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Jerome Corsi

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  • How a fake story about Uranium One and a Russian plane crash spread from message boards to talk radio

    Followers of "The Storm" conspiracy theory pushed a lie and it spread like wildfire on Twitter, 4chan, Reddit, YouTube, fake news websites, and talk radio

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A false claim suggesting that a Russian plane crash was linked to the Uranium One conspiracy theory and the Christopher Steele Trump/Russia dossier spread from followers of a 4chan and 8chan-based conspiracy theory to fake news sites and on to multiple talk radio stations.

    On February 11, a plane carrying 71 people crashed near Moscow, killing everyone on board. Investigators believe that “the pilots' failure to activate heating for pressure measurement equipment” may have resulted in flawed speed data, leading to the crash.

    Following the plane crash, multiple Twitter accounts started speculating about the accident using the hashtag #QAnon, a reference to a conspiracy theory known as “The Storm” that originated on 4chan and 8chan message boards late last year. The conspiracy theory claims that a person known as “Q,” who claims to be a “high-level government insider” has been writing posts, or “crumbs,” to “covertly inform the public about POTUS’s master plan to stage a countercoup against members of the deep state.”

    As BuzzFeed News noted, several of these Twitter users falsely claimed that two specific men were on the plane when it crashed, one allegedly linked to Uranium One and one allegedly linked to the dossier.

    According to the theory, a man named Vyacheslav Ivanov who was the CFO of Russia’s nuclear energy company Rosatom was on the plane. Rosatom has been linked to the Uranium One conspiracy theory, a thoroughly debunked story which alleges that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton approved the sale of uranium to a Russian company in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation. There was, in fact, a Vyacheslav Ivanov on the plane, but he was not the same man as the Vyacheslav Ivanov who formerly worked at Rosatom (and who was not the CFO there).

    Twitter followers of The Storm also claimed that a man named Sergei Millian, a possible source behind the dossier, was killed on the plane. There was no Sergei Millian on the passenger list.

    Nonetheless, the conspiracy theory spread:

    • On 4chan's “politically incorrect” message board (commonly referred to as /pol/), users referred to tweets that directly cited 4chan posts from “Q” to claim the crash was “a hit” on Ivanov.

    • Multiple YouTube videos also popped up that directly cited QAnon to push the claim, with one saying “Q put out” “a clue” linking the event to Uranium One.

    • Reddit users cited the YouTube videos on the subreddit The_Donald and on another subreddit dedicated to conspiracy theories, both of which had already been trying to connect the crash to Uranium One.

    Another subreddit called “CBTS” (Calm Before The Storm), which is established around The Storm conspiracy theory, also pushed the false claim.

    Multiple highly dubious websites also began pushing the new conspiracy theory. Some websites and figures who pushed the claim, such as Puppet String News and white nationalist Hal Turner (who previously published a made-up story about Hurricane Irma), did not reference The Storm. But fake news website Neon Nettle cited a tweet that referenced The Storm conspiracy theory. Fake news website YouNewsWire also published multiple pieces pushing the false claim.

    Jerome Corsi of conspiracy theory website Infowars subsequently picked up the claim, likely thanks to the followers of The Storm. Corsi, who Infowars had announced in January would be tracking The Storm, said that the allegation had “broke earlier this morning” and “QAnon picked up on it very quickly.” Corsi’s claim was in turn shared on Reddit.

    The conspiracy theory then moved past the fringes of the internet into more mainstream venues. Multiple talk radio stations picked up the claim on January 12. A conservative New Hampshire host on WNTK-FM, Keith Hanson, asked another person on the air if he had “heard about” the Ivanov allegation that was “showing up on certain websites” and that it “wouldn’t surprise” him if the claim was accurate, later adding that although the claim was “not vetted,” “a number of people … have sent me little snippets on this thing,” so he wanted to share it. A conservative South Carolina host on WYRD-FM, Bob McLain, also said that the crash “apparently killed a CFO of Uranium One.” On February 13, a conservative host on New York’s WNYM-AM, Joe Piscopo (who used to be a cast member on Saturday Night Live), supported a caller citing “the passenger manifest that I’ve seen online” before a co-host jumped in to note that Corsi reported the claim and it had been “completely discredited.” And on the same day, conservative North Dakota host Dennis Lindahl on KGTO-AM’s The Morning Lowdown said there were “conversations on the backchannels that I’m reading that a few executives that had interaction on Uranium One were on that plane.”

    The speed with which the false claim has spread shows the potency of The Storm conspiracy theory, which has already been invoked to push false claims around all kinds of events, such as the fire at Trump Tower in early January and a fire at the estate of Bill and Hillary Clinton that same month. Even if people pushing the false narrative around the plane crash don’t mention The Storm conspiracy theory directly, the content of their claims show that the conspiracy theory’s followers are breaking through the internet’s fringes into more mainstream discourse.

  • Anti-abortion group Operation Rescue has become fully “red-pilled” by an 8chan conspiracy theory

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    It was concerning enough when in January 2018, the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue encouraged followers to look into the allegations of an anonymous conspiracy theorist on the 8chan message board. Now, it appears that Operation Rescue, with its history of violent rhetoric and harassment, has become fully converted and is seeking to cultivate anti-abortion followers into believers in a far-right conspiracy theory.

