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Transcript: Special Episode: Tiffany Dover Speaks

The full episode transcript for Truthers: Tiffany Dover Is Dead*, Special Episode: Tiffany Dover Speaks


Truthers: Tiffany Dover Is Dead*

Special Episode: Tiffany Dover Speaks

Brandy Zadrozny: Hi there. It's been a while, a year, actually since what I thought would be the last episode of this podcast. If you're listening to this now, you probably know that I spent a lot of time and energy chasing around this nurse named Tiffany Dover. And if you don't know that, by all means, go back and start at episode one.

Tiffany was one of the first people in Chattanooga, Tennessee to get the COVID vaccine. She fainted afterward on livestream, and that faint launched a viral conspiracy theory that she had died and that the vaccine had killed her. The point of this project was to find her. Talk to her on the record and prove that the conspiracy theory about her and the COVID vaccine was a lie.

But that didn't pan out. I didn't land an interview with Tiffany. Never heard from her directly. Didn't even see her with my own eyes. I emailed and called every number I could get, reached out to every family member and co-worker I could find. And in late 2021 and early 2022, I made three trips to Tennessee, where Tiffany works, and Alabama, where she lives. And I got close, so close.

Ashley: So she works (inaudible) and that’s Friday is her last day.

Brandy Zadrozny: Oh, okay.

Ashley: So she said to get a phone number and she would talk to you guys after that, but she can't --

Brandy Zadrozny: Okay, I totally get that.

Ashley: Yeah, she'll get in trouble so --

Brandy Zadrozny: That's Tiffany's sister-in-law, Ashley. I also spoke to her cousin.

And can I just ask, is Tiffany okay?

Lexi: Yes, very much okay.

Brandy Zadrozny: Alive and well?

Lexi: Yes, alive and well. She couldn't say anything, because --

Brandy Zadrozny: And her mother-in-law, Debbie, who called Tiffany on the phone while we were standing in our front yard.

I just don’t know if she wants me to just get out of town and go away and leave her alone. I can do that.

Debbie: No, she wants to talk to somebody. Let me call her and see what she says.

Brandy Zadrozny: Okay.

Debbie: They didn't want to do anything until --

Brandy Zadrozny: Tiffany's family kept implying that she wanted to talk, but that she couldn't yet because her employer didn't want her to. They said she was leaving her job. But it wasn't clear when. And at one point, after leaving a letter with my contact info on a relative's door, I got a text back offering a great story if we were willing to pay for it, which we can't do.

And in the meantime, the hospital spokesperson I was in touch with wouldn't budge on making Tiffany available, saying that was Tiffany's preference. Eventually, after many heartbreaks and with a looming deadline, I had to admit to myself and you, listeners, that it was never going to happen.

I had photos, videos, legal documents and numerous witnesses to prove that Tiffany was alive and well. But I didn't have Tiffany and I wasn't going to get her. It was a fact that truthers did not let me live down.

Joe Leonard: After three hours of this podcast, we still don't have an interview. We don't have a selfie. We don’t have anything.

Hugo Talks: And now we have an NBC investigation podcast show and they can't find her. They’ve never seen her in the show. I mean, it's crazy. I mean --

Brandy Zadrozny: They made videos about it and a lot of memes. My face on Geraldo Rivera's body opening up Al Capone's empty vault. They mocked up posters of what they said should be my next podcast about the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and other subjects that would prove as elusive for me as Tiffany had been.

For these guys, the podcast had only solidified their theories about what happened to Tiffany. And even though our show had wrapped a year ago, the obsession with her was still going strong. Every single day, there'd be something new. Chatter in anti-vaccine groups, a blog post, a new forum thread, new creative projects like this one from a red pilled singer-songwriter in California.

Foundring: Where's Tiffany Dover? I've searched this whole wide world over and all I found --

Brandy Zadrozny: Tiffany's become more than just the subject of a single conspiracy theory. She's truther lore, the canary in the coal mine. Truthers conjure her whenever someone dies or collapses for any reason, especially when it's caught on camera. Take Damar Hamlin.

Joe Buck: And now another Bills player is down.

Troy Aikman: Can’t tell exactly who that is. Maybe Hamlin.

Brandy Zadrozny: During a Monday Night Football game on January 2nd, Damar Hamlin tackled a Cincinnati Bengals receiver, got up and then dropped straight back to the ground and didn't move.

Troy Aikman: Well, this is the last thing you want to see. As they brought the stretcher out, they have that backboard out --

Brandy Zadrozny: It was horrifying. Medics were giving Hamlin CPR on the field and before he could even be carried away in an ambulance, the conspiracy theory started, that the COVID vaccine was to blame. But he recovered. Just 20 days after his collapse, he showed up again at another game, waving to the crowd from one of the suites.

It didn't stop the truthers. Leading the charge was Stew Peters. He's the guy behind a wildly popular new anti-vax film called “Died Suddenly.” Here's Peters on his podcast.

Stew Peters: Hamlin never took his hood down, never removed his mask and didn't speak to a soul. Was that Damar Hamlin at that stadium on Sunday? How would we know?

Brandy Zadrozny: Sounds familiar, right? For truthers, it all goes back to Tiffany Dover.

Health Ranger: Damar Hamlin is officially Tiffany Dover, the sequel.

Russian Truther: Elite is hiding, like Tiffany Dover.

Rica Ovens: Changed my mind. Damar Hamlin is Tiffany Dover coverup 2.0.

