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Transcript: Who Does That?

Transcript: Who Does That? | Tiffany Dover Is Dead* Episode 3


Tiffany Dover Is Dead*

Episode 3: Who Does That?

BRANDY ZADROZNY: On January 14, 2021, I man named Johnny Scearce got discharged from the COVID unit at CHI Memorial in Chattanooga. He'd spent 94 days in CCU. Scearce is a police chief in a small town of Blue Ridge in Northern Georgia and when he was finally strong enough to transfer to rehab, the hospital made a video.

In the video, you see Chief Scearce being wheeled out of his room and there are about 50 doctors and nurses lining the hallway to celebrate. Standing the third from the end of the line is Tiffany Dover. She waves as he goes by but she doesn’t say anything. She's wearing a white sweater and her name tag.

You see her wearing the same thing in a photograph taken minutes earlier than run the Blue Ridge paper on January 19th. In that photo, members of Scearce's care team are pose around his bedside. Tiffany is second from the right. That’s a full month after truthers say Tiffany died.

I have that photo and the still from the video penned to a bulletin board in my bedroom. It's where I organized all the evidence I found that Tiffany is in fact alive. Every few weeks, I'll come across a new datapoint and on the board it goes.

Here what I have so far. December 2020, three days after she faints, Tiffany's brother-in-law posts a photo of Tiffany at a family Christmas gathering. She's smiling in pajamas cradling a Grinch stuffy. February 2021, two months later, Tiffany posts to her own Instagram. These are those photos from the Colorado trip and the video of the family tubing down Vail Mountain. She's got her helmet visor at one of the photos. It's clearly her. Then she goes dark again. Probably because truthers were all over those new posts.

WOMAN: Her Facebook with over 10,000 comments are all deleted, completely gone. Still no hard evidence of her being located or where her whereabouts are or what's going on that she's okay.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: There's no more evidence until the summer. But then in August 2021, she and her husband Dustin Dover signed mortgage paperwork to build a new house. That’s a public record. I found the filing in a local probate court. In October of 2021, an Alabama state trooper, Adam Reye, posts to Facebook a photo he took with Tiffany at a basketball practice, both have daughters on a local high school team. He captions it, quote, "Glad I got to see Tiffany Pontes Dover tonight." The picture is again unmistakably Tiffany.

November, her sister-in-law Rebecca posts a photo reel to her Facebook of the family Thanksgiving. Tiffany is in one picture wearing grey sweats and hugging her son. December, the same sister-in-law posts Christmas photos. Tiffany is pictured in two candid shots. She's wearing scrubs.

The truthers have found these photos, too, and they’ve made their own reaction videos mocking them. Here's Joe Leonard, the game developer in Maryland.

JOE LEONARD: Totally normal pictures of Tiffany that are not strange or mysterious in any way at all.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Leonard is the most prolific of the tiffany truthers and he's got the most followers.

JOE LEONARD: Can't you see? It's her. Nurse Tiffany Dover. You can tell because she is wearing a nurse uniform while everyone else is wearing their cozy Christmas pajamas. Maybe she just got to this family event after a long day of being a hero at work saving the lives of dumb conservative radio hosts that refused to get vax maxed.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: This January, another two videos of Tiffany surfaced on a TikTok account belonging to Taylor Bowen, a nurse practitioner from CHI Memorial. She was actually standing next to Tiffany in that bedside photo with Chief Scearce. Bowen posts them with the hashtag #bestfriendscheck.

In the first clip, they're doing a version of a dance that was trending bouncing on a sofa while Tiffany bangs a pot with a wooden spoon. The next one posted two days later shows Tiffany, closeup, pouring juice out of a Minute Maid bottle and refilling it with Snoop Dogg branded set to the "Don’t Be Suspicious" from Parks and Recreation. Tiffany smiles and does a little shimmy.

Further proof that Tiffany is alive and absolutely somebody that I’d want to be friends with. These newest videos have only gotten a collective 1,500 views, many of which are probably from me. None of the posts showing Tiffany alive have gotten anywhere near the same engagement as the ones suggesting she's dead.

It makes sense. Misinformation spreads further and faster than the truth for a reason. It's novel or shocking or it makes you angry, which is definitely true in Tiffany's case.

MAN: Her disgusting family took a payout to hide it and she was cremated to hide any physical evidence.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: That impulse to make Tiffany's whole family part of the story, it's taking a toll. Our last trip to Alabama had ended with Tiffany's sister-in-law assuring us that Tiffany would be getting in touch with us soon but I didn’t hear from her. And after a few initial texts, I stopped hearing from Ashley, too.