    Headed by longtime extremists Troy Newman and Cheryl Sullenger -- the latter has served time for conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic -- Operation Rescue has been described as an organization dedicated to “shut[ting] down abortion clinics by systematically harassing their employees into quitting.” Operation Rescue initially signaled that they’d been “red-pilled” -- a term popularized by the “alt-right” to refer to an ideological conversion to “seeing the world as it really is” -- in a January 7 press release, in which the group signal-boosted a series of posts from a far-right community on 8chan.

    8chan is a message board system -- similar to 4chan and Reddit -- that enables users to engage in discussions anonymously. This has made such communities hotbeds of racist commentary, misogyny, and politically motivated harassment campaigns, in addition to serving as fertile ground for those in the so-called “alt-right” or white nationalist movement. As Mother Jones’ Mariah Blake explained, “men’s rights forums on sites like 4chan and Reddit are awash in misogyny and anti-feminist vitriol” -- a trend that has turned such sites into what Vox’s Aja Romano called a “gateway drug” that leads people into the “alt-right.” 

    In the January 7 release, Operation Rescue focused on an 8chan conspiracy theory called “The Storm” in which a user who refers to himself as “Q” claims to be a “high-level government insider” secretly sharing clues to “inform the public about POTUS’s master plan to stage a countercoup against members of the deep state.” The scope of the conspiracy theory has expanded to encompass all types of events, ranging from a fire at Trump Tower to a train accident involving Republican members of Congress. Most recently, followers of The Storm have joined a campaign calling for the release of a four-page classified memo drafted by House intelligence committee Republicans that allegedly shows illicit behavior by the FBI and Justice Department during the early phases of investigating connections between Trump associates and Russia -- a campaign organized around the Twitter hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo. According to The Daily Beast, right-wing figures as well as online message board communities “have since turned the hashtag into a rallying cry, imploring fans to tweet the hashtag.” On February 2, the President Donald Trump authorized the release of the memo, despite explicit warnings from the FBI about the veracity of its contents.

    In the January 7 press release, Operation Rescue acknowledged that "Q" is a conspiracy theorist -- or at least inspires conspiracy theories. Since then, the social media activity of the group and its leadership indicates that they’ve gone full Sean Hannity. Between January 7 and February 12, both Sullenger’s Twitter account and the official Operation Rescue account have increased their engagements with accounts promoting #ReleaseTheMemo and related hashtags (#Qanon, #TheGreatAwakening, #FollowTheWhiteRabbit). In the past month alone, Sullenger’s changed her account handle to “CherylS sez #ReleaseTheMemo” and followed a number of right-wing media personalities’ accounts, including Alex Jones, Jerome Corsi, Paul Joseph Watson, Mike Cernovich, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Mark Levin, and Sara Carter.

    Since January 2018, Sullenger and Operation Rescue’s social media accounts have demonstrated a precipitous slide into full-embrace of The Storm and #ReleaseTheMemo:

    Cheryl Sullenger

    • January 10 -- Sullenger tweeted a National Review article and included the hashtag #Qanon.

    • January 16 & 17 -- Operation Rescue sent a press release, calling on followers to participate in the “Mother of All Tweet Storms.” According to the release, followers of The Storm were “asked to create memes that express truths that have been misreported or ignored by the Main Stream Media (MSM) and call them out for their dishonest reporting.” Operation Rescue characterized the event as “a tweet war of Biblical proportions with folks joined together in a concerted effort to break through to the masses with the truth about governmental corruption, human trafficking, and even Planned Parenthood.” The Operation Rescue Twitter account then spent the better part of January 17 tweeting a variety of memes attacking Planned Parenthood and promoting hashtags related to The Storm.

    • January 22 -- Sullenger tweeted #ReleaseTheMemo and included a screenshot from Fox News’ Hannity, in which host Sean Hannity was talking about it. Hannity has been an active promoter of so-called “deep state” conspiracy theories.

    • January 24 -- Sullenger reacted to news that Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards is leaving the organization sometime in 2018, by tweeting multiple memes of Richards depicted in prison with the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo. The official Operation Rescue account also tweeted a press release about Richards’ departure using the hashtags #ReleaseTheMemo and #FollowtheWhiteRabbit. Sullenger also tweeted a link to a YouTube video about #Qanon, calling it, “Must watch!” In addition to Sullenger’s Twitter activity, the Operation Rescue account also liked a tweet about #ReleaseTheMemo.

    • January 27 -- Sullenger retweeted a Jerome Corsi tweet about #ReleaseTheMemo, featuring a story from far-right blog The Gateway Pundit about Hannity and the memo. Sullenger additionally tweeted an explainer video about The Storm, writing, “#TheStorm is real. #ReleaseTheMemo.” Sullenger also tweeted @realDonaldTrump, asking him to read the memo during the State of the Union address because “Americans need to know the #truth.” Meanwhile, The Operation Rescue account liked a tweet about #GreatAwakening and #QAnon.

    • January 28 -- Sullenger attacked Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) -- a frequent right-wing target -- on Twitter, citing a clip from Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight. This tweet included the hashtags #GreatAwakening and #ReleaseTheMemo. In addition to her own tweet, Sullenger also retweeted content from Jerome Corsi and Hannity about #ReleaseTheMemo.

    • January 29 -- Sullenger quote-tweeted a claim from Corsi about the memo, writing that she would not “be happy until we can all see the memo with our own eyes.” In addition, Sullenger also tweeted about the resignations of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Democratic National Committee CEO Jess O’Connell from their positions -- linking each to #ReleaseTheMemo. Notably, Sullenger shared an image from an account (@Thomas1774Paine) about the memo supposedly being delivered to the White House -- writing in a public post on her Facebook that “we are on the brink of history!” The Operation Rescue Twitter account retweeted a user, @LadyStephC, calling the memo “the tip of the iceberg” and including a number of hashtags related to The Storm.