Brandy Zadrozny: They were just as obsessed as they had been the day she fainted. But Tiffany didn't live in that world. And in her world, in Higdon, Alabama, life went on. She built a new house next to her in-laws. She added home decor to a Pinterest board.

She sometimes showed up in the family photos that relatives would post to Facebook. But she never posted herself. And then this January, she did. She started a TikTok account with her daughter. A place to post jokes about family life and raising teenagers. She dyed her hair a honey blonde.

Tiffany Dover: I told my daughter this morning that I wanted to dye my hair back dark again. And her response was --

Brandy Zadrozny: That video is from February 2nd. It was actually the first time we'd heard her voice in a social media post since before she became a global figure. During the Hamlin mess, I'd left a comment on an earlier video asking Tiffany Dover if she wanted to talk.

At the time, I thought it couldn't hurt. But I didn't expect anything either. Then on February 3rd, I got a text from an unknown number. It was written like a letter. It said, “Brandy, while I did not die that day, the life I knew did.” I scrolled straight to the end. It was signed, Tiffany Dover.

I was immediately skeptical. I cover the worst of the Internet. And there is a sizable audience of people who enjoy trolling me pretending to be Tiffany Dover. That would be a good one. But I reverse-searched the phone number and no, the number was registered to a Dustin Dover, Tiffany’s husband. And I realized it matched a number I tried months before. This was her.

In the text, Tiffany Dover wrote that she was ready to talk about everything that had happened to her. She said that she thought about how she could clear things up. And she'd considered posting a video that addressed the rumors to her own TikTok. But, and this surprised me, she said she was grateful that we made the podcast and quote, “I felt like I owe this to you.”

Honestly, it rattled me. I took a while to reply. I didn't want to blow it. I wrote her back and we slowly, cautiously started corresponding, texting back and forth. I shot my shot. Asked for an interview. She said she wasn't ready for that, but we could talk. Not on the record, but like people, face to face.

Five days after she texted me, I booked a plane ticket. I couldn't believe it was actually happening. And then suddenly it wasn't. I called the production team to deliver some bad news.

I am not going to Tennessee today because I found out last night that I have COVID.

Reid Cherlin: Oh.

Brandy Zadrozny: I know. I'm so sad.

Reid Cherlin: Oh, that's so awful.

Brandy Zadrozny: It's so awful. It's -- yeah, it's like --

Truly ironic that I felt the need to intrude on this last chapter of the story. Also, a little bit fitting. I was terrified that Tiffany would have second thoughts or ghost me. But she didn't. She told me to rest and recover and that we could reschedule. And a couple of weeks later, COVID-free, I flew out.

Woman (Automated): Welcome aboard the plane train. Please --

Brandy Zadrozny: Rented a car. Met up with my producer.

Frannie, there is nothing that can bring me down today.

Tiffany said she'd meet me at a restaurant called The Boathouse, a seafood place in Chattanooga on the south bank of the Tennessee River. I got a table and ordered a drink.

I sat there at the boathouse, watching the water roll by. Waiting. And then after all this time, after all those hours, analyzing every frame of every video of her, after all the searching and all the frustration, there she was. In real life.

From NBC News, I'm Brandy Zadrozny.

Tiffany Dover: I'm Tiffany Dover and this is a special episode of Tiffany Dover is Dead.

Brandy Zadrozny: Tiffany Dover wanted that first meetup to be off the record, so I didn't record it. But we had a drink. We stayed for dinner, got to know each other a little bit and caught up on what had been happening.

Considering her text, I was surprised to learn that Tiffany Dover hadn't listened to the podcast. She'd heard bits and pieces, but generally, she tried to stay away from content about herself. But by the end of dinner, she said she was in for an on-the-record interview. So the next day, we drove to the Dovers’ house, actually invited this time.

How do we get there? This way, right?

Frannie Kelley: Yeah.

Brandy Zadrozny: Okay.

Tiffany's new house. It's really pretty. White. Two story. Huge windows, horses in the front yard. Tiffany met us on the porch.

Tiffany Dover: How are you?

Brandy Zadrozny: Good. How are you?

Tiffany Dover: Good.

Brandy Zadrozny: Your house is so nice.

Tiffany Dover: It’s getting there.

Brandy Zadrozny: Oh, my God.

Tiffany Dover: Slowly but surely.

Brandy Zadrozny: We sat down at the kitchen table. I started with the obvious.

You're not dead.

Tiffany Dover: I am not dead.

Brandy Zadrozny: Were you injured by the vaccine at all?

Tiffany Dover: No.

Brandy Zadrozny: With that out of the way. There were so many other things I thought people would want to know about Tiffany, about our experience inside a conspiracy theory, about why she made the choices she did, and about why she wanted to talk to me now. But for me, there was another burning question, and I'll admit, it was a little selfish.

For all the time that I spent chasing you around Alabama, why didn't you talk to me?

Tiffany Dover: Because at the time, I honestly was so mentally exhausted. I just was. I was in a dark place. And I did not have it in me. I didn't have it in me to do it. And I didn't know if I could trust you. And I don't know why. Now I do trust you, but I'm choosing to.

Brandy Zadrozny: I appreciate it. I take that really seriously --

I should say here. Since I started talking to Tiffany, it's become clear that a lot of what I thought was kind of a cat and mouse game, all those times I thought we might have glimpsed Tiffany or crossed paths with her near her house, it either wasn't her or she doesn't remember it, which makes sense because at the time, we were just another media outlet and a huge crowd of strangers that was trying to get access to her.