But by this point, the false story about Tiffany had already targeted more people and while Tiffany and her family seemed to be hungered down, other victims were fighting back.

From NBC News, I'm Brandy Zadrozny and this is "Tiffany Dover Is Dead.*"

Amanda Makulec knows what it's like to be at the center of a lie, to have strangers on the Internet take your story, twist the facts and turn it into a weapon. Amanda is 35 years old. She and her family live in Washington, D.C. where on September 26, 2021, the unthinkable happened. Her youngest son, Zander, he died unexpectedly, just shy of three months old.

AMANDA MAKULEC: He was the happiest little baby, waking up in the morning and he's just like laying on his little sleep sack, little swaddle and looking up at you and just kind of gets bright eyes, these big blue eyes and kind of like tumbles around and looks at you. And then he just gets his big grin and starts giggling and that’s just like how he lived his life.

There's not a single point in his life that he was not absolutely loved and adored and cared for. How many people get to say they live their entire life like state of absolute joy, and he did for as long as he was here. And that's hard to look back on and to not have that anymore.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Amanda works in data visualization. She's part of a close-knit community on Twitter connected around motherhood and public health. During COVID, those online connections were more important than ever and when Zander died, she posted about it on Twitter.

She wrote, "Yesterday, my littlest one passed away unexpectedly at two and a half months. We don’t have answers on how or why but if you have littles at home, give them an extra squeeze today. We're going to miss Baby Z's smiles, giggles and the joy he brought to our family." She included a photo of her two boys. The two-year-old is beaming at the baby.

AMANDA MAKULEC: I've mainly posted it because I didn't want people to ask about him. Like I have a really close network of people who I connected to if you're on Twitter and things like that because I work in tech and data and I know that the natural first question anyone ask when they're engaging with you if you just had a baby is, how's your baby, and I didn't want to have to have that same conversation over and over and over again. So, that was why I even shared anything thinking it would be like to the people who know me and then that tweet took off and had a life of its own in ways that I did not anticipate.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Here's what happened. Someone, it's not clear who, took Amanda's post and pasted it next to another post of hers from two months earlier where she had written about her relief at being vaccinated while pregnant. The juxtaposition turned her post into anti-vax meme smugly suggesting that Amanda's choice to get the vaccine had killed her baby.

AMADA MAKULEC: Zander died on a Sunday around 1 p.m. and by Monday, I had started to get messages about how my story was being misused and manufactured out of context. Less than a day after, I had sat in the hospital room and listened to them call the time of death on my child.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Quick fact check here. An autopsy was performed. It's required in D.C. for all unexpected deaths and Zander's death was not vaccine related. Amanda didn’t want us to share anything beyond that and we agreed.

The suggestion that Amanda or vaccinated nursing mothers generally post some risks for babies, it's flat wrong. Every single reputable public maternal and pediatric health organization recommends pregnant women be vaccinated against COVID because it's a disease which increases risks of complications during pregnancy and birth, including preterm birth and pregnancy loss and there's data.

Multiple monitoring systems and studies all show that the COVID vaccines are safe for pregnant women. But still, there is a certain brand of misinformation directed at these women who are pregnant or who want to be that’s incredibly effective.

Amanda's post became a tool for spreading more of it and it was moving so fast. Her social media mentions were flooded with hatred and thinly veiled accusations. Comments like, are you ready to know the truth?

AMANDA MAKULEC: The initial comments for more hypothesizing what could have happened and then it popped up on Reddit and I think that that just kind of sends it down another rabbit hole. But it was at the comment of Baby Z never stood a chance. Of course. I mean, I think the worst that I randomly saw because it came up before the tagging started and it was the point at which I really realized I needed help was someone who wrote a whole piece in her Instagram stories about the blood of every baby who has died from this devil vaccine being on your hands.

That kind of language and that kind of language coming especially from other moms was what made me feel like it was something I didn't feel like I could manage on my own.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: She didn’t have to. Amanda has friends and colleagues who work in tech and public health and when they saw the memes spreading tens of thousands of times across every social media platform, they figured out a way to help. They organized a spreadsheet to document the harassment and they took turns reporting the post that violated rules against misinformation and abuse.

Someone took over Amanda's accounts to shield her from the worst of it. Amanda got a legal copy of the image in the post and they take down this year. So far, they filed more than 400 reports and gotten 68 posts removed.

