Wayne Allyn Root | Media Matters for America

Wayne Allyn Root

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  • Trump-endorsed One America News Network among right-wing amplifiers of Jacob Wohl's attempted smear of Pete Buttigieg

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Far-right network One America News Network and others helped spread a hoax from pro-Trump trolls Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman regarding Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.

    One America News Network has repeatedly pushed conspiracy theories and employs well-known right-wing conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec. President Donald Trump has praised the network, and he regularly watches and cites its programs -- just last week, he pushed a false claim from OANN that the United Kingdom helped the Obama administration spy on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

    On April 29, the network aired a segment about a Medium post purportedly from a man named Hunter Kelly accusing Buttigieg of sexually assaulting him earlier this year.

    Media Matters did not find a segment since then correcting the report.

    The real Kelly has since come forward to deny he wrote the post; he said Wohl and Burkman tricked him after approaching him to ask him to make up the allegation. From The Daily Beast:

    Kelly said that Wohl and his similarly infamous cohort, lobbyist Jack Burkman, booked him a flight from Michigan to Baltimore. From there, they drove to Burkman’s home in Arlington where Wohl showed him a draft of a statement detailing the bogus accusations against Buttigieg.

    Kelly said he expressed concerns about the scheme but Wohl told him to sleep on it. When Kelly woke at around 11 in the morning, Wohl “was already dressed in a suit because he ‘can’t do a Monday if he isn’t in a suit’” and—of more significance—the fabricated statement had been posted to Medium, along with fake Twitter and Gmail accounts in Kelly’s name.

    According to Kelly, Burkman tried to calm his nerves by claiming that he was a “‘star’ and people are eating me up.”

    The trio, according to Kelly, ate Subway sandwiches, during which Kelly continued to express his regrets. Burkman and Wohl tried to calm him down by promising to purchase “any house I wanted” and insisting that his family would “get over it.”

    Wohl has a history of pushing false claims and hoaxes. He told USA Today in February that he aimed to interfere in the Democratic presidential primaries, including with the use of fake social media accounts, and he previously spread a false claim about Democratic candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). The lie about Buttigieg also resembles a similar scheme by Wohl and Burkman involving a fake intelligence service used to fabricate a false sexual assault allegation against special counsel Robert Mueller.

    In addition to OANN, other figures and outlets that pushed Wohl and Burkman’s false claim about Buttigieg include:

    • PJ Media, though the original link has since been updated to note that the story is false

    • Fellow Gateway Pundit writer Cassandra Fairbanks (who has also since deleted her tweet, which was captured via CrowdTangle)

    • Radio host Bill Mitchell

    • Reddit’s “r/The_Donald” subreddit and 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board known as “/pol/”

    According to social media analytics website BuzzSumo, links to articles that pushed the false claim received more than 31,000 Facebook and Twitter shares combined. The original Medium post also received at least 60,000 Facebook engagements.

    Update (5/1/19): OANN has since aired a segment acknowledging that the allegation against Buttigieg was a hoax from Wohl. On the April 30 edition of The Daily Ledger, guest host Alex Salvi talked about Wohl’s “smear effort” without noting that his own network had pushed the same allegation a day earlier, mocklingly saying, “I mean, we were supposed to believe that Buttigieg announced his candidacy and then immediately went and sexually assaulted someone? It makes no sense.”

  • 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.”

  • Trump parties with a birther who floated protecting schools from mass shooters with armed drones 

    Wayne Allyn Root spent a “magical evening” with Trump, alongside Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera, from whom Trump already echoed a talking point

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On February 17, after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL that left at least 17 students and adults dead, far-right Trump supporter, birther, and conspiracy theorist Wayne Allyn Root tweeted at President Trump that it is “time to consider armed drones at every school in USA”:

    Hours later, Root tweeted about the “amazing night” he had with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

    Wayne Allyn Root is a talk show host and columnist for the Sheldon Adelson-owned Las Vegas Review-Journal who regularly pushes bizarre conspiracy theories. He helped spread fabricated reports of Puerto Rican truck drivers striking in the wake of Hurricane Maria in an attempt to make Trump look bad, claimed that Trump was “being victimized” by violence at his campaign rallies (and claimed media was blaming the victim), and fabricated a Seinfeld quote to attack President Obama, whom he called the “Marxist-in-Chief” and swore was a “foreign exchange student” at Columbia University. Root also pushes racist viewpoints. He claimed that “there’s no difference in when you call someone old versus when you call someone the N-word” and dismissed the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA as “paid actors & infiltrators hired by Soros.” 