She ignored everybody, partly because she didn't know who she could trust and partly because of something else we're going to get to a little later.

To really understand Tiffany’s choices, you have to understand what she was dealing with before she even got the shot. And remember how terrifying that first year of COVID was and how grueling it was for the frontline workers.

Tiffany Dover: We went from being cardiac ICU nurses to taking on an entire new patient population. And we were completely full, you know, 18 beds.

Brandy Zadrozny: And what was the work actually like? Do you know what --

Tiffany Dover: Oh, it's very tiring. So, you know, proning a patient is where you flip them over, you know, on their stomach. And a lot of the patients, they're intubated, they're sedated, they're not helping you flip over. Imagine doing that to 18 patients. But then you have your typical nursing workload.

Brandy Zadrozny: That's a lot.

Tiffany Dover: And it felt like we were almost a palliative care unit. You know, we would give our all to trying to, you know, save a patient and death after death after death. And so that was hard.

Brandy Zadrozny: Did it make you guys tighter at all?

Tiffany Dover: It did. It did, for sure. It feels like you're on a battlefield and you're in this bubble together. And it's weird. Even within the hospital, it is 100 percent a different world. And if you're not there and you're not seeing what they're going through, it's like a disconnect.

Brandy Zadrozny: Yeah.

Tiffany Dover: Another thing is the visiting. You're the only way that they're seeing their family, maybe for the last time. That means a lot of FaceTime. Like you have to put yourself right there of seeing the family say like daddy, hold on. Like you can do this. Fight this, and then you have to, you know, still do your job.

Brandy Zadrozny: I asked her to tell me the story of the day she got the vaccine. The day she fainted and the whole Tiffany Dover is dead conspiracy theory started.

Tiffany Dover: So it was a really busy day that day. I remember. I know I hadn't ate lunch and some kind soul had sushi and I grabbed a piece, you know, and I was like, I'm just going to run down real quick, get this shot and then go back up because I felt like I was needed there. I was called the day before and asked, Will you take the shot? We'll be videoing it. And I said, yeah, sure. Like I was happy to do that.

And so when I received the shot, I didn't even feel, it didn't hurt in that moment. I was sitting down, so I felt safe. I didn't feel pain. And then I had went up there to speak. And it was one of the worst feelings in my life. As I felt my arm begin to throb because I knew like I knew, this is your worst nightmare, that this could happen right now, maybe it's not really going to happen. But I knew --

Brandy Zadrozny: Reminder, as Tiffany told reporters that day, she has an overactive vagal response, meaning she faints easily whenever she feels pain and she can tell when it's coming on. She starts to sweat and gets nauseous.

Tiffany Dover: -- but it's like a tunnel vision, like I can feel myself slowing down.

Brandy Zadrozny: What are you saying to yourself in the back of your mind?

Tiffany Dover: I am saying to myself, you need to lay down. You need to get down, because I cannot, I will not pass out if I sit down. I could stop it right now. And I'm saying, this is your autonomic nervous system. You can't control that. But yet, I'm saying, yes, I can. Like you can hold on another minute, speak the words and go sit down. Wrap this up.

It felt like that in my head. And I was like, you can do this. No. And then my body is like, done. Looking back on that, like, just remember apologizing before I passed out, it was just like the last defeat.

Brandy Zadrozny: This whole time I thought Tiffany Dover had been reluctantly called up to speak by local reporters, pressured maybe by the hospital PR people in the room, but that was wrong. Tiffany wanted to speak to the cameras that day.

Tiffany Dover: I felt like the vaccine was hope. I felt like we had held on, you know. But then you're looking at a year later almost, and the death rate was higher than ever. And at that point, it was the first light at the end of the tunnel for me.

It's like I wanted so badly to tell what this vaccine meant to me. I thought that I could just push through because it was important to me. And I thought that my body might respect that. But it didn't care, you know? It didn't. It did what it does. So, yeah.

Brandy Zadrozny: But then you got up.

Tiffany Dover: I did. I got up and I went and I told them that I was fine, that I do this. And I thought that would be the end of it because I had immediately spoke to it. So it felt okay, you know. Actually, I had called my charge nurse and informed him that I had passed out. And he responded, yeah, I know. I saw it.

And I'm like, what do you mean? He's like, it was live TV. And at that point, I still didn't realize, like, what that would mean. I didn't. And he even, like, kind of encouraged me with like it's just a little local news channel, like, you know what I mean? It won't. It won't. It won't be. This is fine. Everybody will forget about it by tomorrow. I'm like okay, you know --

Brandy Zadrozny: Of course, that didn't happen.

Tiffany Dover: It was growing just within the hospital, you know, like I've probably received 70 texts in two hours, like I heard what happened to you. So I was just kind of like, you know, pushed it away. I turned my phone off. I'm like I don't want to hear about this again because it's not my proudest moment.

Brandy Zadrozny: When did you realize that this was going to be a bigger thing?

Tiffany Dover: I didn't have TikTok at the time. But my child introduced me to, Mom, you’re TikTok trending. And I was like, what are you talking about? And I looked at it and I was like, no.

Brandy Zadrozny: Yeah.

Tiffany Dover: So that's when I realized it was pretty big. And then the death certificate. Some - there was a fake death certificate that traveled around also. And that I feel like really is where things escalated because people saw this and believed it.

