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Alex Kaplan

Author ››› Alex Kaplan
  • Roger Stone's swastika meme previously appeared on 4chan, Twitter and Reddit

    Stone has since deleted the post

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Longtime Trump affiliate Roger Stone posted to his Instagram account a meme mocking the administration's proposed Space Force that had previously appeared on 4chan, Reddit, and Twitter. The image showed Trump, Stone, and others in space suits with swastikas on them, and Stone wrote, "I love this - proud to be in this crew."

    The meme features Stone, Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), and Fox News host Sean Hannity dressed as astronauts with swastikas on their uniforms (a swastika also appears in the top-right corner of the image). Text below the image reads “Space Force” and “in space no can hear you lie...” -- likely a reference to the planned Space Force the Trump administration recently announced. Stone wrote in the caption, “I love this - proud to be in this crew - but the only lies being told are by liberal scumbags #maga #republican #infowars.” Stone has since deleted the post.

    About two days before Stone posted the meme, some Twitter accounts had tweeted it in reply to tweets about the Space Force from Pence and the White House.

    The meme was also posted on 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board.

    And the following day, it was featured in a subreddit on political humor.

    This is not the first time Stone has shared a meme that featured far-right imagery. In 2016, Stone said he was “proud” to be part of a meme -- which he also shared -- featuring him, Trump, other Trump campaign surrogates and supporters, and Pepe the Frog, a symbol of the alt-right. The meme had likely originated on 4chan.

  • The Gateway Pundit's Jacob Wohl is now writing for fake news site YourNewsWire

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Jacob Wohl, a notorious pro-Trump Twitter troll who is also a contributor for The Gateway Pundit, is now writing for YourNewsWire, one of the most notorious fake news sites in the United States.

    Wohl is a staunchly pro-Trump commentator and hedge fund owner known for regularly tweeting at President Donald Trump (who has retweeted some of his tweets), for plagiarism, and for his propagandist claims, such as writing, “[Russian President] Vladimir Putin does a lot for his country considering he’s only paid the measly salary of $112,000 a year — He could easily make millions of dollars a year from public speaking alone, but after 20 years in the spotlight, he presses on,” and, “I hope Vladimir Putin gives President Trump a lesson on how to (sic) they deal with Fake News in Russia.” On June 12, Wohl announced that he would be writing for The Gateway Pundit, a notoriously terrible far-right blog that has received White House press credentials from the Trump administration.

    On August 4, Wohl wrote a piece for YourNewsWire headlined “EXCLUSIVE: Deep State Planning System Similar to AMBER Alerts to Influence Mid-Terms.” In the article, Wohl claimed that the Department of Justice was “creating a system similar to to (sic) the AMBER Alert system, to alert Americans that they may be subject to Russian meddling,” which could “exert undue influence on American voters.”

    YourNewsWire is one of the most heavily trafficked fake news sites. The website played a major role in spreading Pizzagate and published pieces attacking the legitimacy of the flu shot, even claiming the Centers for Disease Control murdered a doctor who warned about the shot. The site has also pushed the QAnon conspiracy theory (a conspiracy theory Wohl has called “complete and utter nonsense”). At one point, the prime minister of New Zealand was even forced to respond to one of its fake stories. All in all, YourNewsWire’s posts have been debunked by Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers more than 80 times.

    Additionally, the site has gotten higher Facebook engagement than Infowars, which was recently removed from the social media network. Its Facebook pages have more than 800,000 followers combined, and the pages of its co-founder and one of its lead writers have nearly 120,000 followers combined. The site has also been accused of acting as a proxy for Russia.

    Since October 2017, Wohl has tweeted more than 25 articles from YourNewsWire, 23 of which he shared since he announced he joined The Gateway Pundit, and some of which he has tweeted at Trump. Wohl has also linked to the site in at least two of his Gateway Pundit articles.

    In July, Wohl also encouraged the site to not speak to “Soros stooges” at Poynter.

    The Gateway Pundit’s founder, Jim Hoft, has also cited YourNewsWire. In May, Hoft defended YourNewsWire after it claimed fact-checker Snopes worked for the CIA.