AMANDA MAKULEC: I have it printed and hang on my wall in my stairs because I love that picture of my boys. So, I refuse to let someone take that joy away from me.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: And it wasn't just that they were taking her joy away by making her social media account such a toxic place but they were also taking away her community just when she needed it most.

AMANDA MAKULEC: What sad is that I take all the comfort in the connectedness I have on social media through groups of friends from high school, from college, from grad school, from living in other places and to have that access to that social network and that social support functionally shut down for weeks when I really wanted to find points of connection was awful.

Like that's the kind of thing you don’t really think about until you're in it. but because you're getting all these direct threats and you can't avoid seeing them, you lose that and that’s really hard.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: As Amanda grieved, her team of tech savvy connected friends did what they could. But even they weren't enough to stop it from spreading. Not helping, the timing.

Just two days after Zander's death, the CDC released an urgent alert about the low vaccination rate for pregnant women. At that time, it was only 31%. They warned that pregnant women with COVID have an increased risk of, quote, "severe illness, death and pregnancy complications."

MAN: New data show that symptomatic pregnant women had more than a twofold increase risk of requiring ICU admission and a 70% increased risk of death.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: People were applying to news coverage of the alert with the meme of Amanda's kids and leaving comments like, Google Amanda Makulec. That’s how Amanda's story ended up on The CovidBlog, a website dedicated to spreading conspiracy theories and misinformation.

One of the early posts there includes a writeup of Tiffany Dover conspiracy theory. The post describes Tiffany's story as manipulated and suppressed and claimed it made the blog, quote, "necessary."

The formula for more than 100 stories on the site which she calls Tiffany Dover Cases is the same. Each post starts with a reporting of someone's death or injury. The blog presents a post-vaccine selfie or online support of vaccination, which is usually mined from the person's social media accounts. It connects some imaginary dots and, poof, makes the claim that a COVID vaccine was to blame. Facts be damned. So, it was with the article and Amanda. It called Zander's passing unnecessary and slapped it with a hashtag, #vaccinedeath.

AMANDA MAKULEC: It feels like such a violation when you see it going over and over and over again. I finally feel like I'm in a place that I don't think it's fair to let a person who manufactured a picture and a story to have the last word about what happened within my family.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Amanda's friends emailed The CovidBlog, told them that they had gotten it wrong and asked them to remove the article. It didn’t happen.

AMANDA MAKULEC: It just makes me question what someone's goal is. If you reach out to them directly and say, please take this down, this is untrue and manufactured and unfair pinpointing a targeted grieving family and you reach out and you say that to them and their response is no, it is right to tell the story the way I want to tell it.

You're telling my story. You're telling my family's story. I'm telling you it's wrong. But it doesn’t matter and I think that that’s one of the most egregious kind of things people can do is because they're not just amplifying it and resharing it to like their network of social media folks or they're not just posting a picture. They're actually taking time to like go research you and write up more information about you and see what else they can poke and prod at you.

And to me is someone who seems to intend to poke harm at somebody especially if they are asked kindly to please take it down. Because who wants to cause a grieving parent harm. Who does that?

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Who does that? I'll tell you does that after the break.

The website that published the article about Amanda, the one that claimed falsely that Amanda's COVID vaccination had somehow caused the death of her baby, it's popular.

At its height, in November 2021, The CovidBlog had 940,000 visitors and 2.5 million-page views. That's according to Similarweb, a digital intelligence platform. It's also deeply cruel not only to people like Amanda who are grieving a loss or in a fragile medical state and now have to weather the ire of thousands of strangers on the Internet who say that it's all their fault but it's also cruel to the dead.

Mostly private people whose Google results will forever be topped with a lie about what killed them. People who can't fight back. The CovidBlog was registered in January 2021, a couple of weeks after Tiffany's fainting and the fallout.

The site's owner and only author is a 47-year-old Iowa man named Brian Wilkins. He's posted several times about Tiffany calling her likely dead and writing that it was, quote, "one of the early cases that inspired the creation of this blog. "

A year and a half later, it's still skewing misinformation and causing pain. I reached out to Brian Wilkins and asked for an interview, not really expecting much. And at first, he refused saying his readers didn’t want him to then he changed his mind and greed and then he changed his mind again at the last minute saying he was too busy with family commitments.

So, I dropped it. And he changed his mind again. If we could come to Iowa on one specific day, he would sit down with us. I wanted to see where he lived, what life actually looks like for someone devoted to misinformation 24 hours a day.

But Brian said he didn't want us to come to his home for privacy reasons, which is ironic. He said he'd meet is in Des Moines, about an hour from the town where he lives.

