People are celebrating Gabby Petito’s fiancé Brian Laundrie on Reddit, posting conspiracy theories and memes

Brian Laundrie in the desert with a cop behind him
This police camera video provided by The Moab Police Department shows Brian Laundrie talking to a police officer after police pulled over the van he was traveling in with his girlfriend, Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, near the entrance to Arches National Park on Aug. 12, 2021. The couple was pulled over while they were having an emotional fight. Petito was reported missing by her family a month later and is now the subject of a nationwide search. The Moab Police Department via AP
  • Two small subreddits have popped up over the past few weeks devoted to Brian Laundrie.

  • Users shared conspiracy theories and support for the “person of interest” in Gabby Petito’s homicide case.

  • Reddit said it was “closely reviewing” all communities related to Petito’s killing.

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Small parts of Reddit are idolizing and celebrating Brian Laundrie, the missing fiancé of Gabby Petito, whose body was found in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest on September 21.

Petito, who was 22 years old, was reported missing in September after embarking on a cross-country trip with Laundrie, who has since gone missing after his parents told police he went hiking in the Carlton Reserve in Florida. Florida police named Laundrie a “person of interest” in the case of Petito’s disappearance and killing on September 15.

Petito’s widely reported death has sparked a wide array of content on social media platforms. The #GabbyPetito hashtag on TikTok has over 1.2 billion views, where creators theorize about the mysterious case and psychics claim they can channel her spirit. The subreddit r/GabbyPetito, which has over 135,000 members, is dedicated to discussing and chronicling news about the investigation.

Now, there are also people online painting Laundrie as a victim, martyr, and hero who is misunderstood by the media. One post reviewed by Insider said that Laundrie had been “unfairly maligned” and another baselessly accused Petito of being a “white supremacist.”

Reddit’s Content Policy rules state that “communities and users that incite violence or that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability will be banned.” It’s not immediately clear whether subreddits supporting Laundrie were in violation of these guidelines.

“We are closely reviewing communities related to the Gabby Petito case, including the subreddits in question,” a Reddit spokesperson told Insider. “We are enforcing our sitewide policies across the platform and will continue to action the communities, content, and users that violate these policies.”

Two subreddits with thousands of followers criticize Petito and show support for Laundrie

On the subreddit r/BrianLaundrie, which was created on September 17 and has around 2,400 subscribers, many users spend their time theorizing about Laundrie’s whereabouts and personal life.

“Isn’t he a victim of violence too?” wrote one commenter, who appeared to be referencing police body-camera footage in which Laundrie told police that Petito had hit him as she was trying to get into their van. Petito told officers with the Moab City Police Department in Utah on August 12 that she had slapped Laundrie when she thought he was going to leave her stranded. “Brian will be remembered more than Gabby,” wrote another comment on the forum.

One user baselessly questioned whether Petito could have actually died of COVID-19. Investigators have not yet publicized Petito’s cause of death, but a Wyoming coroner determined it a homicide.

Another post compared him to OJ Simpson, the former NFL running back who was tried in the case of his wife’s killing, writing, “Run Brian Run.” The post appeared to show support for Laundrie by saying Simpson, who was found liable in a civil trial but was acquitted in his criminal trial, had been innocent.

Still, others used the subreddit to criticize Laundrie, with one poster writing, “evil has a new face.”

The smaller but more vitriolic subreddit is r/FriendsofBrian, which has amassed 1,100 subscribers since it was created on September 18.

“Brian Laundrie is a victim of domestic abuse who is being unfairly maligned in the court of woefully uninformed public opinion,” the subreddit’s description reads, again appearing to reference the police body-camera footage. “This community is dedicated to seeing that Brian receives the treatment that he is entitled to by the Constitution of the United States of America, which is innocence until guilt is proven.”

Posts claim to relate to Laundrie’s “struggle,” and have titles like “did gabby assault brian because he was Hispanic” and “people act like we are monsters.” Each of these posts has under 50 upvotes with under 50 comments discussing Laundrie’s innocence.

Some of the dialogue directly insults Petito, calling her “Flabby Gabby,” a “white supremacist,” and reiterating the conspiracy theory that she died from COVID-19.

Both subreddits have hidden the names of their moderators, the users who ensure that the forum follows Reddit’s rules to keep it from being banned.

Famous figures in high-profile investigations and crimes frequently have big online fandoms. Peter Manfredonia, who is currently on trial on two charges of murder, had a devoted following that created Instagram and TikTok pages to show support for him. Similarly, Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in a stabbing and shooting spree in Isla Vista, California, in May 2014, has been portayed as a hero in some online “incel,” or involuntarily celibate, communities.

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