  • A list of the right-wing amplifiers of the QAnon conspiracy theory

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. , NATALIE MARTINEZ, TALIA LAVIN & ALEX KAPLAN

    While the unhinged conspiracy theory known as “QAnon,” or “The Storm,” has been gaining traction online among President Donald Trump’s supporters since October 2017, it was Tuesday night when it finally jumped to the mainstream in the form of shirts and signs that were prominently visible at a Trump campaign rally in Tampa, FL. Supporters of QAnon believe “a high-level government insider with Q clearance” is anonymously posting clues informing the public of Trump’s master plan to undermine the “deep state” and dismantle pedophilia rings supposedly linked to powerful celebrities and politicians.

    While the theory has its murky origins on 4chan and 8chan -- message boards best known for serving as the source of hoaxes and organized harassment campaigns -- many prominent right-wing figures, websites, and social media accounts have helped amplify QAnon. And the consequences of its unfettered growth could be dangerous. A man is facing terrorism charges in Arizona for using an armored vehicle to stop traffic on a bridge near the Hoover Dam with demands and letters clearly inspired by QAanon. Similarly, “Pizzagate,” a pedophilia-focused conspiracy theory fueled by Trump supporters during the 2016 presidential election, inspired a man to open fire inside a Washington, D.C., pizzeria.

    Below is a growing list of right-wing media figures, politicians, websites, and social media accounts that have carelessly amplified QAnon by either evangelizing its tenets to their followers or neutrally presenting the conspiracy theory through their influential platforms without clarifying to their audiences that the whole thing is a baseless canard.

    Amplifiers include:

    Right-wing media figures

    Alex Jones, founder of conspiracy theory site Infowars

    Jones went all in on QAnon, even claiming “the White House directly asked” Infowars correspondent Jerome Corsi to be on the “8chan beat” covering QAnon. After QAnon followers began criticizing Corsi and Jones’ opportunistic hijacking of the conspiracy theory, Jones attempted to backpedal his initial enthusiasm, justifying his distancing by claiming that the identity of the anonymous poster who goes by Q had been “compromised.”

    Mike Tokes, co-founder of NewRightUS

    Rodney Howard-Browne, right-wing Christian preacher and evangelist

    James Woods, actor

    Roseanne Barr, actress

    As documented by The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer, Barr was among QAnon’s early high-profile supporters. Barr often tweets about the conspiracy theory and has also focused on its pedophilia-related offshoot known as “Pedogate” (derived from Pizzagate) and she recently asked a skeptical follower “what exactly” about Q “is doofus”?

    Roger Stone, notorious right-wing dirty trickster

    Stone promoted a QAnon video on his Facebook page.

    Curt Schilling, former baseball player and Breitbart podcast host

    Schilling has repeatedly tweeted about QAnon, claiming to be “proud” to provide a platform to amplify the conspiracy theory, which he did during his Breitbart show, The Curt Schilling Podcast.

    Jerome Corsi, Infowars correspondent and prominent “birther” conspiracy theorist

    Corsi repeatedly amplified QAnon, both from his platform at Infowars and from his Twitter account. Infowars claimed that Corsi was “working directly” with the moderators of 8chan’s The Storm forum.

    Sean Hannity, Fox News host

    On January 9, Fox’s Sean Hannity tweeted from his account that his followers should “watch @wikileaks closely! Tick tock.” The tweet quoted another tweet that claimed that “out of nowhere, Ecuador suddenly offers to mediate a resolution for #JulianAssange,” with the hashtag “#QAnon.”

    Bill Mitchell, Trump sycophant and host of Your Voice America

    Jack Posobiec, One America News Network correspondent and prominent pusher of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory

    While Posobiec has referred to the conspiracy theory in neutral terms, it isn’t clear if his hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers know how he feels about it. Is he serious about the conspiracy theory or just trying to surf its popularity while remaining neutral to claim plausible deniability when inevitably, the consequences become dangerous?