We met Brian in the lobby of our hotel, a historic office building that had been converted a couple of years ago. He said he worked as a janitor here when he was a teenager. He was wearing a black button-down dress shirt and jeans and Converse sneakers. He was friendly and polite, more than I expected after all those rounds of punchy emails.

BRIAN WILKINS: You're in my home state. I'm a small-town guy.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: He told us he grew up wanting to be a radio host.

BRIAN WILKINS: After high school, I just went working for radio stations and newspapers without an education because all I wanted to do was hear my voice on the air.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Brian said he butted heads with management at news and radio stations where he had a foot in the door. He got really into alternative explanations for September 11th based on an obsessive close reading of the 9/11 Commission Report.

BRIAN WILKINS: That's how I became a conspiracy theorist or at least that's what I'm labeled as.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: When he was 30, he went to college for journalism and around the same time in 2007, he started work of blogs which he called Operation Nation. The tagline over all of them is truth is the new terrorism.

Brian moved back to Iowa in April 2020. He had a girlfriend but they broke up. He said it was because she got breast cancer and he disagreed with her decision to get treatment.

BRIAN WILKINS: Even though she's healthy running around, wearing her business suits and looking cute and everything and now she'll never be the same because somebody told her she was sick. She didn’t feel sick but somebody told her she was sick.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Brian thinks her cancer wasn't real and that doctors were misleading and mistreating her for profit.

BRIAN WILKINS: She, so just like most Americans. The whitecoat gods are always right and no matter what they say, they're going to do it. But they're not trying to cure you and I haven't set foot in a doctor's office since 2007 and never will again because I just don't trust them.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: In fact, he told us he recently broke an arm and instead of go to the ER.

BRIAN WILKINS: I looked on YouTube to learn how to set it and cast it myself and I -- and it healed.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Brian's parents are dead. He has no children and his brother and sister don’t speak to him much. He says because of his beliefs.

BRIAN WILKINS: I mean, I live off the grid most of the time. I have an RV that I parked where I have plots of land in Arizona and Nevada and here. I try and avoid society as much as possible and living in these remote areas help me do that.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Why do you want to avoid society?

BRIAN WILKINS: Because you can't win. At some point, you have to just know that you can't win, you can't change things. This world is what it is and all I do is what keeps me comfortable in this world and gives me purpose in this world and my writing does that.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: His writing on The CovidBlog.

BRIAN WILKINS: A lot of people have written me and told me that I saved them from hurting themselves from getting these shots and as long as I get that because that's all I'm going to get from this then it keeps me motivated to keep doing it.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Brian gets something else from the website. He gets paid.

BRIAN WILKINS; What I do is work. I mean, what am I supposed to work for free. I ain't doing that.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: It doesn’t cost anything to subscribe to The CovidBlog but Brian regularly hits up his readers for donations. He says he brings in just enough to cover the site's expenses.

BRIAN WILKINS: The CovidBlog, it's supported completely by subscribers. So, that's the only people I answer to.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: How many subscribers do you have and how much do you pull in donations?

BRIAN WILKINS: Well, there's about -- there's 45,000 subscribers right now. What they're paying for is the weekly email newsletter so they can know what's going on.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: He's also got a product. He sells pine needles, the leaves from white pine trees. Brian clips pine needles off the trees by his home and he sells them on his blog. Five-ounce bags for 26.50 each. This is from a video of him foraging for the needles.

(Video starts)

BRIAN WILKINS: There's a freeway nearby but if my eyes didn’t deceive me, I thought I saw some good white pines and sure enough, they're tucked away behind some of these other trees. But they do in fact have eastern white pine here.

(Video ends)

BRANDY ZADROZNY: You can pour hot water over them and make a kind of herbal tea. White pine needles contain Vitamin C and they’ve been used in folk remedies for years for things like headaches and the common cold.

On The CovidBlog, Brian suggests that these pine needles can protect unvaccinated people from something that his community worries a lot about. Basically, it's the COVID vaccine rubbing off on them from vaccinated people and poisoning them. This is not a real danger according to doctors but Brian was careful to tell me.

BRIAN WILKINS: I don’t make any medical claims or anything like that.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Brian is a true believer. To him, the world is a dangerous place. Villains around every corner and Brian feels duty bound to sound the alarm. We talked for over three hours. He told me what he believed, including, of course, that the government is intentionally using the COVID 19 vaccine to kill people and thin out the population.

