Fact check: False claim about 23 deaths at a Michael Jackson concert

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The claim: Michael Jackson kept playing at a concert while 23 people died

In defense of rapper Travis Scott, who is facing public scrutiny and several lawsuits after a crowd crush at his Nov. 5 Astroworld festival performance in Houston left eight young people dead, some fans are spreading misinformation about famed singer Michael Jackson.

An abundance of posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms claim the legendary pop star continued singing amid an even higher death toll at one of his concerts.

“Y’all mad @ Travis Scott for not stopping the show cause people was passing out but Michael Jackson stood still & posed & watched people faint & get taken out on stretchers without saying a single word,” one Facebook post from Nov. 7 reads. "Twenty-three people died from being trampled at MJ concert… triple the amount of Travis's."

Shared over 21,000 times in a day, the post references the fact that Scott reportedly continued playing for 40 minutes after first responders received the first reports of injuries, according to CNN.

More: What happened at Travis Scott's Astroworld 2021 that led to 8 deaths? Here's what we know.

But there’s no evidence this ever happened at a Jackson concert.

The apparent sources of the claim, two blog pages, suggest the deaths happened at a 1992 Bucharest concert that was streamed worldwide and which over 70,000 people attended.

However, while crowd surges and fainting are known to have occurred at some Jackson concerts, no deaths were reported, according to USA TODAY's research and a Jackson expert.

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USA TODAY reached out to the user who shared the post for comment.

No deaths at 1992 Bucharest concert, contrary to rumor

The rumor seems to have originated on two blog pages that claim the deaths occurred at a Bucharest performance in the 90s, likely referring to Jackson’s 1992 performance in Bucharest during the “Dangerous” tour.

But it's impossible that a mass casualty event at this concert could have escaped the notice of the public.

None of many press reports about the high-profile event mentioned deaths, based on USA TODAY's research.

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About 70,000 people attended, the Los Angeles Times reported, and HBO broadcast the two-hour concert one week after it occurred, on Oct. 10, 1992. That broadcast was one of HBO's highest-rated specials ever, The Washington Post reported in 1995. The two-hour-long performance was recorded and distributed in DVD format, which would be highly unlikely if deaths had occurred, and the full performance is also available on YouTube.

Some fainting and crowd control incidents at other Jackson shows, but no reported deaths

Not only did a Jackson concert where 23 people died never occur, USA TODAY found no evidence of any reported deaths at Jackson concerts.

Richard Lecocq, an expert on Jackson and co-author of Michael Jackson: All the Songs with François Allard, said there’s no way the supposed 23 deaths of concertgoers occurred, either at the Bucharest concert mentioned in the blog posts or any other Jackson shows.

Lecocq also told USA TODAY he has never heard or found evidence of deaths at Jackson concerts, even at shows that resulted in some injuries.

Singer Michael Jackson, performs at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, during his "Victory Tour" in July 1984.
Singer Michael Jackson, performs at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, during his "Victory Tour" in July 1984.

One such concert that made headlines was Jackson's 1988 show in Liverpool, where 1,550 people were hurt after a crowd surge, the AP reported at the time. A whopping 125,000 people attended. Neither the AP article nor any other articles about this concert that USA TODAY reviewed mentioned any deaths.

Fainting has also been reported at other Jackson shows. According to Variety’s coverage of the Bucharest show's HBO special, “throughout the show, there were endless shots of Romanian fans crying and fainting."

More: Travis Scott offers 'full refunds' to Astroworld attendees, lawsuits filed in tragedy's aftermath

But according to Lecocq, the artist and his team put several crowd control measures in place to prevent serious injury for his tours in the 90s and beyond, including setting up a first aid tent at every show and making sure there were several exit points to prevent bottlenecking.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate the claim that Jackson kept playing at a concert while 23 people died FALSE. The likely source of the rumor claims this occurred at a 1992 Bucharest concert, but none of many press reports about that show mention any deaths. There is no evidence of any other deaths reported in connection with Jackson's other shows.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim about 23 deaths at a Michael Jackson concert