this in direct opposition to the needs of We the People.
The content of the tweet clearly resonated with people on social media, demonstrated by its cross-platform possibility. But rarely was any context provided — such as the fact that Varadkar was an Irish politician:
Leo Eric Varadkar (/vəˈrædkər/ və-RAD-kər; born 18 January 1979) is an Irish Fine Gael politician who has served as Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment since June 2020, having previously served as Taoiseach and Minister for Defence from 2017 to 2020. He has been Leader of Fine Gael since June 2017, and a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin West constituency since 2007. He previously served under Taoiseach Enda Kenny as Minister for Social Protection from 2016 to 2017, Minister for Health from 2014 to 2016 and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport from 2011 to 2014.
As for the underlying tweet, it was originally published on October 2 2021:
Leo Varadkar warns introducing a rent freeze could create a 'nightmare scenario', where landlords would be forced to sell their extra houses, which would then drive house prices down, allowing low-income people to get on the property ladder. pic.twitter.com/8g9JcGy1ge
— Dr Harold News (@DrHaroldNews) October 2, 2021
As indicated, perhaps the majority of social media users saw the tweet in screenshot form. On Twitter, hovering over the @DrHaroldNews account displayed the following Twitter bio:
FAKE news, MADE-UP quotes, and topical SATIRE from Dr Harold.
In other words, the “quote” wasn’t even a quote — Varadkar didn’t say it at all.
The Leo Varadkar “rent freeze” tweet was undeniably popular in and outside of Ireland, but the further it traveled from the original context, the more context was stripped away. On Twitter, it was easy to see the account was “FAKE news, MADE-UP quotes, and topical SATIRE.”
Update, 12:38PM, 12/9/2021: Changed truth rating from Decontextualized to Not True. -bb