    Liz Crokin, pro-Trump troll and conspiracy theorist

    Pro-Trump troll and self-appointed “citizen journalist” Liz Crokin has expanded on the QAnon conspiracy theory to speculate that “The Storm” includes a crackdown on elite pedophiles. Crokin has gone on to accuse model Chrissy Teigen and her husband, singer John Legend, of pedophilia. Recently, she also claimed John F. Kennedy Jr. had faked his death and is behind the Q posts.

    Charlie Kirk, executive director of Turning Point USA

    On a now-deleted tweet, Kirk spread bogus statistics that seemingly originated in the QAnon universe.

    Mike Cernovich, pro-Trump troll and notorious Pizzagate pusher

    Like Posobiec, Cernovich has made neutral mentions of the conspiracy theory on his Twitter account without clarifying to his followers that it’s baseless.

    Political figures

    Eric Trump, son of President Trump

    Eric Trump liked a tweet of a slogan linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory.

    The official Twitter account for the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee

    On July 4, a Twitter account that identifies itself as belonging to the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee of Florida tweeted out (and later deleted) a YouTube explanatory video of QAnon.

    Paul Nehlen, candidate in the Republican primary for Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district

    Social media accounts

    Facebook

    RT America

    Conservative Post

    The American Patriot

    National Conservative News Network Canada

    YouTube: Channels extensively covering Q

    The following are channels YouTube has allowed to proliferate that cover and interpret every post Q signs (ordered by number of subscribers):

    Websites

    YourNewsWire

    Fake news site YourNewsWire took the QAnon pedophile conspiracy theory to Facebook with baseless accusations targeting celebrities Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.

    The Blacksphere

    Freedom Outpost

    The Trump Times

    The Deplorable Army

    Neon Nettle

    From an archived version of a since-deleted post that appeared on Neon Nettle, a fake news site that has also pushed the conspiracy theory on Twitter:

    WorldTruth.TV

    Neon Revolt

    The site features a tag devoted to QAnon-related content.

    Exopolitics.org

  • Facebook ads and Instant Articles are monetizing a page that's pushed plagiarized content and false news

    Facebook has said this sort of thing would no longer occur. It's still happening.

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Last year, in response to scrutiny over fake news spreading on the platform during the 2016 campaign, Facebook announced that it would crack down on “instances of Pages using Facebook ads to build their audiences in order to distribute false news more broadly” but may allow pages to run ads again if they stop promoting false news. (Some have called for the ban to be permanent.) That action has become a talking point for Facebook. During his testimony before Congress, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that “the way to fight” people who are “trying to write the most sensational thing they can, in order to get people to click on it so they can make money on ads” is that “we make it so they can't run our ads, they can't make money.”

    Yet a page called Proud to Be Deplorable that has promoted several false stories and an overwhelming amount of plagiarized, hyperpartisan content has run an ad multiple times since at least March. The page has more than 350,000 followers, and the ad has garnered between 20,000 and 100,000 impressions (or the number of times an ad was on screen) in total, according to Facebook’s ads archive. While the page pushed many of the false stories before it started running ads in March, it has posted some after and has continued to post plagiarized content throughout.

    Some of the false and misleading stories the page has pushed are:

    • Stories that push the Pizzagate narrative by claiming that “elite pedophilia [is] rife in Washinton (sic) D.C.,” that a journalist “testifies DC elite pedo ring is 100% real,” that Trump initiated “pedophile raids” and “first Democrat leader pleads guilty,” or that “evidence suggests [Andrew] Breitbart was assassinated because he threatened to expose Clinton pedo ring”

    Additionally, the page has posted articles while calling for the “arrest” of Parkland, FL mass shooting survivor David Hogg and claiming a federal judge “mandate[d] American submission to [an] Islamic takeover.”

    The sites that the page links to for these stories are nearly all registered to a Sourabh Pal. Someone with the same name is a web developer based in California. Some of these sites link to the Proud to be Deplorable page in their “Follow us on Facebook” widget. That page and an account with Pal's name also run a Facebook group where the Proud to Be Deplorable page regularly posts content from thedeplorablearmy.com, a site the Deplorable page says it’s connected to. A smaller page, True Patriot Nation, also has almost exclusively posted content from sites that have apparent links to Pal and the Proud to Be Deplorable page.