    • January 31 -- After a train crash involving Republican members of Congress, Sullenger retweeted a conspiracy theory from Corsi that suggested the accident was part of a “deep state” plot to stop the Republicans from releasing the memo.

    • February 1 -- Sullenger tweeted several memes linked to the #ReleaseTheMemo campaign, suggesting that if the memo is released some Democratic politicians will go to jail. Another meme that she tweeted showed "Q" as a revolutionary standing up to the "deep state" and implied the only way Americans would be "free" is by following him. Sullenger retweeted “alt-right” troll Jack Posobiec, in addition to tweeting a screenshot of an 8chan message board comment (allegedly from “Q”) and including the hashtags #ReleaseTheMemo and #Qanon.

    • February 2 & 3 -- Retweeting a comment from Trump’s Twitter account about opposition research firm Fusion GPS, Sullenger argued that the same firm had “issued fake ‘forensic analysis’” in order to “cover up [Planned Parenthood]'s illegal baby parts trafficking” -- referring to a debunked allegation from the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress. In her tweet, Sullenger included the hashtags #ReleaseTheMemo and #ThesePeopleAreSick. Sullenger also retweeted right-wing media personality Mark Levin. After the release of the disputed memo, Sullenger retweeted several of Corsi's tweets hyping allegations of widespread wrongdoing by government entities. On February 3, Sullenger retweeted Trump claiming that the memo "totally vindicates" him.

    • February 4 -- Sullenger tweeted a video alleging that Super Bowl LII attendees were at risk of being targeted by terrorists, commenting, "Better safe than sorry!" For good measure, Sullenger also tweeted a Life News article about Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards calling her "evil" and using the hashtags #LockHerUp, #AbortionIsMurder, and #GreatAwakening. 

    • February 5 -- Retweeting an account that previously shared screenshots from 8chan, Sullenger commented that both Clinton and Planned Parenthood "both must pay for crimes." Sullenger also shared a press release published by Operation Rescue further connecting the memo to the organization's typical talking points about Planned Parenthood. 

    Troy Newman

    Throughout much of this timeline, the social media accounts of Troy Newman did not engage as often with topics related to The Storm, #ReleaseTheMemo, or even right-wing media personalities. However, on January 31, a public post on Newman’s Facebook page directed followers to what appears to be a conspiracy theory blog for a man named Jim Stone.

    The site seems to house blog posts about a number of conspiracy theories, including one about an alleged plot by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to smuggle a gun into the State of the Union and assassinate Trump:

    Among other extreme conspiracy theories, Stone claimed the January 31 train accident occurred because Republican members of Congress had “received death threats over the memo, and were heading to a safe place when they were stopped by a staged ‘accident’”:

    Perhaps the most outlandish conspiracy theory of all: "If Trump gets killed, they can produce a fake Trump and have him say whatever they need him to say in real time." The blog continued that this technology had been used "with Hillary [Clinton] during the campaign" and that it was "critical information you cannot skip seeing": 

    After the memo was released on February 2, Newman tweeted and posted on Facebook, wondering if it was "too early to call this an attempted coup" against Trump. 

    One thing is certain: If Sullenger and other members of Operation Rescue have been fully “red-pilled,” they are not only exposing their audience to a wellspring of conspiracy theories, but also potentially becoming further radicalized themselves. And if exposure to rapidly misogynist online communities is truly a “gateway drug,” as Romano warned, the cross-pollination between these 8chan conspiracy theorists and anti-abortion extremists is an incredibly dangerous prospect.

  • Far-right figures are saying the deep state is responsible for the stock market crash

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Far-right media figures are claiming that yesterday’s historic drop in the stock market is part of a deep state plot to destroy Trump and that Trump is “hitting back.” The claim began with conspiracy theorist radio host Michael Savage, who said on his show yesterday that the deep state is “taking the market down” following Trump’s State of the Union (SOTU) address because it is trying to “destroy [Trump] where he is strongest.” Infowars then pushed Savage’s conspiracy theory, comparing it with with Alex Jones’ conspiracy theory from 2017 in which he claimed that “globalists” would cause a stock market crash and blame it on Trump. The Gateway Pundit also promoted Savage’s claims in an article that the website’s founder Jim Hoft tweeted.

    Rebel TV’s John Cardillo also claimed that the Federal Reserve was “purposefully tanking the markets,” and Alex Jones suggested the drop could be “a false flag by the big banks.” Infowars’ Jerome Corsi tweeted an article from Zero Hedge, a website known for publishing conspiracy theories, about Trump's legal team's support for a second special counsel to "probe" FBI and the Justice Department, to claim that Trump was hitting back against the deep state which had crashed the stock markets. Corsi put the hashtag #QAnon in his tweet, a reference to the fringe conspiracy theory “The Storm.”

    From the February 5 edition of Savage Nation:

    MICHAEL SAVAGE (HOST): They’re trying to destroy Trump’s strongest card which is the economy. Mueller has gone nowhere with his fake Russia investigation. Trump’s stirring SOTU speech last week was so great that even CBS admitted 75 percent of the people who watched it approved of it and loved it. So what happened right afterwards? The establishment, meaning the deep state, call it whatever you want, went into overdrive to destroy Trump, or try to destroy him where he is strongest because they couldn’t get him where they thought he was weakest. And so they’re taking the market down. They’re trying to hurt you. They are the enemies of the average American. Make no mistake about it, they’re going for you. These people are so evil and so power drunk, that they burn the nation to the ground rather than let Donald Trump live another day in office.

