WorldNetDaily (WND) writer Leo Hohmann is standing by debunked reports that Syrian refugee children sexually assaulted a 5-year-old girl in Twin Falls, ID. Local officials said the reports were not true, and the state’s former attorney general called out Hohmann’s reporting and said his “so-called news” site plays “fast and loose with the truth.” Hohmann, who has a history of fearmongering about Muslims and refugees, claimed that the local officials are “covering up” the real story. WorldNetDaily also played an instrumental role in promoting the racist “birther” campaign against former President Barack Obama.
Fake News Purveyors Publish Faulty Claim That Syrian Refugee Kids Assaulted And Urinated On 5-Year-Old Girl
Mad World News Fabricates Details On Top Of Local News Report To Claim Refugee Children Sexually Assaulted Idaho Girl. Fake news-purveying website Mad World News published a story alleging that “Syrian refugee children” raped and urinated on a young girl in a Twin Falls, ID, apartment complex laundry room while another “‘coached’” the children as he filmed the incident. From the June 19 article:
KMVT reported on June 7 that a sexual assault occurred near the Fawnbrook Apartment complex in Twin Falls, Idaho. Only stating that no charges have been filed, according to prosecutor Grant Loebs, the station concludes that allegations are swirling on social media from an eye witness. Although they’ve done well not to give any hint of who the perpetrators are, why they’re being investigated, or who the victim is, a neighbor has broken the silence out of pure indignance over the authorities’ handling of the case.
Two weeks after the incident, a 5-year-old girl, who is underdeveloped due to being born prematurely, was playing in between apartment units just feet away from her family when three neighbor boys put a knife to her throat and forced her into the laundry unit. The boys are ages 13, 10, and 8, and are Syrian refugee children from 2 families resettled in the apartments. What happened next is too sickening for mere words.
The neighbor states that the Syrian boys stripped the girl naked, raped her, and urinated on her body and in her mouth. Although the two younger boys were unable to perform sexually due to their ages, the 13 “coached” the pair while he videoed the sexual assault after his own participation. [Mad World News, 6/19/16; Media Matters, 12/14/16]
Mad World News’ Story Was Spread More Than 32,000 Times On Social Media and Recycled On Other Fake News-Purveying Websites. According to a BuzzSumo social media analysis of the Mad World News story, social media users “engaged with” the false report by liking, sharing, and commenting on the link 32,900 times on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+, and numerous other fake news-purveying websites such as Observatorial and DC Gazette linked to it.
[BuzzSumo.com, accessed 1/24/17; Media Matters, 12/14/16]
Local News Outlets Discredit Reports
Twin Falls County Prosecutor Rebuts Fake News Report. The Idaho Statesman reported that law enforcement officials, including the Twin Falls county prosecutor, refuted most of the claims made in the false reports circulating online. The Statesman quoted the prosecutor saying, “‘An incident did occur,’”but “‘the details of the case don’t match what’s being reported by anti-refugee groups.’” A website owned by Idaho’s Times-News also republished the Statesman’s piece. From the June 20 article:
An incident did occur, [Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant] Loebs said, and two juveniles have been charged after authorities obtained video shot on a cellphone. But the details of the case don’t match what’s being reported by anti-refugee groups, the prosecutor said.
According to … officials, three boys were involved, ages 7, 10 and 14, and the alleged victim was a 5-year-old girl. The boys are from Sudan and Iraq; none are Syrian. They are being held at a juvenile detention facility. Officials suspect the boys have been in the Unites States fewer than two years, but their refugee status wasn’t immediately clear to the police chief.
There were no adults involved, Loebs said, the boys didn’t have a knife, and the incident wasn’t a “gang-rape” instigated by the oldest boy.
The police chief also said there is no evidence to support claims the suspects’ fathers high-fived or praised the boys for committing the alleged assault, as has been reported on anti-refugee websites. [Idaho Statesman, 6/20/16; Times-News, 6/20/16]
Spokesman-Review Refuted Story Pushed By Anti-Refugee Activists. Washington State newspaper The Spokesman-Review refuted the fabricated claims circulating online and reported that the false reports were being “pushed by local anti-refugee activists.” From the June 20 article:
A story that’s circulating on social media and anti-Muslim and conspiracy-oriented websites is falsely claiming that three young Syrian refugees raped a young girl at knifepoint at an apartment complex in Twin Falls that supposedly is the site where about 50 Syrian refugees had been resettled – when in fact, no Syrian refugees have been resettled to Twin Falls.
The story also charges that police failed to respond to the alleged incident in a timely fashion, which local authorities also say is false.