Brandy Zadrozny: This account confirmed what I had watched unfold in real time. Just a day after her faint, things were spinning out of control online. Tiffany was trending on every social media site. She and her family had been doxed. Then truthers took aim at the hospital, calling around the clock, demanding to be put through to Tiffany.

Tiffany Dover: The phones at the hospital, if you can imagine being in high stress situations, emotions are already high, and then the phone never stops ringing, it's enough to make you crazy.

Brandy Zadrozny: It wasn't just the phone calls. People were uploading new videos about Tiffany to YouTube every few minutes. They made Facebook groups discussing Tiffany. building conspiracy theories up around her. She couldn't keep up with most of them. Not that she wanted to.

Tiffany Dover: Honestly, it was hard for me to watch them because I'm being put on platforms and I'm seeing things and people are just commenting like I'm not a person, you know? And the few times that I would dive into watching this, it was really hard.

You know, it's you're seeing like, oh, she's acting. Oh, this is fake. Oh, she did this, some people believe, for money. You know, I just felt like it was so many stories out there and most of them are not the truth.

Brandy Zadrozny: As the days went by, truthers poured over every single photo on Tiffany Dover's Instagram and Facebook accounts, turning even the most innocuous posts into fodder for their ever-expanding stories about her.

Tiffany Dover: There was the pizza thing and the pedophile ring. And so then people were sending death threats to me because they thought I was over a pedophile ring.

Brandy Zadrozny: Right, so in one of your old Instagram photos, you had posted a photo of you and your daughter getting pizza?

Tiffany Dover: It was her birthday the week before. And we had went somewhere they did the cool milkshakes, you know, where they really build them up. And we had pizza, which I think is a pretty normal thing for families to do on birthdays.

Brandy Zadrozny: This could not be more American.

Tiffany Dover: But yet that was a problem because that --

Brandy Zadrozny: So people who believe in the QAnon conspiracy theory and its predecessor, Pizzagate, believe that pizza is secret code for child sexual abuse. Stay with me. Pizzagate Truthers think elite child abusers are hiding in plain sight, and they use pizza references to communicate with each other. Pizza isn't just lunch for these folks, it's evidence of evil deeds.

Did you even know about what Pizzagate was?

Tiffany Dover: I did not. I had no idea. I had to research because I knew nothing. And I was shocked. And it was, you know, the clues that they were finding like, oh, the fact that I dressed up for Halloween as the Little Caesars. But my family was all fast-food restaurant characters. And of course, I was the Little Caesars standing there.

Brandy Zadrozny: Oh, God --

Tiffany was laughing now because it's ridiculous. Who could have known that dressing up for Halloween as a pizza chain's mascot would end in death threats? But in the moment, when she's being accused of leading a child abuse ring, when truthers are contacting her pre-teen daughter, it's frightening. Tiffany started to feel like she wasn't safe anywhere.

Tiffany Dover: One gentleman showed up with a GoPro on his head, but really, he said he just wanted to show his son. He was from another state. But he shows up and he's like, I just need to show my son that you're alive or he'll get the vaccine. And I'm like, it's strange, but have your son get that vaccine. You know? But it’s like that's okay. But then it's like --

Brandy Zadrozny: That GoPro video, it never made it online. And so the truthers kept at it.

Tiffany Dover: You know, I don't know how my number gets out, but it does. And, you know, I'm getting these messages of like, I don't know what's wrong with you, but I can fix you. Well, that's scary to me because I don't need to be fixed. And I --

Brandy Zadrozny: Tiffany said the worst was a visit by the anti-vax truther Christopher Key almost a year and a half after she fainted. Key had made lots of videos about Tiffany, and she'd recognized him from his car. It's wrapped in decals that read Vaccine Police; that's his moniker.

Christopher Key: Okay, guys, they got a lot of action going on here at Tiffany Dover's home. It's a beautiful home that they're building over here in the distance. I want you all to see this.

Brandy Zadrozny: Tiffany was home alone at the time babysitting her nephew.

Tiffany Dover: They parked up at the fence, walked down into my yard, is videoing around my yard. And I'm looking out and I'm like, there's a stranger in my yard videoing stuff. Like and then I realized who it was because I had seen him and I'd seen his postings before.

Christopher Key: So evidently, they've called the cops on me.

Tiffany Dover: I had called the police just because I'm not taking any risk with a three-month-old on my hip.

Christopher Key: So we're going to hang out here and wait a little bit because I want to see what the cops had to say to me.

Tiffany Dover: I know that he makes citizen's arrest and stuff. That was scary for me. You know, it's just one of those things. Again, I don't know what people are wanting from me.

Brandy Zadrozny: What they wanted was a main character, a star in the story they're always trying to sell, that vaccines are dangerous. For that story, they need Tiffany Dover to be dead or injured, or just never answer the door. And how do you feel about being the poster girl for a large anti-vaccination community?

Tiffany Dover: That was hard to process. Like, oh, if I was put on this platform and people are using my name and me and my story to say, don't get it, how many people didn't receive it because of me? And that's hard.

Brandy Zadrozny: I think that you can't feel that way, especially after all you've been through like it is none of that would be your fault at all.

Tiffany Dover: Well, thank you for saying that.

Brandy Zadrozny: Yeah.

Tiffany Dover: Thank you.