BRIAN WILKINS: Right now, it's the pharmaceutical companies and the government and the media that are all in cahoots doing this and there's no denying that. Nobody should trust the FDA, the CDC or any of these places.


BRIAN WILKINS: Or doctors.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Or the media.

BRIAN WILKINS: The mainstream media.


BRANDY ZADROZNY: Brian mentioned here the fact that the chairman of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a charity that operates independently from the news wire, is on the board of Pfizer. The implication being that Reuters fact checking is somehow tainted. I didn’t work this out until later. Conspiracy theorists can be hard to refute in the moment.

I don't - so, I just - I don’t know the - I can only say from my experience that I have seen no cahoots. I'm not in the cahoot's meetings. I'm definitely not invited to those. I guess it - a lot of what I'm hearing is like things that sound sort of strange or suspect but what are you suggesting?

BRIAN WILKINS: I believe 30% of NBC's ad budget is pharmaceuticals. You're not going to bite the hand that feeds you and that's just -- that's just how it is.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: NBC properties run all types of ads from all types of industries. They do not influence how we do our jobs. Eventually, I tried to bring us back to his job.

So, the stories that are on the site, I'm curious how you find these stories and what your reporting process is like.

BRIAN WILKINS: I get flooded with emails. People will send them to me. Their friends on Facebook will send them to me. Some women have miscarriages weeks after the shots. Each of these stories take for five hours to write and the long ones take two days to write.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Brian's mission is to lead as many people away from vaccination as possible especially women and parents. And to do this, he says he needs stories like Tiffany's and Amanda's.

BRIAN WILKINS: Because people are only going to relate to this stuff if they see somebody that looks like them or they see somebody that does what they do. If it's a teacher and they died or a parent who sees the seven-year-old kid had a heart attack.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Or pregnant women.

BRIAN WILKINS: Or pregnant -- and the pregnant women, and I'm sorry, that's one of my -- that's -- that's probably the most -- that one I spent a lot of time on. I am -- I think it's evil that these people tell women to get these shots when they're pregnant and they know damn well that it's dangerous.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Again, fact check, not dangerous. Every piece of data we have shows the COVID vaccines to be safe and every major medical organization suggests women get vaccinated. What Brian believes isn’t true. The vaccine does not cause miscarriages and it does not kill breastfeeding children.

You're taking selfies at someone who may have taken at a vaccine clinic and then a miscarriage and putting them together and saying A caused B when you have no idea whether that's the case, right?

BRIAN WILKINS: Well, what I'm I'm doing is putting the information out there and you can draw your own conclusions.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: I guess, I imagine people are really hurt by seeing an article about themselves or their loved ones claiming the vaccine killed them when they don’t believe that that's the case. I'm just wondering how you view those people that might be hurt by what you're writing.

BRIAN WILKINS: Lately, I tell them on, stop sharing these photos of you getting the shots, stop sharing photos of you getting the second shot, stop virtue signaling because once you publish those stuff on social media, you relinquish all claims of privacy. You've published your life out there and there's nothing you can do about it.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: It feels to me like you're saying, yes, there might be some collateral damage, there might be some grieving people who are upset and I -- the blog may have further that upset. My blog may also have energized followers to go and bother these people in their worst moments but that collateral damage is worth it because you are informing the public about what you think is the dangers of vaccines.

BRIAN WILKINS: You put your life out there. What am I supposed to do? I mean, there's been two or three women that have threatened to sue me but don't go there. And you're not going to anyway because you're not going to pay for a lawyer to do it and you're just threatening and that's what they all do.

But you put your life out there. Now, be happy that you're warning other women and not do this because that's what you're doing and I'm just putting it all in one place so they don't have to go over the Internet looking for it.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: I brought up Tiffany.

So, Okay. Can I ask you about Tiffany Dover? I saw a couple of places on your site where you referenced her.

BRIAN WILKINS: Well, so, this -- was it December 17, 20201?

BRANDY ZADROZNY: I just want to show you some things and get your point of view. Can you move this mic?

WOMAN: Maybe.


WOMAN: What are you going to do?

BRANDY ZADROZNY: I just want to show him some -- these links that I've pulled.

I showed Brian the things that I have found. The evidence that I had for Tiffany being alive.

Okay. So, this is a mortgage that Tiffany Dover and Dustin Dover just took out in August 2021.

BRIAN WILKINS: Well, that is interesting.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: And then this is this Christmas, photos of Tiffany and Dustin at their family Christmas event. There she is again. She's in scrubs. Does that look like her?

