World Economic Forum did not prematurely declare Kevin McCarthy speaker of the House

Social media users claim the World Economic Forum chose Republican congressman Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the US House of Representatives days before his election by lawmakers. This is false; the Geneva-based organization holds no such power, the misleading image shared online is from an outdated McCarthy biography, and the claim appears to be tied to long-running conspiracy narratives about the WEF.

"The unelected World Economic Forum, a trade organization representing the interests of the thousand largest companies in the world, has already chosen and announced the next leader of the US House of Representatives," says a January 4, 2023 Twitter post with more than 50,000 likes.

The tweet was shared by American researcher Robert Malone, who in the late 1980s contributed to the development of mRNA vaccines. Malone has become known for spreading falsehoods about the Covid-19 vaccines and virus and AFP has previously fact-checked several of his claims.

Screenshot of a tweet taken January 6, 2023

Posts making the same claim can be found on other social media platforms including, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook.

On January 7, 2023, McCarthy was elected speaker of the House after five days and 15 rounds of voting. This was the first time in more than a century that the speaker was not elected on the first ballot, as around 20 Republican lawmakers continuously denied McCarthy the 218 votes necessary to win the House majority. As disputes ensued at the Capitol, social media users alleged that the WEF -- an international lobbying organization that focuses on the global economy -- had already “appointed” McCarthy to the position.

But the WEF has no role in selecting the speaker of the US House of Representatives and its website -- used as evidence by those making the claim -- described McCarthy as the "Majority Leader of the House of Representatives," not the speaker of the House.

Screenshot of the WEF website taken January 9, 2023

Despite social media users' conflation of the two jobs, the majority leader is a distinctly different role from the speaker of the House, a position that was formerly held by Nancy Pelosi, California's 12th congressional district representative. While the House speaker presides over the House of Representatives, the majority leader heads the party caucus.

McCarthy served as House majority leader from 2013 to 2019 and minority leader from 2019 to 2022. In 2022, McCarthy led the Republican party as it gained a narrow chamber majority during last November's midterm elections. Louisiana representative and fellow Republican Steve Scalise was chosen as majority leader soon after.

The speaker is elected by House members once a candidate receives a majority of votes from present members, and is responsible for presiding over daily sessions and appointing committee chairs.

In most cases, those running for speaker need a minimum of 218 out of 435 votes, but the number of votes needed to reach the majority can change if members vote “present” instead of choosing a candidate or if fewer than 435 members attend the vote.

Composition of the outgoing and new US House of Representatives and Senate, after November 8, 2022 midterm elections. ( AFP / Gal ROMA, Kenan AUGEARD, Anibal MAIZ CACERES)

Although McCarthy was eventually voted into the speaker position, allegations tying the election to the WEF are baseless and the evidence contradictory. The WEF has been pitted at the center of several conspiracy theories including baseless claims that the organization, along with other global elite, played a role in strategically planning the Covid-19 pandemic, a theory referred to as the "Great Reset."

Like McCarthy, other political figures have pages on the WEF’s website, including Pelosi and former president Donald Trump.

AFP reached out to the WEF but a response was not forthcoming.

More of AFP's reports debunking claims made about the WEF can be found here.