    Besides featuring false stories, most of thedeplorablearmy’s content is plagiarized, often copied from The Gateway Pundit, a far-right blog that regularly posts wildly inaccurate pieces. The site also uses the ad networks Revcontent and Google AdSense (whose ads include the tag “AdChoices” at the top right). AdSense policies prohibit its ads from being placed on pages that feature copyright infringement and/or “entic[e] users to engage with content under false or unclear pretenses.” Revcontent also has policies prohibiting “fake news” and copyright infringement. These articles are then posted to the Deplorable Facebook page, which means Facebook is giving advertising space to a page that mainly monetizes off of plagiarized content.

    Additionally, Facebook has allowed the page to use Instant Articles, a mobile web format that enables articles (identifiable via a lightning bolt icon) to load more quickly on the Facebook app. That means both Facebook and the page are making money via ads on false articles and smear pieces that also violate Facebook’s Instant Article policy on intellectual property. Though Facebook pledged to stop the misuse of its Instant Articles feature earlier this year, it is clear that the platform is still struggling to fix the problem.

  • Conservatives on social media are spreading a fake Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez quote about Medicare

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A fake quote from New York Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is spreading online about “Medicare for all” having “no real cost.”

    On July 29, Facebook user Rick Cantón posted a meme of Cortez with the quote, “Yes, I realize that Medicare for all would cost 30 trillion dollars over 10 years, but think about it - trillion is just a billion with 3 zeros added and zeros have no value, so there is no real cost.” Cantón also wrote in the post, “She deserves all the parodies. all. of. them.” In response to a comment on the meme, Cantón wrote, “She didn't say it. But she IS that stupid. Which says a lot about those who voted for her.” But many people wrote comments suggesting they believed the quote was real.

    The post has received more than 30,000 shares, and it was also shared by popular conservative page Judge Jeanine Pirro has Fans, where some users took the quote as real:

    The meme has also spread elsewhere on Facebook, giving it thousands more shares. Many users commenting on those posts seemed to believe it was real:

    The meme has also spread to Twitter, and accounts have shared the meme as if it were real:

    The meme also spread in multiple threads on Reddit’s “The Donald” subreddit, where users wrote that the quote showed millennials are actually “that stupid” and that “double digit IQ drug addicts” would support Cortez.

    This is not the first misleading or made-up story about Cortez to spread online. Last week, right-wing network CRTV created an unflattering fake interview with Cortez using footage from a PBS interview with Cortez and shared it without a clear disclaimer that it was satire. The video received nearly a million views and was shared throughout Facebook before a satire disclaimer was added, with many users indicating they thought the interview was real and attacking Cortez over it.

  • Whoopi Goldberg was the target of a fake story. It’s become a regular occurrence.

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Whoopi Goldberg, the co-host of ABC’s The View, was the target of a fake quote circulating online claiming she used a racial epithet against Fox News host Jeanine Pirro. And it wasn’t the first such attack; Goldberg has become a prominent target of fake news and harassment.

    On July 20, Twitter user Josh Cornett -- who previously created a fake quote targeting Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) -- tweeted that “sources at ABC” said Goldberg had told “co-host Ana Navarro” that she “won’t sit there and be lectured by Trump’s Sand Nig*er,” referring to Pirro, who had appeared on The View and sparred with Goldberg.

    The quote, which ABC’s publicity director has said “absolutely is false,” has spread on Twitter, including from QAnon conspiracy theorists Michael Moates and Lisa Crowley, and on Facebook and message board 4chan. It was also pushed on air as real by North Dakota talk station KHND-AM, where a host said Goldberg has “no morals and no compass.” A petition was even launched calling for Goldberg’s firing based on the fake quote.

