No, Lia Thomas has not announced plans to move to a 'more tolerant' nation | Fact check

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The claim: Lia Thomas is leaving the US for a ‘more tolerant’ country

A Jan. 25 Facebook post (direct link, archive link) makes a claim about the plans of Lia Thomas, a former collegiate swimmer who is transgender.

“Lia Thomas Says She’s Leaving the US for a ‘More Tolerant Country,’” reads the post, which directs social media users to a website with an article making the same claim.

The post was shared more than 100 times in five days.

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Our rating: False

There is no record of Thomas making such an announcement. The claim originated with a satirical website in November but is circulating online as though it is authentic.

Claim is ‘stolen satire’

The social media post links to a Nov. 26, 2023, article on the website Lich News, which represents itself as a legitimate news site. However, that article is almost identical to an article posted on a satirical website, the Dunning-Kruger Times.

The story on the Dunning-Kruger website includes a disclaimer reading, "Nothing on this page is real,” while its “About Us” page says, “Everything on this website is fiction.” Nothing on Lich News labels its content as satire or fabricated.

Christopher Blair, who operates the Dunning-Kruger Times, told USA TODAY in an email that the claim about Thomas moving was completely made up.

“I can confirm that the November piece, as well as anything else published on my sites and pages, is intended as satire,” Blair said in an email to USA TODAY. “I have no connection to any of the sites that spread my material without disclaimers.”

The oldest archived version USA TODAY could find of the Dunning-Kruger article was saved the same day the Lich News article was posted. Still, there are indicators that the Dunning-Kruger piece was first. Both articles mention “Joe Barron," a name that frequently appears in articles from the Dunning-Kruger Times and its sibling publications in the America’s Last Line of Defense network of websites.

Both articles also cite a purported interview by Thomas with watchdog organization Media Matters, but no such interview could be found on its website.

There are no credible news reports about Thomas announcing plans to move to another country.

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The Facebook post is an example of what could be called “stolen satire,” where stories originally written and presented as satire are captured and reposted in a way that makes them appear to be legitimate news. As a result, readers of the second-generation post are misled, which is what happened here.

Thomas is the first transgender athlete to claim an NCAA Division I national championship, winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle title in March 2022. She has become a frequent subject of misinformation, with USA TODAY debunking claims her NCAA swimming medals were being reallocated, that the International Olympic Committee banned her and that she recently lost to Riley Gaines, a swimmer who has been critical of transgender athletes participating in women’s sports, in a qualifying race for the Olympics.

USA TODAY reached out to Lich News and the social media user who shared the claim for comments but did not immediately receive a response.

Reuters also debunked the claim.

Our fact-check sources:

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: No evidence Lia Thomas moving to 'more tolerant' country | Fact check