Viral Story About Bogus Viral Story Was Also Bogus

Corey Harris attracted widespread news coverage—including from Reason—when a video showed him behind the wheel during a court hearing about a suspended license. Except he never had a license at all.


The topsy-turvy legal odyssey concerning a Michigan man's driving privileges, which has captivated the nation, took another turn yesterday when he reappeared in court not long after a video showed him behind the wheel of a car while he Zoomed into a hearing that was allegedly for a driving with a suspended license charge.

"This is for driving on a license suspended," said Judge J. Cedric Simpson of the 14A District Court in Washtenaw County on May 15. "That is correct, your honor," a public defender replied.

It turns out that was not, in fact, correct. At least not in the literal sense, because the defendant, Corey Harris, apparently never had a license to begin with.

"He has never had a license, ever," Simpson said Wednesday. "And has never had a license in any of the other 49 states or commonwealths that make up this country."

That revelation is just the latest twist in a story that has attracted massive national coverage and had more loops than a Six Flags death wish. The initial viral narrative—that Harris had a suspended license—was covered in outlets from USA Today to The Washington Post to Fox News, CNN, NBC, and on.

A report by WXYZ Detroit called that into question, citing court records indicating a judge lifted Harris' suspension in January 2022 after those privileges had been suspended for unpaid child support. While that did happen, the assertion that his license had been submitted for reinstatement was wrong as well, as there was no license to reinstate. So there have been updates to the original coverage and then updates to the updates, as essentially everyone was incorrect on a basic level, including me in a piece I wrote questioning the utility of the national press litigating a man's license woes. (The image below from The Daily Beast is probably the most straightforward illustration of the whiplash induced by this news cycle.)

The Daily Beast
(The Daily Beast)

Through his judicial coordinator, Simpson declined to comment. That Harris was license-free was news to his defense attorney, Dionne Webster-Cox, who told the media she learned about it with the rest of the world during Wednesday's hearing and that she found that disclosure "absolutely shocking." (She did not return a request for comment.) As for Harris himself, following a local press tour, he entered court yesterday wearing a yellow shirt that said "Trust me." Readers can decide for themselves if that is wise.

But there is at least a nugget of truth in one thing he's said: "I've been assaulted, I've been followed, I've been laughed at, I've been ridiculed, I have been disrespected," Harris told WXYZ. At least some of that is unfortunately to be expected when the majority of the media decides your driver's license—or lack thereof—should be of interest to the entire country.