While you, dear reader, were presumably relaxing like a normal person on Sunday evening, conspiracy theory mongers were zooming in on photos of Hillary Clinton’s earlobes in a game bid to prove that she is gravely ill.
If that sounds confusing, it’s because, first of all, it is, and second, you may have missed the earth-shattering news that the Democratic presidential candidate left a Sept. 11 commemoration in New York earlier than she was supposed to, then stumbled into the SUV waiting to drive her away.
Her campaign initially said she was just overheated, then later admitted that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday. Covering up the real reason Clinton felt so poorly on Sunday was a bad move, and even the Clinton camp admitted on Monday that they’d mishandled the situation. But it was especially problematic because Republican nominee Donald Trump’s supporters have repeatedly said that Clinton is not physically fit to hold office.
Naturally, conspiracy theorists wasted no time analyzing Clinton’s surprisingly energetic emergence from her daughter Chelsea’s New York apartment just 90 minutes after she fell ill.
Here’s what some of them decided: The person who exited the apartment building with a sprightly step was not Hillary Clinton at all, but rather a body double hired to cover up the candidate’s dire medical condition. Here’s how they knew: Her legs were too skinny, her nose was shaped slightly differently, and her earlobes were a different size than they normally are. Strangely enough, this is the second time in about a week that Clinton’s critics have zoomed in on her ears. Last week, conspiracists claimed that the former senator and secretary of state wore a secret earpiece to the Commander-in-Chief Forum in New York, in order to have aides feed her answers to questions in case she got stuck.
Clinton’s doctor, Lisa R. Bardack, said in a statement that following the candidate’s Friday diagnosis, “she was put on antibiotics, and advised to rest and modify her schedule.”
Her symptoms on Sunday were a result of overheating and dehydration, Bardack said, adding that “she is now re-hydrated and recovering nicely.”
So is Clinton really using a body double? We’re inclined to say no. But here are some world leaders who actually have employed look-alikes — or have at least been accused of doing so.
Saddam and Uday Hussein: Both former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his son, Uday, were said to have body doubles in addition to large groups of guards who traveled with them in public to avoid assassination. Abdul Latif, who defected from Iraq decades ago, claimed he was selected from the younger Hussein’s school class because the two looked alike, then forced to put his own life in danger in order to protect the Iraqi leader’s son. Those reports have fueled another whole set of conspiracy theories about whether or not either one is actually dead. Some believe American soldiers killed Uday’s look alike, not Uday himself, in 2003, and that it was a doppelganger who was hanged in Saddam’s place in December 2006.
Narendra Modi: Abhinandan Pathak doesn’t just look like the Indian prime minister, he’s a big fan of him as well. That’s lucky for Modi, because during the last campaign season, Pathak took it upon himself to hit the road and visit towns where he knew the real Modi wouldn’t show up, bringing with him promises of an improved economy and stable future for India. Even if many of the supporters who attend Pathak’s his public appearances realize he’s not the real deal, having someone who at least looks like Modi campaign in more remote areas is better than having no one show up at all.
“I am sure I must have done a lot of good deeds in my previous lives [so] that God has made me look like Mr. Modi,” Pathak told CNN last year. “I literally worship him every day and I believe Mr. Modi is an avatar of God.”
Joseph Stalin: Decades after the former Soviet Union leader’s death, 88-year-old Felix Dadaev emerged and claimed that he was hired to act as Stalin’s double. In an autobiography, Dadaev said he was one of four men hired to impersonate the leader in public, but that he kept silent for so long in order to ensure he would not be assassinated. According to his account, he was even able to dupe those closest to Stalin.
Renato Tronco Gómez : Don’t know this name? Not a big surprise. Gómez is the state deputy for Veracruz, but he earned brief fame last year when he launched a Facebook contest for people who thought they looked like him to apply to be his body double.
“Veracruz is a big state and it takes a long time to get from one place to another to attend events where the people want to see their deputy,” he told the Guardian. “You can send a representative who is a man or a woman, short or tall, fat or thin, white or black, but it would be a lot better to send a double.”
But don’t worry, Gómez promised at the time that his body double wouldn’t vote for him in parliament, or do any of the other things Gómez would prefer to do himself. “There is going to be an agreement that he can’t sleep with my wife, nor live in my house, nor be father to my children,” he said last year.
Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images