Brandy Zadrozny: Don’t cry. Don’t cry.

Tiffany Dover: I’m like - I’m not gonna cry.

Brandy Zadrozny: Okay. No, that is not your fault.

I'd seen that criticism of Tiffany. And I always thought it was unfair. She didn't owe the world anything. If Tiffany was overwhelmed by harassment online and in the real world, if she just wanted to do her very demanding job and stay offline, even as much as I had wanted to talk to her, that was her decision to make. Unless it wasn't.

The hospital told us that you not posting was a way to respect your boundaries. Does that sound right?

Tiffany Dover: No. I mean, absolutely not. It was the opposite, in fact.

Brandy Zadrozny: Where's Tiffany Dover? That was the catchphrase I heard over and over again in truther videos.

Gonzalo Lira: Where is Tiffany Dover? Huh? All the system pigs have to do --

Brandy Zadrozny: And hashtags and song after song.

Italian Truther: Tiffany Dover. Si, my Tiffany Dover --

Brandy Zadrozny: If Tiffany was alive, the thinking went, where was she? For a health care worker who loved posting to social media, who wanted to advocate for the vaccine, who was comfortable enough in the spotlight to get up in front of news cameras, what sense did it make for her to just disappear? Turns out Tiffany felt the same way.

Tiffany Dover: I think that I should have been able to speak immediately the next day, post regularly on social media. I feel like being silent is what flamed this. And I also feel like, you know, that would have been a perfect moment for us to speak out on, yes, I did pass out. You know, you can pass out from receiving a vaccine, but that's okay because it can also save your life. So it's worth it.

Brandy Zadrozny: That clear, passionate message delivered succinctly by Tiffany didn't happen. Instead, as Tiffany tells it, decision makers inside her hospital decided on something else, a plan that, however well-intentioned, objectively made everything worse for everyone. The morning after she fainted, Tiffany got a call from the public relations department.

Tiffany Dover: She started with telling me that they were very busy, overwhelmed by the amount of attention and that it had traveled all the way to Croatia and that the hospital could not have me speak out because they would never recover from that if something like this was to happen again. And at that moment --

Brandy Zadrozny: Tiffany said the hospital was worried about her responding. What if she said the wrong thing? What if she fainted again?

Tiffany Dover: Like I said, that was the first time I really felt like shame from it because I was like, oh no, like it was I felt terrible. You know, like she's telling me that the hospital can't recover from this. I mean, I don't know. It was a lot for me to take on.

Brandy Zadrozny: Tiffany took the day off, turned off her phone to quiet the constant notifications. But she called hospital administrators later that day to check in.

Tiffany Dover: So I get my phone out, call them to tell them I'm okay. And the first response is under no condition should you post on social media. I know people will be reaching out to you. Do not post under no circumstance. Do you understand? And I'm like, yes, I understand.

Brandy Zadrozny: The weekend came and went, and things snowballed. Videos of her fainting and the fake death certificate were everywhere. And the hospital had to take their social media channels private because of the onslaught. Something needed to be done. And the hospital, still barring Tiffany Dover from speaking on her own, decided to release a proof of life.

You may remember it. That really cringy video where about 20 hospital employees are standing on a long staircase holding signs saying things like, we support Tiffany Dover, and no one speaks, including Tiffany, who's standing at the foot of the stairs. It made no sense. But you want to know what was actually happening? Tiffany and her co-workers didn't know the hospital was making a video at all. They thought it was a photo.

Tiffany Dover: I'm told that there's a great idea. So we're lined up. I'm told we're going to take this photo. And this will show everyone that I'm alive. So, as you know, when you go to take a photo, you stand there, you smile, you maybe shift a little and that's it. But this was not a photo, as I realized once it was posted. It was a video.

And nobody was aware, as you can tell from all of us just standing there in these strange positions, you know, it looks awkward. We're not smiling, waving. Normally, you'd be like, hey, you know, kind of I'm okay. Smile. No, we're standing for a photo. So it's awkward.

Brandy Zadrozny: It was strange on its own. But then truthers dissected every frame and concluded that no way was this person, the Tiffany Dover they had seen pass out. This new Tiffany?

Mind Myriad: This is not the woman that died, Tiffany Dover. This is a phony which adds even more --

Brandy Zadrozny: Her eyes were duller, they said.

Chris Saskatchewan: The real Tiffany Dover’s eyes, which are blue, by the way, have a fleshy part that points, curls down towards her nose.

Brandy Zadrozny: Her hair was parted on the wrong side.

Joe Leonard: Tiffany Dover's got some swoopy doop action. You see this? She got the swoopy doop going up here. And --

Brandy Zadrozny: They said she looked heavier.

Brian Wilkins: They have this woman that is not only about 25 pounds heavier than Tiffany is, but her --

Tiffany Dover: And then also the vest. Yeah. So, typically, I would be required to wear a white coat to work. But in all of the chaos, I forgot my coat. I don't know where it was. So, I’m put into this -- someone's white vest and it's like, oh, look, she looks much thinner here than she did there.

Well, I have on a vest. That's not mine. And that it was my hair. You know, I part my hair. I think it was parted to the left in the first one, and then it was down the middle. And that is because I called my friend, hey, will you come can fix my hair for this. I'm about to go down. She curls it, I go down, you know.

Brandy Zadrozny: I want to say that yesterday when I saw you at dinner, you had a part in the center I think, and then today --

Tiffany Dover: And today I don’t.

