The far-right, conspiracy theorist website The Gateway Pundit has spent the weeks following Russia's invasion of Ukraine pumping out the Kremlin’s propaganda materials and narratives.
Founded in 2004 by Jim Hoft, Gateway Pundit is a voraciously pro-Trump blog that has spread conspiracy theories about everything from the 2018 Parkland school shooting and former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, to the Las Vegas mass shooting and the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Most recently, the blog has served as a promotional platform for Russian propaganda in the month after the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Between March 6 and March 9, Hoft published three articles promoting the repeatedly debunked — and Russia-created — conspiracy theory that the U.S. was funding biological weapons in Ukraine. Two of those articles relied on Russian state media. The conspiracy theory quickly spread through the right-wing media ecosystem.
In the second half of March alone, the blog has based its coverage of the war in Ukraine on Russian propaganda at least four times:
- In a March 29 article, Gateway Pundit questioned “Western media outlets” and their portrayal of Russia’s position in the war in Ukraine. The site also said that Russia managed to destroy a “Ukrainian neo-Nazi entity that controlled Mariupol,” a claim that originally came from a Russian colonel-general and was reported by the Russian state media outlet TASS. Russia justified its invasion of Ukraine by promising to “denazify” the country and has seized on the existence of a far-right movement as proof. But the movement, which was active in Mariupol between 2014 and 2015, separated its political and military wings in 2016. Its military wing has since been integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard.
- In the same March 29 article, Gateway Pundit also attempted to throw cold water on reports that Russia was suffering “massive losses” in Ukraine. While the article didn’t mention hard numbers, on March 25 the Russian Defense Ministry told RT that the country lost 1,351 servicemen, a far cry from the western and Ukrainian estimates of anywhere between 7,000 and 15,000.
- On March 14, a Gateway Pundit article embedded a video of the Russian representative to the United Nations telling the UN Security Council that a U.S. program of biological research in Ukraine resulted in the spread of dangerous pathogens. In addition to the video, the article included a transcript but, naturally, no mention that the entire narrative around nefarious biological research labs and weaponizing pathogens has been debunked.
- On March 29, a Gateway Pundit article linked to a timeline from a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson alleging to show about 30 years’ worth of “US-Ukraine bioresearch.” The existence of the research labs was never a secret, but including the timeline implied a type of discovery. And the piece includes pro-Russian language that characterizes the 2014 “Revolution of Dignity” in Ukraine as an “anti-constitutional coup d’etat in Ukraine.” The article did include a warning to view the information with “extreme caution,” before reprinting the entire timeline with no additional information.
In addition to relying on Russian disinformation and state media, Gateway Pundit has published several articles that advance Russian interests, including referring to Ukraine as a “former Soviet satellite,” claiming that the situation in Ukraine is “desperate” and “getting worse,” saying that President Joe Biden is in a state of cognitive decline, and claiming that Ukrainian refugees at the U.S. southern border are being turned away because of COVID-19. (Russia has been running an anti-vaccine campaign in Ukraine.)
This is not the first time the website has repeated Russian propaganda. In 2016, articles promoted misinformation about supposed voter fraud by the Democratic Party that originated from the Russian troll farm the Internet Research Agency.
The Gateway Pundit has long been a far-right cesspool of conspiracy theories and hoaxes. The site has called for violence against Democrats, endorsed white nationalists, and celebrated the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6. And now it’s actively aiding an unprovoked, unwarranted, and inhumane invasion by giving a platform to Russian propaganda and spin.