  • “The Storm,” the deep state, and antifa: Pro-Trump media are full of conspiracy theories about today’s train accident

    ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ & NICK FERNANDEZ

    After a charter train that was carrying Republican members of Congress collided with a stalled dump truck that was stuck on the train tracks in western Virginia, pro-Trump media outlets immediately pushed various conspiracy theories about the accident, including suggesting that “the deep state” was “trying to send a message” to Republican members of Congress. Fake news websites also pushed a conspiracy theory linking the potential release of the classified memo written by the Republican members of the House intelligence committee with the timing of the train crash that they claim was enacted by the “deep state.”

  • Infowars fully embraces “The Storm,” a conspiracy theory called “the new Pizzagate”

    The outlet is now working directly with online message boards to promote the conspiracy theory that Trump is staging a counter-cabal against the “deep state” officials in government

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Infowars announced that its chief Washington correspondent and notorious crackpot Jerome Corsi has begun “playing a more central role” in pushing a fringe online message board conspiracy theory known as “The Storm,” entrenching itself deeper into the tinfoil hat territory the site usually inhabits.

    Corsi has jumped on board of “The Storm” train, a conspiracy theory that emerged from 4chan and 8chan, two online message boards that serve as hubs for the far-right and “alt-right” users and is reportedly “working directly” with the moderators of 8chan’s The Storm forum.

    As reported by New York magazine’s Paris Martineau, this new conspiracy theory claims that President Donald Trump’s cryptic October 2017 comment about the “calm before the storm” was a hint at a master plan Trump is setting in motion to kneecap members of the “deep state.” According to Martineau, the theory claims former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain among many others will be arrested, calls the Steele dossier a total fabrication, and argues that “the Las Vegas massacre was most definitely an inside job connected to the Saudi-Clinton cabal.”

    Over the course of 2017, right-wing media figures have been pushing the narrative that “deep state” operatives are attempting to remove Trump from power and that the ongoing probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election campaign is an evidence of this supposed coup.

    An anonymous poster “Q” seems to have set “The Storm” in motion. “Q,” who claims to be a “high-level government insider with Q clearance,” began posting “intel drops” (or crumbs) on 4chan meant to leave clues to inform the public of Trump’s plan.

    “The Storm” has now spread beyond message boards to gain traction on Twitter under the #qanon and #thestorm hashtags and through YouTube videos which currently have hundreds of thousands of views.

    Corsi, who was one of the loudest voices spreading the lie that former President Obama wasn’t born in the United States, has a penchant for pushing conspiracy theories, ranging from wild speculation about Obama’s sexual orientation to claiming that Adolf Hitler escaped Germany with the help of Allen Dulles, who would later become the CIA director. Corsi has now written “decode” analyses of the messages “Q” has posted on message boards, reaching unfounded conclusions and assigning meaning to wildly ambiguous claims, breathing new life into the conspiracy theory.

    Pro-Trump troll and self-appointed “citizen journalist” Liz Crokin has expanded on the 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.

    By highlighting Corsi’s “central role” in pushing an insane conspiracy theory, Infowars has once again proven that there are no limits to the outlet's shilling for Trump even if it means championing a conspiracy theory called “the new Pizzagate -- only worse.”

  • Far-right media seize on flawed Bloomberg article to push bogus "deep state" theories

    Bloomberg suggested that climate scientists doing their jobs are trying to "undermine" Trump

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A Bloomberg article unfairly portrayed government employees who are producing accurate climate change reports as "quietly working to undermine Trump's agenda." Conspiracy theorists and right-wing media figures quickly pounced on the article as evidence for their paranoid "deep state" theories.

    Bloomberg piece claimed that "bureaucrats" working on climate reports are trying to "obstruct" the president

    The December 18 Bloomberg article argued that "some of the roughly two million career staff [in the federal government] have found ways to obstruct, slow down or simply ignore their new leader, the president." The first and most prominent example in the article involved government reports on climate change:

    In report after report following Donald Trump’s election, career staffers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] kept saying the same thing: climate change is real, serious and man-made.

    That’s surprising because Trump has called global warming a hoax. His political appointees at the Commerce Department, which oversees NOAA, have complained to its staff, but stopped short of demanding changes or altering the findings. So the reports, blog posts and public updates kept flowing. The bureaucrats won.

    By saying that NOAA employees "won," Bloomberg painted them as political operatives engaging in partisan warfare instead of as civil servants employing science in the public interest. The article later acknowledged that NOAA staffers are right on the substance, but still mischaracterized their actions:

    As the case of NOAA illustrates, the most radical example of bureaucratic resistance may also be the simplest: continuing to issue information or reports that are factually accurate, even when they clash with the administration’s policies.

    Issuing factually accurate information to the public should not be characterized as "radical." It should be characterized as people doing their jobs correctly.

    The article also highlights activities by employees at agencies like the State Department and the General Services Administration (GSA), some of whom seem to be trying to make their Obama-era projects align better with Trump-era priorities. The GSA, for example, is now promoting its initiative to buy electric vehicles on economic grounds rather than environmental ones. This, though, is hardly nefarious stuff.

    Right-wing media spun Bloomberg article as evidence for their conspiracy theories

    But while the Bloomberg article doesn't offer much evidence to support its thesis of federal employees mounting "radical … resistance" to Trump, its framing has been enough to get right-wingers and conspiracy theorists excited. They're claiming it supports their belief that career government employees are secretly sabotaging President Trump.