    Regarding mass shootings, Root is no better: he claimed a real estate developer’s fine was a bigger story than the Parkland shooting and has repeatedly blamed the Las Vegas massacre on ISIS and/or antifa

    Joining Trump and Root at the “magical evening” at Mar-a-Lago was Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera. As CNN’s Brian Stelter noted on Reliable Sources, Rivera appeared on Fox News on Saturday morning to suggest that the FBI missed tips about the Parkland shooter because of an obsession with the Russia probe. Stelter pointed out that, according to The Washington Post, Rivera “had dinner with President Trump,” and that at 11:00 that same night, Trump tweeted the claim Rivera had shared earlier on Fox News. The claim is, of course, “nonsensical,” as Stelter explained:

    It's clear the president is feeling the heat of Robert Mueller's special counsel, and he's lashing out, implying that the FBI might have failed to stop the shooting because it's too obsessed with Russia. Let's be clear: The president is insulting your intelligence. Let's pull up FBI.gov, it says right there, "The FBI employs 35,000 people." 

    There are a small number of FBI agents working on the Mueller probe, but they have nothing to do with the investigation of tips like the one that was missed before the Parkland shooting.

  • 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.”

  • After London terror attack, right-wing media react with predictable Islamophobia

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Right-wing media personalities launched Islamophobic attacks following the June 3 attack in London that left seven people dead and injured dozens, such as calling for the internment of Muslims in "World War II-style internment camps," suggesting the United States “close down the mosques” and claiming the U.K. “let in too many Muslim immigrants.”

  • Conservative Media Are Making Violent Anti-Trump Protests Clinton’s Responsibility

    Clinton Campaign Has Denounced Anti-Trump Violence, While Trump Himself Has Regularly Instigated Violence

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Right-wing media figures are calling on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to condemn violence that broke out at presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign rally, ignoring that her campaign denounced the violence the night of the protests. Conservative media figures previously defended Trump when violent protests broke out at his rallies, despite many major media outlets noting that Trump’s rhetoric has incited and encouraged the violence.

  • Right-Wing Media Help Rehab Donald Trump As The "Victim" Of Violence At His Events

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Right-wing media personalities are helping cover for GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump after a spate of violent clashes at his rallies, painting him as the "victim" of the violence, even as mainstream media figures have called out Trump for encouraging violence. Conservative pundits are also trying to scapegoat MoveOn.org with the bogus claim that the progressive group is responsible for violence at a canceled Trump rally.

  • "Follow The Money" & "Blackmail": Conservative Media Floats Conspiracy Theories To Explain Roberts Vote On Healthcare Case

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS


    Conservative media figures are floating conspiracy theories to explain Chief Justice John Roberts' decision in favor of the Obama administration, reaffirming the Affordable Care Act in the King vs. Burwell case.

    Writing for the 6-3 Supreme Court majority, Roberts' opinion preserves the nationwide tax credits in the health care law that assist poor and middle-class people in the purchase of health insurance.

    On his June 25 show, Rush Limbaugh promoted the theory that Roberts -- who in the past has more typically sided with the conservative justices -- had been influenced by outside businesses in order to come to his decision affirming the law.

    Limbaugh highlighted a link on the Drudge Report to CNBC, which explained that health care stocks had increased after the decision was announced. He told his listeners to "follow the money," claiming the stock increases were evidence that some in the Republican Party are more responsive to "money people" and "donors" over voters.

    While Limbaugh said "I'm not accusing anybody of anything," he also argued that "when you follow the money, a lot of questions that seem unanswerable become clear." He accused Chief Justice Roberts of rewriting and interpreting the Affordable Care Act "outside the bounds of law" in order to come to his desired conclusion.

    Limbaugh said "there's a clear benefit to certain people" resulting from the Supreme Court decision. Rhetorically asking himself if "moneyed interests" could influence a Supreme Court justice, Limbaugh said, "I don't know" but added that it was "obvious the law was not used in rendering this decision."

    Limbaugh also characterized the court's decision as "maybe even an economic opinion," but not a legal one.

    Meanwhile, writing at Glenn Beck's news website, The Blaze, occasional FoxNews.com opinion columnist (and conspiracy theorist) Wayne Allyn Root promoted another conspiracy about the decision. Root asked, "Has Supreme Court Justice John Roberts been blackmailed or intimidated?"