    Since early 2017, Goldberg has become a regular target for fake stories like this one, smearing the host’s reputation:

    • In March 2017, a site that claims to be satire but buried its satire disclaimer made up a story claiming that Goldberg criticized the widow of a slain Navy SEAL by saying, “She was just looking for attention. These military widows love their 15 minutes in the spotlight.” Fake news sites subsequently posted the story, helping spread it on Facebook, where users responded by calling Goldberg a “fat, ugly, ignorant, racist pig” and a “scumbag.” The fake quote was also turned into a meme that spread online. California talk station KSFO-AM shared the story on air, with the hosts indicating they weren’t sure it was true but saying they “wouldn’t put it past her.” Syndicated radio show Walton & Johnson also shared it, with the hosts seemingly suggesting that someone should shoot her, saying, “Surely there’s a sniper rifle somewhere in Hollywood.”

    • That same month, Christopher Blair, a self-proclaimed troll who has made up stories to fool conservatives, falsely claimed that Fox News had hired “filthy, lying liberal” Goldberg to replace its host Sean Hannity. Multiple sites based in Macedonia and in Kosovo subsequently copied the article. Accounts subsequently shared the Kosovo site’s copy on Facebook, writing the story “won’t go over well” and “definitely deserves the ‘angry’ reaction,” according to text captured by the social media tracking app CrowdTangle.

    • In April 2017, a digitally manipulated image of Goldberg wearing a shirt showing President Donald Trump shooting himself in the head appeared online. The image continued to spread online into the summer, and it also spread to radio, shared on air by conservative radio hosts on Michigan's WDTK-AM (which later corrected the story) and Pennsylvania’s WFYL-AM (where a host suggested viewers should boycott The View).

    • In June 2017, Blair published another made-up story that Goldberg had been arrested for running a puppy mill. Multiple sites based in Macedonia subsequently copied it, and accounts that seem to be based in Macedonia shared it on Facebook, where users said the report showed Goldberg should be “in jail where she belongs” and that it was “time to take Whoopi to the garbage Dump!”

    • In May, after Roseanne Barr’s ABC show was canceled because of a racist tweet she posted, the fake image of Goldberg with the Trump shirt was revived in defense of Barr. Barr retweeted the image, which went viral again on Facebook. It was even shared by Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. It also exploded onto the air waves of radio stations throughout the country -- where hosts used it to suggest some kind of double standard -- including Texas music station KISS-FM and talk station WBAP-AM, Colorado talk station KCOL-AM, Maryland talk stations WCBM-AM and WFMD-AM, Louisiana talk station KAOK-AM, Illinois talk station WLS-AM (where a co-host told another host pushing the image that it was fake), Pennsylvania talk stations WFYL-AM and WAEB-AM (where a host said it could be photoshopped before sharing it anyway), Florida talk station WHPT-FM, Georgia talk station WYAY-FM, South Carolina talk station WYRD-FM, Ohio talk station WNIR-FM, and syndicated radio shows Rick and Bubba and Beyond Reality.

    • In July, notorious fake news site YourNewsWire, without any proof, claimed that ABC was “considering firing” Goldberg. The likely fake story has gained traction on Facebook, where it was shared, among other places, on an alt-right page, and it was copied by a site based in Kosovo.

    These fake stories have taken their toll: Speaking on The View, Goldberg said the fake military widow story “endangered my family’s life and endangered my life.” When the fake Trump shirt image first appeared the following month, Goldberg was again forced to debunk it on The View, noting it was a photoshopped image of the shirt she actually wore to the Women’s March. And when the image was revived by Barr and others in May, Goldberg criticized Barr on The View and again explained that the image was fake.

    These attacks on Goldberg come as studies from Pew Research Center have found that Black people and women have disproportionately been the target of online harassment. Another regular victim of fake news, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), is also a Black woman.

    There are signs that these fake stories are still spreading: A 4chan user shared the fake military widows quote meme in a July 23 thread about “Politically sound negroes,” writing, “Kill this one.” And though an incognito Google search for “whoopi trump shirt” shows debunks right below, it still brings up as the top result shirts from the fake image for sale from different sellers with labels such as “Whoopi Goldberg Trump shirt,” “Whoopi Trump Shirt Make America Great Again,” and “Whoopi Goldberg Make America Great Again Trump Shirt.”

