Fact check: False claim that image of man with blue skin shows Benjy Stacy from famous Fugate family

·4 min read

The claim: Image shows Benjy Stacy from the Fugate family

In the 1960s, the Fugate family of Kentucky became well known for their blue-colored skin, which was passed down through multiple generations.

The family had a genetic condition called methemoglobinemia in which the body's tissues receive insufficient oxygen, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Social media users are now claiming that a viral image shows one of the Fugate family's descendants.

An Instagram post shared July 13, 2021, appears to show an image of man with blue skin.

"When Benjy Stacy was born in 1975, nurses were shocked by his dark blue skin - only to learn that he was descended from the Fugate Family of Kentucky that was famous for having blue skin⁠," reads the caption of the post.

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The post has generated over 900 likes in the six months since it was published, and it recently regained traction on Instagram. A recently deleted Facebook post shared Jan. 14 amassed close to 1,600 likes. Variations of this claim have received hundreds of likes on Facebook.

But the claim is false.

The image shows Paul Karason, a man whose skin turned blue after he used a self-prepared silver-based skin-care product, as independent fact-checking organizations have noted.

USA TODAY reached out to the social media user who shared the claim for comment.

Image shows Paul Karason

The image in the Instagram post appears to be a screenshot taken from an interview Karason did on the "TODAY" show with co-host Matt Lauer on Jan. 7, 2008.

Karason's skin started turning blue after he began using a silver-based product to treat a skin irritation on his face, according to "TODAY."

He also ingested a drink that contained colloidal silver, a product made of "tiny silver particles suspended in a liquid," according to Mayo Clinic. The consumption of silver causes argyria, the permanent discoloration of the skin.

Karason lived with this condition for more than 15 years, according to "TODAY." He died in 2013 from heart problems.

The Food and Drug Administration said in 1999 that there was "a lack of adequate data to establish general recognition of the safety and effectiveness of colloidal silver ingredients or silver salts for (over-the-counter) use in the treatment or prevention of any disease."

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While the poster is wrong in claiming the image shows Stacy, it's true he was rushed to the University of Kentucky hospital after his birth because doctors were surprised to see his blue skin, according to ABC News.

However, Stacy's skin "lost its blue tint within a few weeks" of his birth and only his lips and fingernails turned blue if he got cold or angry, according to a 1982 account published in the medical journal Science.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that an image shows Benjy Stacy from the Fugate family. The image shows Paul Karason, whose skin turned blue after ingesting self-prepared silver-based drinks.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim image shows Benjy Stacy, born with blue skin