    Infowars, the website run by notorious conspiracy theorist and fake-news disseminator Alex Jones, is touting the story. So is Infowars' D.C. bureau chief:

    The Conservative Daily Post and Before It's News, both of which are known to be fake-news purveyors, wrote up the Bloomberg article on their websites. Drudge Report, the conservative blog Instapundit, and the far-right site American Action News are promoting it too.

    Conservative media figures have also joined in to amplify the story, including a contributor to the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal website and the editor of the Washington Free Beacon:

    Within the Bloomberg news organization itself, there seems to be disagreement about whether or not the article supports "deep state" theories.

    Aaron Rutkoff, a senior editor at Bloomberg, says no:

    But Alex Wayne, Bloomberg Business' White House editor, says yes:

    When the reporting of basic scientific facts is considered radical and political, then we're in trouble.

    The magazine Scientific American warned about the politicization of science in an editorial published during the 2016 presidential campaign: "A respect for evidence is not just a part of the national character. It goes to the heart of the country's particular brand of democratic government. When the founding fathers, including Benjamin Franklin, scientist and inventor, wrote arguably the most important line in the Declaration of Independence—'We hold these truths to be self-evident'—they were asserting the fledgling nation's grounding in the primacy of reason based on evidence."

    Journalists, of all people, should hold fast to the idea that reporting facts is not an extreme or ideological act. It's simply a necessary one.

  • Far-right conspiracy theory: The CIA hacked a Hawaii database to forge Obama’s birth certificate

    Conspiracy theory reaches local talk radio and fake news websites

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    Some local talk radio shows and fake news websites are pushing a new conspiracy theory from Infowars that the CIA hacked into a Hawaii state government database to forge former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. One of the radio hosts pushing the conspiracy theory has previously been cited as an analyst on a local ABC affiliate.

    On December 12, Jerome Corsi of the conspiracy theory outlet Infowars claimed that investigators for former Maricopa County, AZ, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, headed by his chief investigator Michael Zullo, had found “evidence that the CIA and or other government entities illegally hacked into Hawaii Department of Health records searching for” Obama’s records. (President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio in August after he was charged with criminal contempt because of his treatment of undocumented immigrants.) Corsi, who has been a chief figure of the birther movement, added that the “evidence” “strongly suggests the CIA played a role in the forgery” of Obama’s birth certificate.

    Some local talk radio stations have hyped Infowars’ report. New Orleans talk radio host Jeff Crouere -- a Townhall writer who has been featured as a “political analyst” on ABC’s New Orleans affiliate WGNO -- called Corsi’s report a “bombshell” on his radio program (which is carried by a station affiliated with Louisiana Public Broadcasting) and said, “I’ve said from the beginning that birth certificate [Obama] released was a fraud.”

    Some stations have invited Corsi and Zullo as guests on different radio shows and allowed them to push the extremely dubious allegation. Corsi hyped his report on Weekend Wake Up with Chuck and Julie on Denver, CO, radio station KNUS, where Corsi said that the “CIA played a major role in, I believe, creating” Obama’s long-form birth certificate that was released in 2011. Corsi also promoted the conspiracy theory on The Peter Boyles Show, which also airs on KNUS. In response to Corsi’s “report,” Boyles said that Obama’s “social security number is fraudulent” (Boyles has previously allowed guests to push birtherism on his program). Zullo spoke about the article on the show Your Turn on Northwest Florida radio station WEBY, where the host called the report a “bombshell” that’s “shaking the Earth” and lauded Infowars.

    Additionally, multiple fake news websites have lauded the report, with some of them also calling it a “bombshell” and claiming that it showed the CIA, “possibly with the help of other government agencies, forged Obama’s documentation.” Some of these fake news websites also used their verified Facebook pages to push the conspiracy theory. The Infowars report was also hyped on the pro-Trump subreddit “/r/The_Donald,” a conduit for conspiracy theories.

    This is not the first time this year that an Infowars conspiracy theory citing Arpaio has reverberated in the right-wing echo chamber with the help of fake news websites. In March, the outlet, trying to back Trump’s false claim that Obama illegally wiretapped Trump Tower, asserted that Arpaio had documents showing that Trump and his family had been surveilled by the National Security Agency (NSA) for years. That report subsequently spread to other far-right outlets and fake news websites, along with The Drudge Report.

  • Gateway Pundit’s idiotic new defense of Roy Moore: His accuser’s body language was fake

    Moore’s campaign is also invoking one of the blog’s conspiracy theories that a signature was forged

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Saraho Wasko / Media Matters

    The Gateway Pundit, a far-right blog that regularly traffics in false claims, continues to sink to new lows in an effort to defend embattled Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. The blog is now claiming that the body language of a woman who accused Moore of attempted rape was fake and thus she was lying about him.

    Moore has come under intense pressure following a November 9 Washington Post report that multiple women say he engaged in sexual conduct with them when they were teenagers, including Leigh Corfman, who was 14 at the time. On November 13, another women, Beverly Young Nelson, reported that Moore tried to rape her when she was 16. She also shared a signature from Moore in her yearbook from that year.