  • Fake news site YourNewsWire puts QAnon pedophile conspiracy theories onto Facebook

    Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg were targeted by YourNewsWire, which has repeatedly pushed QAnon hoaxes

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    One of the biggest fake news sites in the United States is running with a conspiracy theory pushed by the followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory accusing actor Tom Hanks and director Steven Spielberg of pedophila, helping to get the claim onto Facebook.

    In late July, followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory on Reddit and users on 4chan ran with and hyped a video in which an actor claimed that Hanks and Spielberg were pedophiles. QAnon followers also created videos pushing the claim on YouTube, helping to drive the accusations to the top of YouTube search for Hanks and Spielberg.

    Around the same time as NBC’s Ben Collins noted that the claim was spreading on YouTube, fake news site YourNewsWire published an article headlined “Tom Hanks & Steven Spielberg Accused Of Child Rape.” The article embedded one of the YouTube videos pushing the claim, which had “#PedoWood #pedogate #qanon” in its name. The site also posted the article to one of its Facebook pages, which has nearly 800,000 followers. As ad network Revcontent features ads on the site, clicks from that Facebook post to the article will let it monetize the claim.

    YourNewsWire is one one of the most heavily trafficked fake news sites, creating some of the most viral fake stories of the past few years, and its posts have been debunked by Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers more than 80 times. The site also gets higher Facebook engagement than conspiracy theory outlet Infowars, and its Facebook pages have nearly a million followers combined. The site has also been accused of acting as a proxy for Russia.

    YourNewsWire also has close ties to the QAnon conspiracy theory, which holds that President Donald Trump has a master plan to defeat his perceived enemies and the “deep state.” The site has previously cited “QAnon” as a source for its fake stories (which it also put on Facebook). In February, the site pushed a false claim from QAnon followers that Hillary Clinton was connected to a Russian plane crash, and in April the site helped spread the false claim that originated in QAnon circles that there was a video of Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin harming a child. And in June, the central figure in the QAnon conspiracy theory -- known as “Q” -- posted on 8chan a link to a fake YourNewsWire story. The next month, the site retweeted a user who wrote, “Q even posted an article from Yournewswire in one of its drops. :)”

  • CNN commentator Ken Cuccinelli shares fake Maxine Waters quote with a fake CNN chyron

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    UPDATE (7/26): Following the publication of this post, Cuccinelli deleted the image from his Facebook page.

    CNN legal and political commentator Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican who formerly served as Virginia's attorney general, shared a fake quote from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) that an “illegal immigrant” should be nominated to the Supreme Court.

    In late June, a Twitter “parody” account pretending to be CNN tweeted an image of Waters appearing on CNN with a fake chyron that said “Waters: SCOTUS Pick Should Be Illegal Immigrant,” along with the text, “Rep @MaxinePWaters: ‘The next Supreme Court Justice should be an illegal immigrant.’” The fake quote and chyron subsequently spread as real across social media and radio, with multiple memes created around the tweet.

    On July 25, Cuccinelli shared one of those memes on Facebook. The image also said, “Read that again- slowly- and let the full depth of abject stupidity and desperation behind the statement, uttered on nationwide television, sink in fully….”

    Cuccinelli is not the first CNN contributor to share fake news. Last December, then-CNN analyst Harry Houck shared a fake story on Facebook from notorious fake news site YourNewsWire claiming that actor Denzel Washington had called former President Barack Obama a “criminal-in-chief” who “tore [the] heart out of America.” Houck subsequently deleted the post and apologized for sharing the fake story.

  • CRTV's fake interview with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went viral on Facebook

    The video from trusted Facebook partner CRTV added the satire label on Facebook only after receiving nearly a million views

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The right-wing network CRTV posted on Facebook a fake interview with New York Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by deceptively editing footage of her talking to PBS. The footage, which wasn’t labeled as satire until hours after it was originally posted, has been shared as real by multiple Facebook pages and groups and has more than 1.3 million views so far.