Brandy Zadrozny: -- it's on the side.

Tiffany Dover: I am not a consistent hair-parter. When I go to my hairstylist and she asks, where do you part? I do not have a part. It's whatever I'm feeling that day.

Brandy Zadrozny: That proof of life video did not make things better, I would say. Is that correct?

Tiffany Dover: I would say it made it worse. It made people suspicious because if I'm okay, why am I not just talking? Why are we standing there?

Brandy Zadrozny: And then the rest of your social media, too, like your Facebook, your Instagram, like you started to get a lot of followers, but you weren't posting anymore to those either.

Tiffany Dover: Right. I was not allowed to. I was told very strictly. So, --

Brandy Zadrozny: At the time, Tiffany was all in on building her career at CHI Memorial. So, when her bosses told her to do something or not to do something, she obeyed. In this case, they told her she wasn't allowed to talk to media, to respond to these rumors in any way or post anything anywhere, even on her personal accounts.

To me, that seemed like an overreach. I told Tiffany that if I were in that situation, I might tell my employer to go fly a kite. She didn't see it that way.

Tiffany Dover: I was invested there. I had been there for 10 years. It was my team in that moment. So, if I walked away, who was left to advocate for them? No one.

Brandy Zadrozny: But remember, Tiffany actually did post again. About two months after her faint, she posted on Instagram photos of her family's Colorado ski vacation with the cryptic caption “Meet Me on the Other Side of Paradise.”

Tiffany Dover: A few months had went by. The pressure at work, they're not telling me every day, don't post. So, I felt like it had maybe lightened up enough that I could share with the world that I was alive because I was still flooded with people concerned about me.

I wanted to share, but I also knew that I did not want to lose my job. I thought maybe I could just throw it out there, I mean, one time and let people know I'm alive and I'll deal with it. You know, just a quick, hey, let me show you pictures. I am alive. I'm okay.

Brandy Zadrozny: Did it work?

Tiffany Dover: No. It did not work. And --

Brandy Zadrozny: Not only did it not quiet the truthers, it got the attention of her supervisors at the hospital. When she got back, her boss, the hospital's vice president of nursing, made her sign a work improvement plan that specifically addressed her posts. She showed it to me.

Under concerns, the hospital listed appropriateness and representation of self and hospital via social media. It said her recent posts had started up the calls again and quote, “dramatically affected hospital operations.” It said, quote, “It has been recommended to cease/close the account.”

After hearing this story from Tiffany in March, I reached back out to CHI Memorial. Remember, in 2021, I interviewed the one person the hospital made available to me, their public relations director, Karen Long. We ran it in episode two. And she said in that interview and in emails and in phone calls that they'd never told Tiffany not to post.

Karen Long: I'm not aware of anything that asked Tiffany not to respond.

Brandy Zadrozny: Long strongly implied that the hospital was just going along with Tiffany’s wishes.

Karen Long: We have to keep Tiffany Dover in mind in our response as well and do right by her. So, we did a video that she was in and want to respect her boundaries.

Brandy Zadrozny: When I asked Long directly about Tiffany going dark on social media, she didn't say anything about the work improvement plan that Tiffany had to sign or about any other directive from the hospital to silence Tiffany.

Do you know why she stopped posting on social media?

Karen Long: She was harassed. Her family was harassed. You know, the response was overwhelming. And everything she has done has been under scrutiny.

Brandy Zadrozny: I also reviewed a recording I have of a call with Long two days earlier, where she expressly says that the hospital does not manage Tiffany’s personal social media use.

CHI Memorial's representatives never told me the truth about this. And I'm still not sure why. I never thought the hospital was the bad guy here. Responding to a conspiracy theory like this? Uncharted territory.

What I really wanted to know was whether they felt like things could have been done differently, if they'd learned any lessons. So, in March, I wrote up a lengthy email detailing Tiffany’s account of what happened, and I sent it to the PR reps for CHI Memorial and the hospital's parent company, Common Spirit Health.

No one responded. When I followed up, Karen Long replied with one line, quote, “We have no new information.” After that, I reached out to several of the nurses who worked on the COVID unit that Tiffany managed. I talked to two of them, including Amber Honea. She was a longtime colleague of Tiffany’s.

Amber Honea: We were both kind of baby nurses there. Gosh, I don't even know how many years ago, a long time ago.

Brandy Zadrozny: And truthers dragged Amber Honea into this saga almost right away. They'd answered their questions about the stairway video, the differently parted hair, the too big white vest, with another wild theory, that Tiffany Dover had been replaced. That Amber had been hired to be her body double.

Amber Honea: At first, it was kind of comical because a lot of times, we would braid our hair the same way. And we had a lot of the same mannerisms. So, at first, Tiffany and I were like, well, that's funny. Like, I guess they're not too far off. Like --

Brandy Zadrozny: But Amber wasn't even in the building that day. She did, however, listened to our podcast. And she had a strong reaction to Karen Long's interview.

Amber Honea: -- when you said you talked to the hospital administration and they said that they didn't tell her not to speak out, that was one of the main things that stuck out to me. But I’m sure there were others --

Brandy Zadrozny: Amber said the hospital told Tiffany not to talk and that they suggested she do the same.

Amber Honea: They recommended to me that I shouldn't, you know, speak out to anybody and that, you know, they didn't want Tiffany and I and making anything public. But I think it was more her they were worried about than me.

