The claim: TV broadcast shows 'actor for the CIA,' not news reporter
A mass shooting that killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket on May 14 led to an array of social media theories and conspiracies, one of which centered on a reporter covering its aftermath.
A May 18 Facebook post included two images taken from local news broadcasts, one of which identified a reporter as Brandon Walker and another that identified the same man as Walker Graham.
“They play with our minds everyday,” reads the post, which garnered more than 1,500 shares in two days. “Clearly dude is an actor. He an actor for the CIA (sic).”
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But the conflicting names were the result of human error at a local news station, not a conspiracy.
USA TODAY reached out to users who shared the claim for comment.
Conspiracy arose after TV news mistake, station says
The man seen in the images is Brandon Walker, who is listed as a journalist on the website for KPRC-TV in Houston. Walker has been reporting there since 2015 but was in Buffalo to cover the aftermath of the shooting.
When doing a report for Orlando affiliate station WKMG-TV, the anchor incorrectly introduced him as Walker Graham. The station also listed the incorrect name on its chyron. Walker signed off his report with his correct name, Brandon Walker.
The online claims echo the "crisis actor" conspiracy theory. Some social media users have co-opted that term in recent years to falsely claim the victims of tragedies such as mass shootings are actually crisis actors.
When asked for comment on the claim of Walker being an actor, WKMG-TV referred USA TODAY to an explanation posted on its website on May 17.
A station producer “mistook a cue in the TV script for the reporter’s name,” according to the statement, which included a copy of the script with the “Walker Graham” name. That name was the combination of the reporter’s last name and Graham Media Group, which is the parent company of both stations.
The discrepancy was also pointed out on Twitter, prompting a direct response from Walker.
“Yeah - seems my colleagues at a sister station don’t know my name. Brandon Walker, it is,” he wrote in a May 16 tweet. “I work for a station in Houston, KPRC2; however, I’ve filed reports for our sister stations in other cities.”
Neither Walker nor KPRC-TV returned USA TODAY’s requests for comment.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that a TV broadcast shows an "actor for the CIA," not a news reporter. An affiliate station simply incorrectly identified journalist Brandon Walker, who has been a reporter in Houston since 2015.
Our fact-check sources:
KPRC-TV, accessed May 20, Brandon Walker bio page
WKMG-TV, May 20, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Inside Edition, May 18, TV Reporter Becomes Center of Online Conspiracy Theory Because of a Typo
PolitiFact, May 17, Local TV error leads spurs Buffalo shooting ‘crisis actor’ conspiracy theory
WKMG-TV, May 17, News 6 clears the air over mistake that became Twitter conspiracy
Brandon Walker, May 16, Twitter
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim that image shows actor, not local reporter