She’s the target of a coronavirus conspiracy theory. Now she’s afraid for her life

- It's like waking up from a bad dream, going into a nightmare day after day. - This is Maatje Benassi. Before the COVID-19 pandemic she and her husband Matt led pretty normal lives working for the U.

S. military. - We don't do anything, we just go to work, you know, ride our bicycles. - Now they're at the center of an elaborate conspiracy theory. One of its biggest promoters is a man named George Webb.

- This goes back to our story here, which is patient zero which is Maatje Benassi. - He's a conspiracy theorist who has nearly 100,000 subscribers on YouTube. He falsely claims without any evidence that Maatje brought the virus to China during a cycling competition last October.

- We are interwoven into his storyline now. He's never gonna give it up. - Webb's accusations are baseless and far-flung. - Benny Benassi, this story has a lot of Benassi, and this-- - He even claims an Italian DJ, Benny Benassi, is part of the plot.

- He's also Dutch, and he's the first coronavirus victim in Holland. - Well, no, guys, to be honest this is crazy. So I'm born and raised in Italy. - Have you been diagnosed with the coronavirus? - No, I'm okay, no fever, no nothing, no, no, no.

- Maatje is in the U.S. Army Reserve and last October she competed in the Military World Games in Wuhan, China. (marching band music) Six months later, comments under Webb's YouTube videos about the Benassis have become the stuff of nightmares.

- "Execute them by firing squad." "We need to be killing these key people." "These people will get a bullet to the skull." - It's unreal. And the danger he put us in, unreal.

- Okay, hello, everyone, it's March 20th here-- - The conspiracy theory has even reached China. Webb has been featured in media controlled by the Chinese Communist Party which has sought to deflect blame for the coronavirus.

- Have you been able to get health protection from law enforcement? - Because they're not direct threats where they say, "We're coming to kill the Benassis tonight," there's not a lot that they can actually do.

And then they say, "Go talk to a civil attorney." So we did, and for folks like us it's just too expensive to litigate something like this. - Is this Donie? - Is this George? - Yes, how you doin', Donie? - Hi, George, how are you? Donie O'Sullivan here from CNN.

We called Webb. He offered no substantive evidences for his claims about Maatje Benassi. Could you talk me through the specific evidence you have that she is, as you described, coronavirus patient zero? - Yeah.

Well, I have to, there's a lot of circumstantial evidence and then there's a source here that I cannot reveal. - So specifically on Maatje Benassi, how do you know that she has the coronavirus or has antibodies, how do you know that for sure? - Well, I have a source at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital and she actually works at, or I have someone saying that she works at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital and she tested positive for the coronavirus.

- She denies that. - She denies that? Did she deny that she works at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital? - She denies that she's had the coronavirus, that she's had any symptoms of the coronavirus.

She and her husband don't have the coronavirus. The Benassis say YouTube isn't doing enough to stop the spread of conspiracy theories. - When we get the video removed, how quickly do you think that video popped up in other places on YouTube? And then I had to go after each one of those occurrences.

You just can't keep up with it. - A YouTube spokesperson told CNN the company is committed to promoting accurate information about the coronavirus and taking down misinformation when it's flagged by users.

YouTube took down some trending comments under Webb's videos after CNN asked about them. - Couple years ago I was diagnosed with a rare cancer. Dealing with that situation is way easier than trying to deal with this George Webb situation.

- It's getting out of hand and it needs to stop because you never know, somebody might take it so, maybe their parent or child died of the coronavirus and then they're gonna come to my house, think I did this.

But there are times that it gets to me. I just go in my own little place. But we will get through this. We will. it's like waking up from a bad dream going into a nightmare like day after day this is nakiye Benassi before the Koba 19 pandemic she and her husband Matt led pretty normal lives working for the US military we don't do anything we just go to work you know ride our bicycles now they're at the center of an elaborate conspiracy theory one of its biggest promoters is a man named George Webb this goes back to our story here which is patient zero which is Mata vanassa he's a conspiracy theorist who has nearly 100,000 subscribers on youtube he falsely claims without any evidence that Mejia brought the virus to China during a cycling competition last October we are interwoven into his storyline now he's never gonna give it up Webb's accusations are baseless and far flung benny benassi this story has a lot of Benassi in this story even claims an italian DJ benny benassi is part of the thought he's also Dutch and he is the first corona virus virus victim in Holland no guys to be honest this is crazy so I'm born and raised in Italy do you have you been diagnosed with the corona virus no I'm okay no fever no nothing no no no mafia is in the US Army Reserve and last October she competed in the military World Games in Wuhan China [Music] six months later Cummins under web's YouTube videos about divinities have become the stuff of nightmares execute them by firing squad we need to be killing these key people these people will get a bullet to the skull it's unreal in the danger he put us in the unreal ok hello everyone this March 20th the conspiracy theory has even reached China Webb has been featured in media controlled by the Chinese Communist Party which is sought to deflect blame for the corona virus have you been able to get help protection from from law enforcement because they're not direct threats where they say you know we're coming to kill the vanassa's tonight there's not a lot but they they can actually do and then they say you know go talk to a civil attorney so we did for folks like us it's just too expensive to litigate something like this [Music] is this Dali as this George yes how you doing daddy hi George are you that Toni O'Sullivan here from CNN we called Webb he offered no substantive evidences or his claims about ma yeah Benassi could you talk me true this specific evidence you have that that she is as you described coronavirus patient zero yeah well I have to there's a lot of circumstantial evidence and then there's a source here that I cannot reveal so specifically on matcha Benassi how do you know that she has the corona virus or has antibodies or how do you know that for sure well I have a source at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital and she she actually works at where I have someone saying that she works at the Fort Belvoir community hospital and she tested positive for the corona virus she denies that she denies that does she deny that she works at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital she denies that she's had the corona virus that she is any symptoms of the corona virus she and her husband don't have the corona virus the Benassi say YouTube isn't doing enough to stop the spread of conspiracy theories when we get the video removed how quickly do you think that video popped up another place on YouTube and then I had to go after each one of those occurrences you just can't keep up with it a YouTube spokesperson told CNN the company is committed to promoting accurate information about the corona virus and taking down misinformation on its flag by users YouTube took down some trending comments under webs videos after CNN asked about them a couple years ago I was diagnosed with a rare cancer dealing with that situation is way easier then trying to deal with this George Webb situation it's getting out of hand and it needs to stop because you never know somebody might take it so maybe their their parent or child died of the corona virus and then they're gonna come to my house think I did this but there are times that it gets to me I just you know go in my own little place but we we will get through this we will [Music] [Music]


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