BRIAN WILKINS: I'm not going to say it is or not but I think that's very interesting. See? Now, that’s good reporting right there.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: And then this is her again on Thanksgiving with her family and then this is a state trooper and they're at a basketball game and this is from October. Is that her, you think?

Brian looked hard at my screen. It felt like I had him. But then he started to doubt his own eyes.

And then look at this.

BRIAN WILKINS: Okay. Look, look, this is the -- the - thee first thing I'm going to say is I remember her having really bright blue eyes and maybe that's far away but like those bright blue eyes that you can notice from far away like in that -- in that video and I don't know that Tiffany Dover is a skinny chick and she doesn’t look as skinny as she does. But -- and again, I'm not saying and I really like all this. I would -- if you don't mind forwarding this to me, I would write a story about it if you don't want to do it yourself.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: I didn’t forward in the materials because they're all public record. And so far, he hasn’t written a story. But sitting there with him that day, I thought we might be approaching a breakthrough.

This feels like a good moment here that -- because it feels like we're coming to some sort of agreement that it seems like she's alive, right?

BRIAN WILKINS: If it's -- if it's her, sure. Like I said, I've drawn no definitive conclusions as far as Tiffany Dover goes.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: So, I guess, my question is if you're willing to concede that Tiffany is alive and that a lot of people were wrong about her, are you willing to concede that maybe some of the other articles on your site or people are jumping to conclusions or maybe you’ve jumped to conclusions about the vaccine causing someone's death or contributing to the death of a baby or some other claims that you made, are you willing to say maybe -- maybe these aren’t all right and maybe if they aren’t right, my work is possibly hurting people.

BRIAN WILKINS: Well, I think it's a false equivalency with Tiffany because these people have obituaries and their families are saying that they're dead.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: I didn’t get a real answer here but I kept trying.

What if you're wrong? What if like the CDC and the FCA and most medical professionals say, what if the vaccines actually do stop COVID from hospitalizing and killing most people and that they are safe and effective and that not getting vaccinated actually puts people in danger? What if your blog is misinforming people and putting their lives at risk? Do you ever think about that?

BRIAN WILKINS: No. Because I am 100% confident in what I'm doing and I wouldn't do it if I wasn't.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: What I hadn’t considered until meeting Brian was this, he had too much invested in his paranoia. He'd sacrificed his dream job, his girlfriend, his family to conspiracy theories and I thought I could chip away at them in an afternoon.

Brian is not a monster but it seems like he's never going to stop using these stores and these women. How do you beat that? That's next.

Trust in institutions overall is in decline. But in doctors and nurses, it's higher than ever. Americans name nurses as the most ethical and trustworthy profession. Doctors take second place. And yet, Brian's conspiracy theories about COVID vaccines depend on doctors and nurses being evil.

BRIAN WILKINS: They get 40 bucks for every shot that they administer, CVS and what not.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: That doesn’t seem like very much in terms of doctor procedure. It just seems like they probably wanted to do these things they could do.

BRIAN WILKINS: Okay. Sure. Sure. But the average American doctor has 1,800 patients. So, we can make the math …

BRANDY ZADROZNY: They're thousand or less.

BRIAN WILKINS: One thousand. So, 1,000 patients get all three shots. So, that’s $120 per person times a thousand, that’s a $120,000. So, that's not chump change.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: I think if you're saying that they would murder a thousand of their patients …


BRANDY ZADROZNY: … for $120,000 and …


BRANDY ZADROZNY: I just think that’s a wild thing to say.

You think it would be a high bar convincing the American public that the professions they trust the most are engaged in a conspiracy to depopulate the Earth. But misinformers like Brian make up for the absurdity of their ideas with availability. Some of us see our doctors once a year. But the Internet, it's always open even in the wee hours when new and expecting parents' minds can wander to the worst.

This is Dr. Todd Wolynn, a pediatrician and lactation expert in Pittsburgh.

TODD WOLYNN: People are on their couch at two in the morning whether they're changing a diaper or they're formula feeding or whatever, that's when health searches are pretty high up there.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: I know what it's like to feel vulnerable like that. When I was pregnant with my first baby, we had just moved to Vermont. We didn't have any family or friends nearby. I was in my 20s. I had never even had a pet and now, I was responsible for this person that I was making.

I wanted to do a good job. I wanted to be a good mom. So, I signed up for pregnant yoga. I needed covers for cloth diapers. I didn't eat cheese and I did east salad even though it made me sick. And I did my research. I had watched "The Business of Being Born" a now famous documentary that details nightmare stories about the way hospitals treat women in labor and I came away from it vowing that I wasn’t going to subject myself or my baby to any of that.