    The next day, The Gateway Pundit published a piece, headlined “‘This is Fake!’: Body Language Expert Says Judge Moore Accuser Was ‘Acting…Not a Real Victim.’” The article cited a “body language expert” named “Bombard” who analyzed Nelson’s “facial expressions and vocal discrepancies” in a clip on YouTube and concluded that she “conveyed signs of deception" and was “'acting.'” In the clip, “Bombard” says that Nelson had suspicious “eye movement” -- because she looked down while speaking -- and was engaged in “rehearsed verbal communication.” This analysis is self-evidently ridiculous because Nelson was apparently reading from a pre-prepared statement, which is a common practice at press conferences.

    Jerome Corsi of conspiracy theory outlet Infowars, pro-Trump radio host Bill Mitchell, conservative author Dinesh D’Souza, and right-wing radio host Wayne Dupree all subsequently promoted the Gateway Pundit article or YouTube clip. Far-right friendly One America News Network also reported on supposed body language experts questioning the testimony, seemingly referencing the same clip. Multiple fake news websites picked up the claim as well, lauding the YouTube video for “expos[ing] the truth” about Nelson and showing that she was “lying,” as did Reddit’s “r/The_Donald,” a message board that has previously helped push conspiracy theories.

    This isn’t the first conspiracy theory Gateway Pundit has pushed in order to “go full truther on the Moore accusations,” as noted by The Hill’s Will Sommer. The blog also cited a random and now-discredited Twitter account claiming that a “family friend” told the account owner’s wife that “a WAPO reporter named Beth offered her 1000$ to accuse Roy Moore.” One America News Network also pushed the claim, and Roy Moore’s wife, Kayla Moore, posted it on her Facebook page. The blog also tried to discredit Nelson by citing an unreliable Twitter account in order to claim that the signature Nelson had from Moore was forged (a claim Kayla Moore also posted on Facebook and One America News pushed as well). Moore’s attorney Trenton Garmon, speaking on MSNBC, also seemed to allude to the Gateway Pundit conspiracy theory, saying he had an “expert that is going to confirm” that the signature was a forgery.

    Gateway Pundit is a far-right-connected blog that has a history of regularly pushing misinformation. Nevertheless, it was granted White House press credentials in February, though it was denied a request for a congressional press pass, which it has appealed. In October, the blog cited 4chan’s “politically incorrect” (/pol/) message board to accuse the wrong man of carrying out the Las Vegas mass shooting -- and that is just one of the several times the site has blamed the wrong person for killings. In May, it hyped forged documents uploaded onto 4chan alleging that then-French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron was evading taxes. And in January, the site falsely accused a Washington Post reporter of taking photos of now-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s personal notes at his confirmation hearing, spurring online harassment. Despite Gateway Pundit’s checkered history, both President Donald Trump and his favorite morning show, Fox & Friends, have cited the blog.

    UPDATE: During a press conference on November 15, Moore’s attorney demanded that Nelson allow a handwriting expert to review the signature in her yearbook, seeming to support Gateway Pundit’s conspiracy theory that it was a forgery.

  • How pro-Trump media are attacking Moore's accusers: claiming a forged yearbook signature, suggesting bribery, and quibbling over a phone's location

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore has come under fire following accusations that he attempted to rape a teenager and engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with other teens, including a then-14-year-old minor. In order to defend Moore, right-wing and far-right media that have also been staunch supporters of President Donald Trump have resorted to pushing conspiracy theories -- some based on discredited Twitter accounts -- including suggesting that Moore’s signature on the yearbook of one of the accusers is forged and questioning the location of a phone another accuser said she used to speak to Moore. Moore’s wife has also pushed some of the conspiratorial claims on Facebook.

    Pushing conspiracy theories

    When Beverly Young Nelson, the woman who said Moore tried to rape her in 1977, showed the media a message signed “Roy Moore, D.A.” in her yearbook from that year, a conspiracy theory began making the rounds. The far-right and consistently unreliable blog Gateway Pundit claimed that the signature was forged in a piece headlined “IT’S A FAKE.” The website cited Twitter account Thomas Wictor as its source, claiming Wictor is “known for his insightful take on politics.” On the contrary, Wictor has a history of pushing false claims, including helping spread a made-up Puerto Rican trucker strike after Hurricane Maria and sharing a fake Facebook post of fallen soldier La David Johnson’s wife criticizing Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL). Despite Wictor’s poor track record, Gateway Pundit’s highly dubious claim has spread among other pro-Trump media and message boards that have previously helped push conspiracy theories. Roy Moore’s wife, Kayla Moore, also posted the article on her Facebook page.

    Before that, shortly after the The Washington Post published its initial report about Moore, Twitter account @umpire43 dubiously claimed that a “family friend” told his wife that “a WAPO reporter named Beth offered her 1000$ to accuse Roy Moore.” The Gateway Pundit and the conspiracy theory outlet Infowars both picked up the tweet, and from there, numerous fake news websites promoted it, as did the far-right-friendly One America News Network. Kayla Moore also posted a link on Facebook to one of the fake news websites pushing the claim. But the Twitter account that launched the rumor has previously made a similar allegation about two other news outlets, has lied about its own background, and has since deleted many of its tweets.

    Pushing irrelevant or inconsequential stories to try to discredit the accusers

    Many pro-Trump media outlets have also jumped on the tangential point that one of the accusers, Deborah Wesson Gibson, was an interpreter for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and worked with former Vice President Joe Biden at some events. Breitbart, The Gateway Pundit, Infowars, and many fake news websites all jumped on this allegation, and more traditional right-wing media outlets such as Fox News and The Daily Caller hyped it as well.