Brandy Zadrozny: So, Amber didn't respond to anybody, even though she and her family members were also being harassed, accused of taking Big Pharma money to betray her profession and her friend. Amber told me she stayed quiet out of loyalty to Tiffany, not the hospital.

Amber Honea: I was waiting on her because I always said from the beginning, I was like, you know, it's your story to tell. So, if you want to talk about it, we will. And if you don't, then I'm not going to talk to anybody either. So, that's how we went about it.

Brandy Zadrozny: Tiffany had earned that loyalty. She was younger than the other administrators, and she didn't have their advanced degrees or experience. But she was good. The nurses I talked to told me Tiffany was real, kind, available. She listened to their ideas, set up a council where they could weigh in on things. Always super positive.

Amber Honea: She was always the like, bubbly, energetic, like outgoing person that, you know, never met anybody that couldn't be her friend or that she wouldn't try to make her friend. And it definitely, you know, took a toll on her because, I mean, how could it not?

People are, you know, claiming that you're dead and, you know, threatening you and your family and your children. And, you know, it was stressful because she was getting it from them. And then she was also, you know, kind of unable to tell her side and her explanation. And then --

Brandy Zadrozny: Something else had taken a toll on Tiffany. In the summer of 2021, her mother and her grandmother got COVID and ended up in her unit. Her mother got better. Her grandmother didn't.

Tiffany Dover: And you know, I'd seen it happen to, you know, to all of these patients. But then for it to be your grandmother, they're getting intubated. Once she was intubated, I knew like it was, you know, I was losing her.

Brandy Zadrozny: I'm sorry.

By the time I showed up on her doorstep six months later in February of 2022, Tiffany had given her two weeks notice. But even then, she still wasn't ready to talk.

Tiffany Dover: As soon as I quit, I thought the first thing I would want to do is just go and talk about it all. But honestly, it had been a really, I feel like difficult year and it honestly took time to like just kind of bring myself back out of this dark hole.

Brandy Zadrozny: Part of what ultimately got Tiffany out of that hole was noticing what all of this was doing to her 14-year-old daughter, how her silence was reinforcing the idea that the Internet and social media are things to be afraid of.

Tiffany Dover: I was seeing that my daughter, she's not posting because of all that we went through, of all the comments, of all of the negativity. And I'm like, I don't want that for her. Like, I want her to see me tell my story. It was just a moment of realizing like, I have always wanted to be a strong, empowered woman for her. And here I am now, you know, like running from this.

Brandy Zadrozny: So, she decided to stop running.

Tiffany Dover: I want to be able to be myself again and just, I mean, laugh about things, put things out there, share my children like I was this woman that wanted to come and tell my story. And then I felt so beat down and discouraged that I didn't even want to do that anymore. And I'm like, that's not who I am.

Brandy Zadrozny: Tiffany and I had talked a lot about what it would take to truly squash the conspiracy theories. Obviously, an audio recording wouldn't be enough to convince truthers. This was just one part of a plan.

You offered originally, which I thought was really smart, to let me send you a couple of questions and you were going to make a video of it and then we're going to post it. And so, I think we should do that.

Step one, a recorded interview for the podcast. Check. Step two, Tiffany would make some selfie videos for us to share on social media when the podcast dropped.

I think when we do the video, it'll be really great in there because we have to get the light on her blue eyes.

Tiffany Dover: Yes, that way they know.

Brandy Zadrozny: Yeah. I mean, truly, it's like, okay --

Videos where Tiffany could speak for herself.

Tiffany Dover: Hi, I'm Tiffany Dover and I am alive. I know it's been a long time and a lot of you have been waiting to hear from me. I wasn't able to speak out before. The hospital had policies in place that prevented me from doing so. But I'm here now and I'm sharing my story.

Brandy Zadrozny: It's really, really great to meet you. Thank you so much for everything.

Tiffany Dover: It’s nice to meet you, too.

Brandy Zadrozny: Thank you so much.

I mean, bye, y’all.

Tiffany Dover: Bye.


Brandy Zadrozny: Back home in New York. I went to work on the next stages of the plan. We had one hurdle to overcome. Last summer, somebody hacked into Tiffany’s Instagram and locked her out. Just a random attack, it turns out. But once the guy figured out who she was, he started offering to sell her private chats.

Eventually, he got bored and moved on. But Tiffany Dover hadn't been able to get her account back. I wouldn't normally get involved in a story in this way. But it seemed important that Tiffany be able to post whatever we were making to her own accounts. So, I sent an email detailing her issue to the press contacted Instagram, and cc-ed the CEO.

Tiffany got the account back quick. And it felt really great, like being one of those on-your-side local reporters.

With that sorted, we could go to the truthers. At the end of the last episode, I'd come to the conclusion that no amount of evidence was going to convince truthers that Tiffany was alive and uninjured. But now, with Tiffany onboard, all of that felt different. I had every piece of evidence the truthers had asked of me.

I had Tiffany herself. I couldn't wait to show them. It was petty, I know, but I wanted them to eat a little crow. I could almost hear them saying those magic words, “You were right.” First, I emailed Dave Murphy, or as he goes by, Allegedly Dave. I asked him if he had some time for a Tiffany Dover update.

Of all the conspiracy theorists I talked to, I liked Dave the best. He was nice, fun to talk to, even though I never convinced him.

Dave Murphy: -- Yeah, that didn’t do it at all.