    Root went on to ask, "Is it impossible to believe that Obama and his socialist cabal that learned from Saul Alinsky that 'the ends justify the means' would hold something over a Supreme Court justice's head?"

    Root noted, "It's time to assume the worst of this government ... All it takes to destroy America and pass Obama's agenda is to control a few key powerful positions in Washington, D.C."

    He then laid out the scenario of how the purported blackmail would go down: "They threaten to expose something terrible like an affair, or corruption, or malfeasance, or immorality that would shock the nation, ruin their career, destroy their legacy, cost their marriage, destroy their relationship with their children and leave them unemployable by any respectable law firm or lobbyist."

    Root concluded, "Republicans are being blackmailed, intimidated, extorted and bribed. That explains Justice Roberts and the Supremes ruling against the American People again," darkly adding, "The Obama Crime Family is in charge."

  • Self-Proclaimed Non-Birther Hannity Promotes Another Birther-Related Conspiracy

    Blog ››› ››› TERRY KREPEL

    For someone who claims to not be a birther, Sean Hannity sure loves to promote birther conspiracies. He did so again today on his Fox News show by giving a platform to the birther-friendly claim that Obama enrolled at Columbia University as a "foreign exchange student."

    Hannity's guest was Wayne Allyn Root, who was on to promote his assertion -- which he has been peddling since at least 2008 -- that he never met Obama when they were students at Columbia and that no one Root knew "at Columbia ever met him, ever heard of him, or ever saw him." FactCheck.org has pointed out that it's "absolutely untrue" that nobody has stepped forward to claim they knew Obama as a college student.

    After making the Trump-esque claim that Obama has spent "millions of dollars" to keep his records sealed, Root went on to demand that Obama release his college transcripts, then speculated that the reason he hasn't done so is because he was enrolled as a "foreign exchange student." That claim has its origins in a fake news article sent around as an April Fools' joke.

    Hannity did not challenge any of Root's claims. In fact, he introduced Root as part of his ongoing efforts to "vet the president" and "unveil the president's college years."

    Root is feeding into the same kind of right-wing conspiracy-mongering about Obama's background that produced the birther movement -- indeed, the birthers at WorldNetDaily have promoted Root's claims. Perhaps that's why Hannity added at the end of Root's segment, "I've never been a birther. I thought delaying release of the birth certificate was interesting."

    But Hannity's denial conflicts with his record of promoting birther theories:


  • "It's Not A Lie If You Believe It": Wayne Allyn Root Fabricates Seinfeld Quote To Attack Obama

    Blog ››› ››› MELODY JOHNSON

    In a memorable episode of Seinfeld, Jerry is concerned about taking a lie detector test that he fears will reveal his love for the show Melrose Place. Seeking advice, Jerry turns to his best friend, George Costanza, for tips on how to beat the lie detector.

    George's (predictably bad) advice: "Just remember, it's not a lie if you believe it."

    Perhaps Wayne Allyn Root is just taking George's advice. In his November 7 Washington Times op-ed, Root flat-out invents a Seinfeld scene and then uses it as the basis of his latest attack on President Obama.

    This is the "quote" Root chose from a scene in the classic Seinfeld episode, "The Opposite":

    Remember "Seinfeld"? It was one of the most successful TV series in the history of American television. The show revolved around Jerry Seinfeld and his buddy George Costanza. George was the ultimate loser. Everything he did was a colossal failure. One day that all changed. George was hired by George Steinbrenner and the world champion New York Yankees. He had hit the lottery - overnight he had an important executive job, big salary and beautiful women.

    Seinfeld was in shock. He asked, "George, how did you do it?" "Simple," George said, "One day I woke up and realized I was the world's biggest loser. So I decided to do the opposite of everything I've ever done - every thought, opinion, decision. Now I just do the opposite. And suddenly, I'm a winner!"

    To answer his question: Yes, I remember Seinfeld. Quite well, actually. And aside from reading like the script of a late-night infomercial, nothing about this supposed interaction between Jerry and George ever happened. Allow me to correct you, Mr. Root.

  • The Washington Times' Fun With Photoshop

    ››› ››› MELODY JOHNSON

    The Washington Times published an illustration of President Obama's face on late singer Amy Winehouse's body to illustrate a column by Jeffrey Kuhner that claimed Obama is "injecting the heroin of class warfare and socialism into our national bloodstream," which will lead to "insanity and death." This is just the latest outrageous Photoshopped image or illustration published by the Times to attack Obama.