    Pro-Trump media have also supported a separate effort by Breitbart to discredit the accusers. One Breitbart report claimed that the mother of Leigh Corfman, who was 14 at the time of her encounter with Moore, said that her daughter did not have a phone in her bedroom, though the Post reported that Corfman had spoken with Moore on such a phone. Kayla Moore, The Gateway Pundit and multiple fake news websites promoted Breitbart’s report, which dubiously suggested that Corfman was lying. Another Breitbart report hyped a comment from Corfman’s mother that the Post “worked to convince her daughter to give an interview,” even though the Post had acknowledged that fact in its original report. Gateway Pundit called it “one heck of a revelation,” and fake news website TruthFeed called it a “bombshell.”

    Victim shaming

    Pro-Trump media commentators have also smeared the accusers in other ways. Some have suggested that struggles Corfman faced later in her life meant her accusation was not credible (in fact the Post reported that Corfman hesitated to share her story earlier precisely because she feared her struggles would be used against her). CNN’s Ed Martin suggested that Corfman should not be believed because she had “multiple bankruptcies.” Fox News host Sean Hannity on his radio show said that the accusers could be violating one of the Ten Commandments: “thou shalt not bear false witness.” On the same show, a guest, Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins, said that Corfman “disgust[ed]” her because she “spent 38 years thinking about this before [she] said anything” and was “making women poison to work for.” Additionally, radio host Rush Limbaugh called Corfman a “wacky,” “self-admitted mess of a woman,” and frequent Fox News guest David Wohl called Corfman “basically incorrigible” because she “was suffering from drug addiction, alcohol abuse.” As Post columnist Margaret Sullivan noted, these kinds of smears are exactly why so many women are hesitant to report abuse.

  • Far-right media make up Puerto Rican truck strike to absolve Trump over Hurricane Maria response

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Image credit: PBS NewsHour

    Far-right and fringe media are baselessly claiming that truck drivers in Puerto Rico have gone on strike in order to benefit themselves and sabotage President Donald Trump’s relief efforts after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria. The Teamsters Union issued a press release on October 2 denouncing the hoax.

    Since Maria hit Puerto Rico in late September, Trump and his administration have come under fire for their response to the hurricane, which caused widespread damage and left thousands of people without food and water. On September 30, Trump attacked San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz for her “poor leadership” after she criticized the acting secretary of homeland security for calling the response in Puerto Rico a "good news story."

    On September 28, as the criticism of Trump and the highest levels of his adminstration mounted, a YouTube user uploaded a video titled “SMOKING GUN, Puerto Rican Truck Union Leader Sabotaging Hurricane relief Miami Trump Volunteers.” As others started sharing the video on social media, Twitter personality Kambree Kawahine Koa wrote, “Did mayor of San Juan mention union workers at port are on STRIKE & demanding money first before distributing supplies off boat?” Koa claimed she had a “source” for her allegation, but refused to name him. On September 30, fringe blog Conservative Treehouse cited, among others, Koa and another YouTube clip of the same union official to claim that the island’s Teamsters union was “refusing to move” hurricane aid and was “us[ing] Hurricane Maria as contract leverage.” The blog also posted a text-based image that claimed “the trucker’s union went on STRIKE.”

    The contents of Conservative Treehouse’s blog post, including the tweets it cited, spread widely among the fringe, and were published by websites such as USSA News and pro-Trump blog The Gateway Pundit. The Gateway Pundit called the story a “smoking gun,” although the next day it claimed the reports were “unconfirmed.” In turn, these reports also spread, reaching 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board, commonly referred to as “/pol/,” and Reddit forum “r/The_Donald,” both of which have previously helped far-right trolls and fake news purveyors spread misinformation. Jerome Corsi of conspiracy theory outlet Infowars and Newsmax’s Wayne Allyn Root also pushed the Gateway Pundit story on social media. Multiple fake news purveyors, including RedStateWatcher, also published the allegations and the original YouTube clip. Fake news purveyor America’s Freedom Fighters claimed Democrats were “leveraging their power with the Teamsters Union to halt progress so the Democrat Mayor can get on TV and blast the President over a failed recovery effort.” Fake news purveyor TruthFeed claimed that with these “multiple bombshell reports,” “the anti-Trump mayor of San Juan has been proved to be a pathetic political hack and liar.” Infowars accused “anti-Trump forces” of “using disgruntled Puerto Rican truck drivers as tools of obstruction to hinder Trump’s efforts to deliver aid and supplies to the storm-ravaged country.”

    The YouTube clip from which these claims originated did not in fact show the union leader saying that the union workers were on strike. While he did criticize Puerto Rico’s governor, he was actually explaining that a law (along with road conditions) prevented truck drivers from driving. Indeed, CNN reported on September 30 that the Teamsters were “working together to recruit truckers to travel to Puerto Rico and help distribute a stockpile of relief supplies.” And on October 2 the Teamsters weighed in, confirming that the union "denounces reports from online, anti-union sources that stated Teamster truck drivers in Puerto Rico have refused to move supplies," calling such reports "false" and without "basis in fact."

    The baseless claim is yet another example of fringe media repeatedly working together to spread dubious claims, conspiracy theories, and lies, while attacking perceived enemies of Trump.

    UPDATE: On October 3, Trump appeared to allude to the false claim as he was leaving to tour the damage in Puerto Rico, telling reporters, “We need their truck drivers. Their drivers have to start driving trucks. We have to do that. So at a local level they have to give us more help.”