The story, pushed by local anti-refugee activists who spoke out at a recent Twin Falls City Council meeting, stems from a June 2 incident between four children at a low-income apartment complex in Twin Falls. Two boys, 10 and 14, allegedly incited a 7-year-old boy to act inappropriately with a 5-year-old girl in a laundry room at the complex. [The Spokesman-Review, 6/20/16]
WND Writer Alleges Debunking Proves Media Conspiracy To Cover-Up Story
WND Writer Claims Media And Government Hid Story About Idaho Girl’s Sexual Assault. WorldNetDaily writer Leo Hohmann suggested that local news outlets and government officials were “covering up the fact that the boys are from Muslim immigrant families” and “downplaying the broader truth of the story — that Muslim migrants stripped down and humiliated a vulnerable little girl.” From the June 20 article:
A 5-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by two boys at an apartment complex in Twin Falls, Idaho — while a third boy filmed the attack — and some local residents are charging the police and city officials with covering up the fact that the boys are from Muslim immigrant families from Sudan and Iraq.
Although not yet confirmed, the alleged perpetrators — migrant boys ages 14, 10 and 7 — appear to be from refugee families.
At least three local newspapers have tried to discredit the reports of the assault, focusing instead on a few details that were erroneously reported by bloggers while ignoring or downplaying the broader truth of the story — that Muslim migrants stripped down and humiliated a vulnerable little girl. [WorldNetDaily, 6/20/16]
Former Idaho Attorney General Criticizes WND For “Fear-Mongering” And “Unfairly Attacking” Twin Falls Officials
Former Idaho Attorney General And State Supreme Court Chief Justice Slams WND For Playing “Fast And Loose With The Truth.” The Spokesman-Review published a public statement from former Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Jones, also a former Idaho attorney general, advocating for the state's acceptance of Middle Eastern refugees. The statement also criticized “so-called news organizations” like World Net Daily and Breitbart.com for playing “fast and loose with the truth” to portray refugees as a danger. From the January 18 news release:
Jones said “a number of so-called news organizations have engaged in fear-mongering in order to portray refugees, and particularly those from Syria, as a danger to our country. Breitbart News, World Net Daily and others have played fast and loose with the truth and should not be regarded as credible. They have unfairly attacked the College of Southern Idaho refugee program, Twin Falls government officials, and Chobani, which has been a wonderful addition to
the community. We should not tolerate this type of conduct by outsiders.” [The Spokesman-Review, 1/18/17, 1/18/17]
WND Writer Stands By Conspiracy Theory Invoking On A Cover-Up
WND Reporter Stands By His Work, Claims Local News Were The Real Conspiracy Theorists. Following the release of the former Idaho attorney general’s statement, Hohmann claimed his “reporting stood in contrast” to local media and claimed local “‘so-called’” reporters “‘were the ones engaged in conspiracy reporting.’” From the January 23 article:
A WND investigative reporter is firing back at a retired Idaho public official who last week attacked the news service for its coverage of refugee-related issues in the state.
[WND writer Leo] Hohmann said his reporting stood in contrast to the reporting of local media, which “chose to get their so-called ‘facts’ from corrupt local officials, who were either intimidated or in the pocket of Obama officials like Idaho U.S. attorney Wendy Olson.”
“As if it weren’t derelict enough for a newspaper to rely on the word of public officials, these so-called ‘journalists’ in Idaho and in nearby Spokane, Washington, had the audacity to go a step further and attack those of us who were doing our journalistic jobs and questioning the authorities, calling our reporting ‘conspiracy theories,'” he said.
“It seems clear to me, when looking back, that the establishment media in Idaho and Washington were the ones engaged in conspiracy reporting by their reckless disregard for the truth and their callous treatment of the victim and her family. They chose to bow to the pressure of bullies like the Obama-appointed Wendy Olson,” he said. [WorldNetDaily, 1/23/17]
Leo Hohmann Has A History Of Fearmongering About Muslims And Refugees
Hohmann: “Bishops Hail 'Migration Week' While Flooding U.S. Cities With Muslims.”
Hohmann: “U.S. Newspaper Still Hiding Sex Offender's Identity As Somali 'Refugee.'”
Hohmann: ‘Refugee’ Named Mohamed Sexually Assaults Disabled U.S. Woman, Media Silent.”
Hohmann: “Ohio Muslim Shoots Daughter 3 Times In Head, Claims ‘Accident.’”
Hohmann: “System That Produced German Terror Thrives In U.S.”
WND Played An Instrumental Role In Promoting Obama Birth Certificate Conspiracy Theories
WND Played An Instrumental Role In Popularizing Conspiracy Theories About Obama’s Birth Certificate. Joseph Farah, CEO and Founder of WND, promoted conspiracies that alleged former President Barack Obama was not a United States citizen and sold “Where’s the birth certificate?” swag to the sites’ readers. The site also hosted columns that accused Obama of having “orchestrated” the Benghazi terror attacks and the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School for political gain, and suggested that Obama hoped to “foment armed rebellion.” [Media Matters, 3/12/14]