Brandy Zadrozny: So, I was a little taken aback by his response. He wrote me, quote, “Seriously, Brandy, it's been 819 days, over two years since Tiffany was last seen alive. Unless you have Tiffany herself with you on the call saying, “Hello, everyone, I'm alive and well, and here is the plausible reason I've been pretending to be dead for the last two years,” then there's really no point and you are flogging a dead girl.”

Yikes. But also, yeah, I did have that. So, I replied, told him that Tiffany wouldn't be on the call, but I had the proof he said he was looking for. We sent a series of emails back and forth. He said she had to be on the call, or he wouldn't do it. I said I had videos.

He said they'd be deep fakes. I asked if he really thought I knew how to make a deep fake that would fool him. He said he, quote, “knew what NBC was capable of.” I kept trying, but Dave was adamant. And then he really went for it. He called the COVID vaccine the biggest act of genocide in the history of history.

He said I was an accomplice, had caused millions of people to die suddenly and that there would be a reckoning. He ended with, “May the most high have mercy on your soul.” I didn't write back.

Not the victory lap I'd imagined, but I shook it off and turned to the next truther, Robyn Openshaw, aka Green Smoothie Girl. In 2020, Robyn had expanded her empire beyond blogging and selling health supplements. She went full anti-vax and COVID denial and was one of the most dedicated Tiffany truthers.

She was so convinced of Tiffany’s death that in 2021, on one of her many speaking tours, Robyn offered a $100,000 bounty for her. I interviewed her about it last year. Here's Robyn talking about it on her own podcast, Vibe.

Robyn Openshaw: So, finally I agreed to do this story with NBC. And the reporter, she said, were you serious when you offered $100,000 to bring you Tiffany Pontes Dover over alive, or was that a stunt? And I said, well, I was serious. In fact, let me reiterate that offer to you.

Bring me Tiffany Pontes Dover. And she said, well, what would it take? And I said, well, a Zoom call. Like, you don't have to like drive to Tennessee and get her and bring her to me. Just, you know, get me on a Zoom call with her. Let's do it.

Brandy Zadrozny: Tiffany and I had talked about Robyn. Even with the assurances, we both agreed that it felt pretty unlikely that she'd see any real money out of this offer. But I asked if she wanted me to set up a Zoom with Robyn anyway. Surprisingly, Tiffany was game.

I reached out to Robyn Openshaw with the good news, told her I had an interesting update to share. And I asked if we could jump on that Zoom. But like Dave, Robyn wanted more now. A Zoom would no longer be enough. Robyn now wanted to interview Tiffany herself in person on camera.

In fact, she did want to drive to Tennessee, the very next morning. And now, Robyn wanted Tiffany’s medical records and a, quote, “willingness to tell the truth about what happened to her.” I told Robyn that wasn't fair. She was moving the goalposts. Robyn wrote back, “Why not just get Tiffany Dover to tell you her story? I don't have anything to do with it.”

I called Tiffany with the latest. She couldn't find her headphones, so she was wearing her son's oversized gaming headset. It's not quite the resolution that I'd hoped for.

It looks like that resolution is not coming. And I just wanted to let you know and I guess ask if you care.

Tiffany Dover: Well, I feel like at this point, we've done our part. Like we've put the information out there, I'm alive. I don't know how else to show that I'm alive. I mean, I'm here. What do you think we should do with it?

Brandy Zadrozny: I mean, if the point of it was to find the truth, I feel completely satisfied.

Tiffany Dover: Yeah. At the end of the day, I think me sharing my story is the point. Like, here we are, take it or leave it. Like we're just going to go ahead and put ourselves out there. You know, it is what it is. Like, you know, people can take it or leave it. But I feel like we've done our job. We're putting it out there and we're telling the truth.

Brandy Zadrozny: Take it or leave it. For two years, Tiffany Dover was a story that other people got to tell. Now, it's her turn. And no matter what happens, for Tiffany, that's enough.

Tiffany Dover: I actually ran into my father-in-law and he was like, I feel like ever since you've done that podcast, you just feel lighter. You're like, you're your old self again. I just feel like a weight has been lifted.

He actually stopped me to tell me that and that I thought, you know, that's amazing that people can actually see that I just feel like more, I think, personable, just like more out. You know, I don't know. It's just like I do. I feel so much freedom.

Even the next day after we spoke, you know, it's almost like a like a vulnerability hangover. I kind of felt that the next day. But then it was like followed by such freedom. It was just like I felt free, like, okay, you know? And at this point, I know that the responses will probably be mixed.

But I'm still okay with that because at this point, at least it's my truth and it's my story, and that's enough for me.

Brandy Zadrozny: From NBC News, this is Truthers. And this is really the final episode of Tiffany Dover is Dead.

This special episode was brought to you by me, Brandy Zadrozny, along with Frannie Kelley, Eva Ruth Moravec and Reid Cherlin. Sound design for this episode by Cedric Wilson. Original Music by Alicia Bognanno of Bully. Bryson Barnes is our technical director. Alexa Danner executive produced this episode for NBC News Studios. Liz Cole is the president of NBC News Studios. Special thanks to Madeleine Haeringer, Andrew Nichols, Marianne Raphael, Mary Somers, Dom Donahue, Claudia Mayer-Samargia, Robin Gradison, Jessica Baker, Catherine Kim, Alexa Corea. And of course, Tiffany Dover and the Dover family.