So, I planned to homebirth in the water, no drugs. Planning my crunchy birth meant hanging out in online spaces where pregnancy and birth things were discussed. The second most popular topic was vaccines and my new tribe was just as critical of vaccines as they were of hospitals.

My neighbor, a chiropractor, lent me a book by Dr. Bob Sears, a pediatrician who I now know to be anti-vaccine. But I thought then he made a lot of sense and I went to the library and I checked out more.

I had never really thought about vaccines before but they were the first real medical decision I needed to make for this new baby who I was obsessed with protecting and saying no or waiting, it just seemed like the most sensible choice.

We did vaccinate our baby. Our midwife and pediatrician were patient and kind but adamant. And in the end, I trusted them. But I still cried when my perfect newborn got the vitamin K shot and hepatitis B vaccine because the misinformation had worked on me.

This is why some doctors are now trying to meet misinformation where it's happening online, which is a pretty radical break from the profession's old rules of decorum.

SHANNON CLARK: Has that been considered professional? Absolutely not. I've gotten a lot of critiques about being why are you on social media, that’s not -- but I'm educating. I am.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: That’s Dr. Shannon M. Clark, a maternal fetal medicine specialist UTMB in Galveston, Texas. She and Dr. Wolynn belong to a new class of doctors who consider being extremely online just part of the job.

SHANNON CLARK: It is 7:26 a.m. I just got to my office. We have already delivered two babies vaginally.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Dr. Clark's username is tiktokbabydoc. She's got $364,000 followers there. She posts a lot from her office or inside the hospital.

SHANNON CLARK: I am just now finishing a 24-hour shifts. The first half of my day was in ultrasound. The second half of my day night or evening night was on labor delivery.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Dr. Wolynn, DrToddWo on TikTol, he's known for his explainer videos and he's singing.

TODD WOLYNN: Influencer comes each fall. Vaccination could help you all. Just a pinch in your arm could protect you from flu infection and keep you safe from home.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: And Dr. Marta Perez, she's a certified OB/GYN, an Assistant Professor at Washington University in St. Louis' School of Medicine and delivers babies at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. She's got more than a hundred thousand followers on Instagram and she documented her own pregnancy and birth on YouTube.

MARTA PEREZ: So, hello from my hospital room. I am admitted to the hospital at 35 weeks and I'm in labor. My water broke last week. I've been in the hospital for several days and that was clearly unpredictable.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: In 2020, their platforms got swamped by COVID. In between taking care of patients, the doctors would log on and explain the most recent science, what we knew and what we didn’t about the way the virus was spreading and how people could protect themselves.

When the vaccine came and the flood of misinformation followed, the doctors fought back. Here's Dr. Perez.

MARTA PEREZ: So, we serve a lot of the complicated pregnancies in Missouri, Southern Illinois, sometimes as far out as Arkansas. So, we've seen a lot of critical care and illness and some really terribly tragic outcomes. We had hopes that that would improve with the availability of vaccinations. But unfortunately, the uptake of vaccinations in the pregnant population has been low. So, we're still seeing ICU patients severely ill, patients coming in even now despite of vaccine available.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: According to the CDC, as of April, at least 284 pregnant Americans had died with COVID. Dr. Perez said these outcomes are even more frustrating considering they're widely available safe vaccines.

MARTA PEREZ: There's not one downside or harm, no increase in miscarriage, stillbirth, fertility, nothing. No inflammation at the placenta. No immune response that is negative, only the positive ones. We just have abundance of data showing it safe and it's just trying to get that data into the right eyes and ears.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: That’s the thing about vaccines. They're quiet miracles. When they worked as advertised, nothing happens. In terms of messaging, it's just not a fair fight and it's not like these doctors don't have the kind of tragic compelling stories that the misinformers use all the time. They do have them.

But they generally prefer not to share them. I asked Dr. Clark why we don’t hear more cautionary tales from doctors like her on social media and it touched the nerve.

SHANNON CLARK: You maybe get upset. Okay. One thing I've done as someone who educates on social media. Sorry. You can cut this out if you want. As I have chosen not to share the personal experiences I've had as a provider with individuals with COVID who have suffered or lost their kids because I, I don’t want to get on social media and fearmonger by saying, I had this patient, this happened. I don’t think that’s quite fair. You could also lose people that way, meaning it's too much and they can go the other way.

