Pop-up disinformation: Pro-Trump radio host to launch hyperpartisan “news” site in Georgia ahead of Senate runoffs

In case Americans need any more evidence that Georgia is quickly becoming one of the nation’s preeminent political battlegrounds, a talk radio host with close ties to President Donald Trump has announced that he’s launching a hyperpartisan news site to flood the Peach State with right-wing talking points -- just in time for its upcoming runoff elections to decide control of the Senate.

John Fredericks, who is also the editor-in-chief of the Virginia Star and owner of three conservative talk radio stations, announced on Monday that he’s launching the Georgia Star as the newest addition to Star News Digital Media, a network of websites that launder right-wing media content and talking points through pages designed to look like local news sites. The announcement comes ahead of runoff elections for the state’s two Senate seats that will determine control of the chamber in 2021 and beyond. (The site, which Fredericks said aims to unseat The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, also appears to be co-opting the name of one of the South’s oldest Black newspapers.)

“We're launching that so we can combat the fake-news, corporate AJC and the other crap here in Georgia you have to deal with, all of the corporate media,” Fredericks told his audience from Atlanta, where he claimed to be recruiting local writers to help launch his site and partner with a local radio station. “This is ground zero.”

In addition to discussing on his own show, Fredericks also announced the news during Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast -- which was recently deplatformed after the former Trump adviser called for the beheading of two public officials.   

Fredericks launched the Virginia Star in the summer, ahead of the 2020 general election. The site’s umbrella company, Star News Digital Media, was founded in 2017 by “three Tea Party-connected conservative activists: Michael Patrick Leahy, Steve Gill, and Christina Botteri.” The company runs similar pages in Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio, and Minnesota. 

If the Georgia Star turns out to be anything like its Star Network peers, the publication will rely on recycled content from pro-Trump media outlets like The Daily Caller and American Greatness, float fictive conspiracy theories from dubious "local news" sources, and criticize local politicians for attempting to remove Confederate monuments from public spaces.