On Sunday, Senator Kelly Loeffler, a Republican in a Georgia runoff election next month, asked questions and competed in a televised debate against her Democratic opponent, Rev. Raphael Warnock.
But on the Internet, some Democrats saw evidence of a bad game – a bright thread on Ms. Loeffler's head, which they claimed had proven without evidence that she was given answers on stage.
Mrs. Loeffler wasn't wearing any wire, and the mysterious filament was probably just a strand of hair that caught the light. The Atlanta Press Club, where the debate took place, tweeted Monday that Ms. Loeffler and Mr. Warnock "had no audio support from their campaigns". A spokesman for Ms. Loeffler's campaign posted a link to the Atlanta Press Club's tweet debunking the rumor when asked for comment.
The claim was not shared by many prominent Democrats. But it was shared on Twitter by some liberals, including Ben Meiselas, a lawyer with 100,000 followers who previously shared other unsubstantiated theories, including suggesting that Ms. Loeffler might be “Q”, the central figure in QAnon.
Conspiracy theories about politicians wearing hidden wires and earphones during debates go back decades. They come from the 2000 presidential election, when right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh advanced the false theory that Al Gore received hidden help from his campaign during a debate with George W. Bush.
In the two decades since then, Democrats and Republicans have put forward similar theories. That year, some Republicans falsely speculated that Joseph R. Biden Jr. was receiving assistance from an earphone, a claim that was quickly debunked.