But, sorry, it's hard. It's hard as a provider to see someone come in, young, healthy but they had COVID and this literally happened to me and within two hours, I was STAT sectioning a 26-week baby out of their -- her uterus.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: A STAT section is an emergency C-section and 26 weeks is very, very early for a baby to try and survive outside the womb. Dr. Clark said this baby is still in the NICU.

SHANNON CLARK: And it happened that quick. And the father said, is this because she didn’t get vaccinated? And I'm not going to believe because I understand that fear, I am never going to make anybody feel guilty. It's really not their fault. It's the fault of all these outside influences that’s making them feel that they can't do it. This person they trust on Instagram is telling them not to, what do you expect them to do?

But where are those people when I'm delivering their 26-week fetus, where are they? Are they there saying I'm sorry? No, they're not. And what you're seeing and hearing right now from me is how all did this feel. We're exasperated. We're tired. We're sad. We're worried about our patients.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: One of the reasons there are so few doctors doing what Clark and Wolynn and Perez are is the harassment. It inevitably comes when you advocate for vaccines and conspiracy theorists make you into a villain.

TODD WOLYNN: It was over 800 accounts literally posting 24/7 over 10,000 times to our page and then they also have weaponized rating and review systems.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Dr. Wolynn's practice was attacked in 2017. Now, he's a member of a group of doctors who create content together. In February, they left a new trend using the song "That's Not My Name."

TODD WOLYNN: Yes. That was sung to "That’s Not My Name" or "Don’t Call Me Stacy." It was trending and so they're like, hey, I know a cool trend but yeah, right? We all made a list. We said, what if we've even called, right?

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Several doctors appear in the post. Words pop up beside them, liar, sheep, baby killer, poison injector, brainwashed, pharma shill, pedophile.

TODD WOLYNN: I could tell you, pediatricians -- one of the reasons I wanted the pediatrics is pediatricians were nice. They were family-oriented. They made me laugh. They made me feel very comfortable. These are some of the nicest people of all the professions. I just instantly just -- if you think back to your pediatricians, usually a pretty pleasant member even for most people. And here we are like literally being threatened for talking about the stuff we've been doing for our whole career and it saved millions of kids.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Dr. Wolynn told me that a bad faith minority on the Internet can cause doctors and hospitals to cower.

TODD WOLYNN: As soon as your message resonates, I can guarantee you one thing which is you will be attacked. If you are resonating, you're a threat to the anti-vaccine, anti-science industry. There's small numbers of people who they basically start to take over the message and the communication.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: I couldn’t help comparing it Tiffany's story. All the doctors I spoke to were aware of her.

That’s really an interesting point because back to Tiffany Dover situation, what happened was after the faint, the hospital changed the way they go about communicating everything for fear of this handful of very vocal people. I understand it, right? The impulse is to go but …

TODD WOLYNN: It's the worst thing you can do. It's the -- you basically have given up your ability to be part of that message and then you can just be pointed to, look, they have something to hide. They're not saying anything right. State the facts. State the facts and stand on your reputation. Is this Mecca of education and healing? And state the facts on what's going on.

You know what? There's a percentage of people that faint after vaccines. As a matter fact, we knew that to be so true that every adolescent visit now, it doesn't matter if it's HPV meningitis or TDAP, has to stay in our office for 15 minutes because you can have a vasovagal reaction and you can go to the ground. And it's not some magic medical impact as oftentimes, you get a painful stimulus, you anticipate it coming on.

And if you -- if I line up a thousand people, somebody's likely going to go to the ground. So, own it and say, yes, she went to the ground. I mean, it happens with other vaccines, too. Let's see how she's doing now instead of silence, fill in the blank.

BRANDY ZADROZNY: Hospitals and doctors, even the extremely online ones, are constraint bound by facts, by science, by ethics. But the other side, their only limit is their imagination and the stories they cook out like Tiffany Dover's or Amanda Makulec's don’t just deceive the people who happened to come across their posts.

They're actually breathing new life into a decade's old movement. That’s next time on "Tiffany Dover is Dead.*"

From NBC News, this is Truthers. And this is the third of five episodes of "Tiffany Dover Is Dead.*" The series was written, reported and hosted by me, Brandy Zadrozny. It's produced by Frannie Kelley. Our Associate Producer is Eva Ruth Moravec. We had a recording help on this episode from Francis Kim (ph). Sound Design by Rick Kwan. Original Music by Alicia Bognanno of Bully. Bryson Barnes is our technical director. Reid Cherlin is our Executive Producer. Madeleine Haeringer is our head of editorial.