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Fact Check-“The Simpsons” did not predict monkeypox outbreak

A widely shared meme circulating on social media claims an episode of “The Simpsons“ predicted the 2022 monkeypox outbreak. The collage, however, includes frames from two different episodes and neither are about monkeypox.

Similar compilations, one showing an image of character Homer Simpson with a red rash, and another of the same character sitting next to a monkey, have been circulating among Spanish-speaking users since at least May 2022 (here) (here). The claim recently gained traction online after the U.S. Health and Human Services department declared monkeypox a public health emergency (here)

An iteration posted on Twitter on Aug. 6, had been retweeted over 13,000 times at the time of writing (here)

Examples on Facebook have jointly been shared at least 19,000 times: (here) (here) (here here)

Some users, referring to the collage, claim it is evidence the monkeypox outbreak was “planned” (here here)

“The Simpsons is not actually a cartoon for entertainment purposes … it has been a visual warning used to inform AMERICANS what’s been planned by YOU KNOW WHO. This isn’t shocking, it’s actually sad…,” reads part of a Facebook comment.

ORIGIN OF THE FRAMES

Per a text accompanying some versions of the meme, the frames are from “season 17 episode 21” of the animated show, and it aired in 2002. But this is inaccurate; the frames are from two different episodes, and they have been taken out of context.

The two images depicting Homer with a red rash are from episode 3 of season 17, “Milhouse of Sand and Fog.” One of the frames of the 2005 episode is viewable on the IMDB website (here). In the plot, Homer is infected with chickenpox, not monkeypox, after his daughter Maggie was infected. (here)

While both monkeypox and chickenpox are viral diseases, they are caused by two different viruses: the Monkeypox virus – part of the family of the virus that causes smallpox (here ) - and the Varicella Zoster Virus VZV (here) , respectively.

The frame in which Homer is seen drinking beer next to a monkey can be found in episode “Girly Edition” from the ninth season of the series (here). There is no mention of monkeypox or another virus whatsoever in the episode, which aired in 1998.

Reuters has previously addressed similar memes claiming the show “predicted” world events, which included fabricated imagery or frames taken out of context (here) (here here )

Until 2022, monkeypox had rarely spread outside Africa, where it is endemic (here). As of Aug. 8, confirmed cases of monkeypox across more than 80 countries around the world had crossed 27,800 and non-endemic countries had reported their first deaths (here)

VERDICT

Misleading. The meme features images from two different episodes of “The Simpsons,” neither of them about monkeypox.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts  here. 

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