    On July 23, the Facebook page for Allie Beth Stuckey’s CRTV show posted a video with the text “Allie *grills* congressional hopeful and progressive it girl ‘Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ on her socialist agenda and knowledge of government... or lack thereof. 😉” The footage seems to depict Stuckey asking Ocasio-Cortez about her qualifications to run for office, to which Ocasio-Cortez says she grew up in the Bill Clinton era and was in middle school when the 9/11 attacks happened. It also shows Ocasio-Cortez staying quiet when Stuckey asks her if she has any knowledge about how the American political system works. CRTV is part of the Facebook Watch program through which Facebook hosts original video shows.

    More than 15 hours after the fake interview was posted on social media, The New York Times’ Shane Goldmacher noted that no such interview took place, and that instead CRTV combined footage from PBS host Margaret Hoover’s interview with Ocasio-Cortez and Stuckey’s questions. He wrote that it was “not labeled satire (other than a 😉 emoji).” The Facebook post has since added the language “Update: Yes, this is satire created from excerpts of the viral Firing Line interview with Ocasio-Cortez.” Stuckey has also defended the video from Cortez’ criticism, tweeting, “it was a clear joke, not a ‘fake’ video.”

    Before the satire language was added, the video spread throughout Facebook. Presidential candidate Lee Newton Rhodes shared the post, writing, “This is what the liberals democrats would rather offer the voters than me.” It was also shared -- seemingly as if it were real -- in numerous conservative and pro-Trump Facebook pages and groups, with some describing Cortez as “the new face of the Democrats” and saying the footage shows Democrats “are even stupider than I thought.” Commenters on the posts wrote that Ocasio-Cortez is a “stupid bitch,” “Dumbo the clown,” a “complete idiot”, a “dumbazz” and “dumber then (sic) dog poop,” and said she has “been lickin to (sic) many toilet seats”and that her “house plants probably help her complete crossword puzzles.”

  • How a fake news lie blaming China instead of Russia for election hacking went viral

    Far-right media figures pushed the claim, and multiple radio stations ran with it

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    A made-up story claiming that former FBI attorney Lisa Page told Congress that China, not Russia, was responsible for hacking during the 2016 election spread throughout far-right online spaces and fake news sites and onto radio. Page’s attorney has rebutted the claim.

    True Pundit is a site known for posting false stories and pushing Pizzagate. On July 17, the site wrote that Page said, in “classified House testimony,” that there is secret evidence that “China hacked [Hillary Clinton’s] top secret emails.”

    There is no evidence that Clinton’s emails were ever hacked. Rather, emails account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and the networks of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) were all hacked. A recent indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller linked 12 Russian military officers to the hacks of the DNC and DCCC.

    Furthermore, Page’s attorney, Amy Jeffress, told FactCheck.org that the story was “completely false,” adding that Page, in “nearly ten hours of testimony before the Committees, … did not say a single word about China hacking the DNC server, and this conspiracy theory about the FBI instructing her to cover up such a story is nonsense.” Jeffress also said Page’s testimony confirmed the intelligence community’s analysis that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

    Nonetheless, True Pundit’s article spread throughout far-right media, with the following sites and actors playing a role:

    Multiple radio hosts subsequently shared True Pundit’s article on air:

    • On Tennessee talk station WWTN-FM, a host said it showed Page “getting ready to turn state’s evidence” against government officials. Before he read out True Pundit’s article, he told his listeners, “You make a determination as to whether this is accurate or not.”

    • On California talk station KNZR-FM, hosts called the article “earth-shattering” and “huge.”

    • On Florida talk station WEBY-AM, a host said it showed that Page was “a woman scorned” and that Clinton had been “setting up the narrative” about Russian interference.

    • On Louisiana talk station WBRP-FM’s Fletch Nation, a host suggested that the claim explained Trump’s July 17 statement that “other people” besides Russia could have interfered in the election.

    • And on Maryland talk station WCBM-AM, a host directly cited YourNewsWire while saying that Page said “it was the Chinese that hacked the DNC server and not the Russians,” which he added “makes sense to me.”