A claim that Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx was hospitalized after he was seriously injured by a Covid vaccine has gone massively viral, having been viewed millions of times on social media. A representative for Foxx said the claim is untrue, but that hasn’t stopped the claim from being absorbed and amplified in an anti-vaccination echo chamber on YouTube and Twitter.
The unsubstantiated claim is part of a continued push among some far-right personalities to cast doubt on the safety of vaccines, even though studies and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have affirmed that vaccines are safe and effective.
The claim about Foxx was first made by a gossip columnist on the online talk show “Ask Dr. Drew.”
A.J. Benza, a podcaster who formerly worked for the New York Daily News, told Dr. Drew Pinsky on his program on May 30 that Foxx was left “partially paralyzed and blind” after he received a Covid vaccine. Benza alleged that Foxx was forced to get a vaccine while he was working on a film. He claimed he had a source “in the room” with Foxx and that the performer developed a blood clot, which led to a stroke, after he got vaccinated. Pinsky didn’t challenge the claim.
Benza didn’t name the source. He didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Foxx’s representatives said in an email that Benza’s claim is “completely inaccurate.” Although Foxx was hospitalized for an undisclosed illness in April, his daughter Corinne Foxx said in an Instagram Story post that he had been home for weeks and was well enough to play pickleball.
Still, that hasn’t stopped Benza’s disputed claim from running rampant on social media. Far-right commentators like Candace Owens amplified it on her YouTube-based podcast, where she has 1.67 million subscribers, insinuating that Benza’s statement must be true because Foxx’s family didn’t outright condemn it. A clip on Owens’ YouTube page of her discussing Foxx’s condition had more than 180,000 views Wednesday.
“Their silence seems as though there is some veracity to this claim,” Owens said in the YouTube video, which was posted Tuesday. “We’re all holding our breath to see whether or not Jamie Foxx speaks out.”
Owens didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Beyond commentators like Owens, dozens of tweets with hundreds and sometimes thousands of likes shared the assertion that Foxx had suffered a serious medical condition from the vaccine, along with other anti-vaccination sentiments. A spokesperson for Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Charlie Kirk, the founder of the conservative organization Talking Points USA, tweeted that he was “infuriated a decent person like Jamie Foxx fell victim to Big Pharma,” and actor Kevin Sorbo shared an article repeating the unsubstantiated claim that Foxx had been injured by the vaccine to his 1.6 million followers and said he was “praying” for Foxx.
In a statement to NBC News, Andrew Kolvet, a spokesman for Kirk, said, in part, that Kirk shared the article "so readers could check it out for themselves."
"If there were inaccuracies with Benza’s reporting, or if the family disagrees with his description of the facts, those are questions that should be directed to Mr. Benza," Kolvet said.
Representatives for Sorbo didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
On YouTube, videos with hundreds of thousands of views echoed Benza’s claim with titles like “News: Jamie Foxx Left Paralyzed and Blind from Blood Clot in His Brain After Receiving The Shot?!” and “Jamie Foxx Left Paralyzed and Blind From ‘Blood Clot in His Brain’ After Vaccine.”
A spokesperson for YouTube didn’t immediately comment.
Facebook and TikTok appear to have enacted stricter moderation of content mentioning Foxx and the Covid vaccines.
A spokesperson for Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for TikTok didn’t provide a comment for this article.
TikTok has removed videos that shared the claim, and a search for “Jamie Foxx Covid Vaccine” results in a link to the CDC and videos with facts from the World Health Organization. On Facebook, searches for “Jamie Foxx Covid Vaccine” showed no viral results.
Although videos about Benza’s claim still appeared on YouTube on Wednesday, search results for “Jamie Foxx Covid Vaccine” displayed links to independent fact-checks from Snopes and Newsweek ahead of links to videos about the topic.
On “Ask Dr. Drew,” Benza discussed whether celebrities could openly question medical advice about Covid, such as whether or not it’s a good idea to get vaccinated.
Benza, who has shared memes mocking masks and Democrats on his verified Facebook page, said that he was hospitalized after he contracted Covid (he said Pinsky was the person who advised him to go to the hospital) and that he later got the Johnson & Johnson vaccination shot, which he said he regretted.
Foxx and his representatives haven’t specified why he was originally hospitalized, which has fueled many of the conspiracy theories about him. On May 16, former boxer Mike Tyson discussed Foxx’s health on the “PBD” podcast. Pinsky said the podcast inspired him to invite Benza onto his show, saying Benza had sources who could elaborate on Foxx’s condition.
In an email, Pinsky said he had Benza on his show because Benza has “reported on celebrity news for over three decades,” and he said Benza offered to give more information about Foxx’s conditions.
“The statements from A.J. were based on his own confidential sources, so I can’t speculate further than what he said on the show. I sincerely hope that AJ’s sources are wrong and Mr. Foxx will make a full recovery. There is no evidence and I have no reason to believe that his medical condition is directly related to vaccine therapy or a post-COVID phenomenon. Any evidence of either would have to come from his physicians,” Pinsky said in the email.
He added that he supports and recommends “all safe vaccines” and that he continues to “fully vaccinate and boost my elderly patients.” Pinsky said adverse reactions to vaccines are uncommon, but he added that “a concerning number of people have seemingly had their lives significantly affected by side effects, health issues, and the deaths of loved ones — and some signs suggest a connection to mRNA vaccines.”
He suggested there needs to be further investigation into vaccines and adverse reactions so doctors can determine the “risk vs. benefits” for each specific patient population.
Adverse responses — responses after vaccinations that can be directly linked or coincidental — to the Covid vaccines are rare, according to the CDC. There are four serious types of adverse effects, “with evidence that suggests, although rare, a link to certain types of COVID-19 vaccinations,” the CDC says on its website: They include anaphylaxis; thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, which can cause blood clots or clotting issues; myocarditis and pericarditis, which is inflammation around the heart; and Guillain-Barré Syndrome, in which the immune system damages nerve cells.
More than 676 million Covid vaccinations have been administered, according to the CDC.