For years, Anderson Cooper has been the victim of conspiracy theories.
There’s the man who claimed Cooper didn’t go to Sandy Hook after the shootings in 2012, and that he interviewed a grieving mother on a green screen.
Then there’s the claim that Cooper used a boy in Haiti as a human shield to protect himself, when he was actually helping the child, who had been struck in the head with a piece of concrete in a mob.
The latest conspiracy, though, must have hit a nerve. Photos of Cooper reporting in waist-deep water have circulated on social media recently, as Hurricane Florence lashed the Carolinas and Virginia.
In one of the photos, Cooper’s lower half is submerged, but the water just barely approaches the knee of a member of his crew who is standing nearby.
Donald Trump Jr. shared the photo on Twitter Sunday and said that Cooper was faking the depth of the floodwaters to harm his father, President Donald Trump.
“It’s a shame that CNN’s ratings are down 41%. What’s worse is there’s a simple solution that they refuse to accept. Stop Lying to try to make @realDonaldTrump look bad,” the tweet read.
Former Trump administration official Gavin J. Smith tweeted a similar picture, calling it “absolutely disgraceful.”
“Apparently #HurricaneFlorence wasn’t devastating enough for @CNN’s @andersoncooper — so he had to exaggerate for his live shot. #FakeNews at its finest!” the tweet read.
Cooper said on air that he rarely responds to conspiracy theorists, but “in the interest of honesty and transparency,” he decided to explain what the pictures show and debunk the fake news claim.
“This was not Hurricane Florence,” Cooper said. “This was taken 10 years ago during Hurricane Ike. On September 13, 2008.”
That hurricane affected parts of Texas, not the Carolinas as Florence did.
Cooper then went on to show clips from that broadcast.
“For those who think I was kneeling or faking the water level or making it look worse than it was or standing in some sort of a hole, this is an area where people had been trapped on the roofs of their homes by water,” he said. “Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who I actually interviewed during this broadcast, called it the largest rescue and recovery operation in Texas state history.”
The 10-year-old clips showed Cooper explaining that the water had been receding. Rather than standing on high ground with the camera crew, Cooper said he wanted to stay out of the way of rescue vehicles and wanted to show viewers how deep the water was. Cooper also pointed out that the African-American man pictured with him in the photo Trump Jr. tweeted died more than a year ago.
“I don’t expect the president’s son to ever admit he was wrong or one of the president’s former advisers or frankly anyone else who’s retweeted these pictures,” Cooper said. “But I at least thought that they and you should know the truth.”