There are now scores of images from the Capitol riots that will indelibly live in our brains forever.
And among the most memorable was one that was by turns bizarre, hilarious and bone-chilling. A photo of a sweet-looking, slightly dazed-seeming, tiny old lady standing in the Capitol amidst the insurrection was shared online.
The internet named her “Capitol Meemaw,” and she instantly spawned a boatload of hilarious memes in the aftermath of the riot.
But joke’s on all of us.
It turns out she wasn’t even there.
New from me: I spoke with Capitol Meemaw — who was not, it turns out, actually at the US Capitol. Instead, she was all the way in Kansas. https://t.co/MXFJxeCf3Z
— David Mack (@davidmackau) January 12, 2021
Capitol Meemaw’s journey to internet infamy all began when a Twitter user posted a photo of her sweetly smiling at the camera, American flag in hand, amidst a group of other Trump supporters supposedly in Washington DC at the Capitol riot.
This is white privilege in America . Let that sink in pic.twitter.com/HPX8I4OjAM
— ✨Bayanggg Bandit ✨ (@FlockaKnows) January 6, 2021
And before long, the image was ricocheting around the internet as part of myriad memes.
— 🏁 (@1BrayWoods) January 6, 2021
rare pic of meemaw breaking into the capitol (colorized 2021) pic.twitter.com/6XRXI7qFQ0
— emi wit da eyebrows (@emiisntfunny) January 9, 2021
She even spawned a new joke about Republicans’ repeated attempts to pin right-wing violence on leftists—the nickname Aunt Tifa.
You’re right. It was Aunt Tifa pic.twitter.com/NjonkiHwS1
— Jim Tews (@jimtews) January 7, 2021
But if the photo didn’t quite add up to you—because the small number of people around her looks so calm and non-threatening compared to all the other terrifying images from the Capitol riot—you weren’t alone.
BuzzFeed News tracked down Capitol Meemaw in Kansas, where she lives.
And it turns out, she was nowhere near the United States Capitol on January 6. Instead, she was at a protest at the Kansas state Capitol in Topeka, where the photo was taken.
In fact, similar images of her appeared in news footage from local station KSNT taken at the Topeka demonstration—which, in contrast to its Capitol counterpart, was calm, orderly and legal. Not a single arrest was made the entire day and no one stormed, vandalized or looted unlike in Washington DC.
The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, is actually a 66-year-old Christian who grew up on a nearby wheat farm. She attended the Topeka demonstration to pray for the country.