The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was full of noteworthy moments.
One of them related to the idea that climate change might not exist, which is still a popular view among a small group of people. During the action on Monday, Clinton said that Trump believes “that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.”
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
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— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
Tweet is still online despite claims
However Trump denied that he thought so. “I did not. I did not. I do not say that,” Trump replied.
It seems likely that Clinton was referring to a tweet from 2012. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” reads the tweet from 6 November 2012.
So while the evidence is there for all to see, Trump later tried to play it down. In an interview a few years later he referred to the tweet as a “joke.”
However the story doesn’t end there. After Clinton and Trump exchanged words during the debate, there was some confusion on Twitter due to another viral tweet.
Twitter goes wild over climate change
This one claimed that Trump’s campaign staff had found the 2012 tweet and deleted it. User @itsjuanlove posted a screenshot of an error message received when he tried to retweet Trump, implying that the tweet had been deleted.
It has been rare for the candidate’s campaign staff to delete controversial tweets. In 2015 he sent out a tweet sending “best wishes” to everyone, “even the haters and losers” on September 11. The tweet later disappeared, but a manual retweet of it can still be found online.
A lot of people jumped on the rumor that Trump had deleted the climate change tweet. However a quick search would have revealed that nothing of the sort had happened.
It turns out that @itsjuanlove is a writer who later tweeted that his screenshot wasn’t a fake. He implied that the “tweet not found” message must have been caused by a bug.
Trump uses Twitter to deny climate change
Although @itsjuanlove deleted his tweet, the rumor had already spread far and wide. The original tweet went viral, as did tweets from other accounts that copied the image. All of this helped the erroneous tweet to spread like wildfire on Twitter.
Kurt Eichenwald got in on the act, tweeting: “When Trump lied about saying China started climate change boat, why did his campaign delete the tweet saying that? They think we’re stupid?”
Another related tweet went out from comedian Patton Oswalt to more than 2 million followers. “Oh my God. Trump’s campaign is furiously deleting his Tweets from back in his timeline,” with the hashtag #WinstonSmith, a reference to George Oswell’s novel 1984.
While the candidate’s campaign team hadn’t deleted the 2012 climate change tweet, a lot of people apparently believe that they had. However if they were trying to cover up Trump’s opinions on climate change, they would need to delete a lot more than one tweet.
Trump has tweeted 101 times about global warming, according to a tweet archive. A huge majority of these tweets claim that climate change is a hoax.
The first presidential debate certainly made for interesting viewing, but Twitter somehow managed to add to the controversy. We will never know whether the @itsjuanlove tweet was sent out to purposely misinform, but it has certainly added another talking point.