Ted Cruz tries to reclaim joke amid Burning Man chaos after he fell for shark hoax

Texas senator was duped by the decade-old ‘Hurricane Shark’ hoax during Tropical Storm Hilary

Bevan Hurley
Tuesday 05 September 2023 18:23 BST
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Burning Man attendees leave site after flooded festival finishes

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After falling for the “Hurricane Shark” hoax during Tropical Storm Hilary, Ted Cruz wanted to let everyone know he was in on the joke this time.

The Texas senator, and prolific content creator, shared a doctored image on Tuesday purporting to show a shark on a flooded highway near the Burning Man festival on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Holy crap,” Mr Cruz wrote, along with a crossed fingers emoji, to indicate he was in on the ruse.

The shark meme, which began circulating in 2011, has become an infamous online prank well-known to most savvy social media users, but apparently not Mr Cruz.

Last month, after it was posted to X (formerly known as Twitter) during a tropical storm that unleashed widespread flooding in California, Mr Cruz reposted the picture and wrote: “Holy crap.”

After being mocked for falling for the scam, the senator added: “I’m told this is a joke. In LA, you never know... And everyone please stay safe from the storm or otherwise.”

Amid the flooding, mud and mayhem unfolding in the northern Nevada desert at Burning Man this year, hoaxes and conspiracy theories have run rampant on social media.

Wild claims of an Ebola outbreak, a military quarantine and cannabilism were reposted and viewed millions of times on Elon Musk’s social media platform X.

Ted Cruz attempting to save face after falling for the shark hoax meme during Tropical Storm Hilary last month
Ted Cruz attempting to save face after falling for the shark hoax meme during Tropical Storm Hilary last month (X)

“Hurricane Shark” first went viral in 2011 when Hurricane Irene devastated Puerto Rico.

In the 12 years since, the image of a large shark swimming along a flooded highway has been repeatedly dragged out during natural disasters, and conclusively debunked.

Mr Cruz has been making a habit of falling for internet hoaxes of late.

On 27 August, he shared an image from the “End Wokeness” X account which claimed to show the Biden administration had “welded open the Trump border wall” in Arizona.

“This…is…nuts #BidenBorderCrisis,” he wrote.

Burning Man’s woes inspired a multitude of social media hoaxes and conspiracy theories
Burning Man’s woes inspired a multitude of social media hoaxes and conspiracy theories (Reuters)

Community notes, the crowd-funded fact-checking service, pointed out that the floodgates are required to be opened during monsoon season.

Mr Cruz did not issue a retraction or correction, and the post remains up.

“That a US senator is gullible enough to fall for right-wing disinformation over and over again? Yes, that is nuts,” historian Kevin Kruse commented.

Undeterred, days later Mr Cruz amplified a false claim doing the rounds on right-wing media that the Biden administration was seeking to limit Americans to two beers per day.

In a performative interview with Newsmax, Mr Cruz took a swig of a beer while saying: “If they want us to drink two beers a week, frankly they can kiss my a**.

“What is it with liberals and wanting to control every damn aspect of your life?”

Mr Cruz was reacting to a statement by Dr George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, who said that the US’s alcohol consumption guidelines could change in 2025.

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