  • Right-wing and fringe media falsely claim legal Manafort wiretap vindicates Trump's illegal-wiretap lie

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Right-wing and fringe media are claiming yet again that President Donald Trump was correct when he accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping in Trump Tower, now arguing that a legal wiretap targeted at former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is proof of Trump’s claim. However, said wiretap was pursuant to a warrant and targeted at Manafort, not Trump. This is at least the fifth time in six months right-wing media has attempted to validate Trump’s lie.

  • Right-wing media's new voter fraud "proof" is even more asinine than usual

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Right-wing and fringe media outlets and figures, including Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the Trump administration’s election integrity commission, are citing a Washington Times article about several thousand New Hampshire voters using out-of-state driver’s licenses to register to vote to bolster conservative claims of fraud and say that Republicans may have actually won the state. But journalists and election experts shot down these claims of voter fraud and explained that New Hampshire’s voter ID law permits out-of-state driver’s licenses to be used as proof of identity when voting, an option that college students often exercise.

  • Joe Arpaio thanks conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for getting his story to Donald Trump, who is reportedly poised to pardon the former sheriff

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio appeared on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ show to thank Jones, his staff, and Roger Stone for influencing President Donald Trump into potentially issuing Arpaio a pardon following his recent criminal conviction.

    A U.S. District Court judge convicted Arpaio of criminal contempt of court in July. He faces up to six months in jail for his refusal to comply with a court order that said he could no longer direct the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office to engage in racially discriminatory practices against Latinos. Arpaio was defeated in his re-election bid for a seventh term in November.

    CNN.com reported today that “the White House has prepared the paperwork for President Trump to pardon former sheriff Joe Arpaio when he makes the final decision to do so.” During an August 22 rally in Arpaio’s home state of Arizona, Trump suggested a pardon was imminent, telling the crowd, "I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s going to be just fine. Okay? But I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy. Is that okay? All right? But Sheriff Joe can feel good."

    During his August 23 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show, Jones said that he had been told Trump would pardon Arpaio.

    Jones teased an “exclusive” interview with Arpaio and described how his case reached Trump’s desk, claiming it started with Infowars Washington bureau chief Jerome Corsi. According to Jones, “It’s Dr. Corsi writing the articles, and it’s Matt Drudge picked him up, and the president saw it in Matt Drudge’s Twitter feed, and then said, ‘Is this true? I haven’t even heard of this on Fox.’ And he called [Sean] Hannity up, and said, ‘Why aren’t you covering this?’”

    Since at least April, Corsi has been publishing articles advancing Arpaio’s interests. Corsi wrote an Infowars.com piece in June headlined “Why Trump White House and Sessions DOJ must help Sheriff Arpaio.” On August 18, Corsi published an article that said “Infowars.com has learned the White House counsel has prepared, at the request of President Trump, a pardon for former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio that is ready for Trump to sign.”

    Arpaio opened his comments on Jones’ show by saying, “I want to thank you, Alex, and your staff, Jerry Corsi, Roger Stone, for bringing this story out and reaching the president. I supported him from, what, two years ago at the same forum that he did yesterday and I’m with him and I’m with him to the end.”

    Jones floated the prospect of Arpaio joining the Trump administration during the interview, and Arpaio replied that he wasn’t wasn’t looking to join the administration but said, “If he called me, it would be very difficult for me to turn him down because I will do anything to help him out.”

    Corsi, the author of Where's the Birth Certificate?: The Case that Barack Obama is not Eligible to be President, has repeatedly teamed up with Arpaio over the years in an effort to prove the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and had released a “fake” birth certificate.

    Arpaio also backed Trump during his campaign for president. As the Los Angeles Times explained, Arpaio “had introduced Trump in his home state during the campaign, ridden in his plane and formed what Arpaio described as a warm relationship.”

  • Fringe media lash out at “cuck” Pope Francis for message welcoming refugees

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Far-right media figures and outlets attacked Pope Francis after he released a message urging nation-states to give aid and protection to migrants and refugees.

    On August 21, Francis released a message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in which he called on governments to offer “broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally.” According to Francis, countries should seek to integrate migrants and refugees by “granting citizenship free of financial or linguistic requirements, and by offering the possibility of special legalisation to migrants who can claim a long period of residence in the country of arrival.” He also argued that people’s dignity “obliges us to always prioritise personal safety over national security.”

    Far-right figures lashed out at the pope in response. Paul Joseph Watson of the conspiracy theory outlet Infowars called Francis “an evil fraud” who “is helping destroy western civilization.”

    Infowars’ Jerome Corsi called Francis a “Hard-Left socialist Pope” who “ignores Spain terrorism.”

    Far-right vlogger Stefan Molyneux claimed Francis “cares more about Social Justice issues than he does defending Christianity.”

    Fake news purveyors also attacked Francis. Conservative Daily Post said Francis has a “Marxist” agenda and called him a “reckless and foolish man.” Eagle Rising claimed Francis is a “globalist” who “preaches that more rapes and murders in Western nations are a price we must pay to fulfill our obligation to receive more immigrants." TruthFeed wrote in its headline that Francis “Thinks RAPE and TERROR are Just Part of the ‘Refugee Experience.’” And in response to the pope’s message, Conservative Fighters topped its piece with the word “SERIOUSLY?”

    Additionally, forums that have previously helped far-right trolls and fake news purveyors spread misinformation also went after Francis: Some users on Reddit’s “r/The_Donald” called Francis a “cuck Pope” who is a “fucking hypocrite piece of shit,” and users on 4chan’s “politically incorrect” forum (known as “/pol/”) claimed Francis is “the communist pope” and “the antipope.”