Here are the extremist figures going to the White House social media summit

Here are the extremist figures going to the White House social media summit

››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

The Trump administration has invited multiple right-wing figures and conservative groups to a “social media summit” slated for July 11. Some of these figures have ties to white nationalists and far-right figures, and others have pushed extremism and conspiracy theories themselves, such as the “QAnon” conspiracy theory, anti-Semitic attacks on George Soros, and smears targeting multiple Democratic presidential candidates.


Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Trump administration to hold social media summit

The White House announced a social media summit. The Trump administration announced that the White House would host a meeting with “digital leaders” that a spokesperson said would “focus on the ‘opportunities and challenges of today’s online environment,’” according to Politico. From the June 26 article:

The White House will host “digital leaders” for a meeting next month amid President Donald Trump's escalating attacks on Google, Facebook and Twitter.

The Social Media Summit set for July 11 will focus on the “opportunities and challenges of today’s online environment,” White House spokesperson Judd Deere said.

The announcement came the same day Trump said the federal government should file lawsuits against some of the tech giants. The president has accused Google, Facebook and Twitter of being biased against him and other conservatives — a charge the companies have repeatedly denied. [Politico, 6/26/19]

Facebook and Twitter were not invited to the summit. According to a July 7 CNN report, “The White House has not extended invitations to Facebook and Twitter to attend its social media summit on Thursday.” [CNN, 7/7/19]

Multiple right-wing figures have been invited to the summit. Individuals and organizations that have said they were invited to the summit or have been confirmed to attend include conservative radio host Bill Mitchell, a right-wing meme maker known online as Carpe Donktum, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, right-wing propaganda YouTube channel Prager University, pro-Trump cartoonist Ben Garrison (whose invitation has since been rescinded), Human Events publisher Will Chamberlain, Media Research Center founder Brent Bozell, conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, Students for Trump co-founder Ryan Fournier, right-wing personality Ali Akbar (also known as Ali Alexander), discredited “citizen journalist” James O’Keefe, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), right-wing commentator Tim Pool, Turning Point USA Chief Creative Officer Benny Johnson, far-right blog The Gateway Pundit founder Jim Hoft, fringe social media platform Minds.com, conservative singer Joy Villa, anti-abortion activist Lila Rose, and YouTube conspiracy theorist Mark Dice. [Twitter, 7/2/19, 7/2/19, 7/5/19, 7/8/19, 7/9/19, 7/10/19, 7/10/19, 7/10/19, 7/10/19, 7/11/19; The Washington Post, 7/2/19; Politico, 7/3/19, 7/8/19, 7/9/19; Vice, 7/10/19; The Daily Beast, 7/11/19]

Trump's White House invited numerous extremist figures to the summit

Bill Mitchell

Mitchell has boosted the “QAnon” conspiracy theory. Mitchell has regularly used his radio show and Twitter account to boost and legitimize “Q,” the central figure of the “QAnon” conspiracy theory, sometimes hosting major QAnon believers. Mitchell claimed on his show, “What Q is trying to do is motivate and encourage the base” by opposing media coverage that is critical of Trump. [Media Matters, 8/2/18; Right Wing Watch, 4/11/19]

Mitchell pushed a hoax smearing Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. Mitchell helped spread a debunked hoax created by right-wing trolls Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman targeting South Bend, IN, Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. [Media Matters, 4/30/19]

Mitchell called for George Soros to be jailed and his assets seized. Last October, Mitchell tweeted that billionaire philanthropist George Soros was “guilty of seditious conspiracy against the United States” and questioned what would happen “if we threw Soros in prison and seized his assets as an enemy of the United States.” [Twitter, 10/6/18]

Carpe Donktum

Donktum, a pro-Trump meme creator, won an Infowars “meme contest” and has been a repeated guest on the conspiracy theory outlet. Donktum is a meme creator whose videos lauding Trump and targeting his perceived enemies have been tweeted by the president’s Twitter account. He also won a 2018 “meme contest” held by the conspiracy theory outlet Infowars, where he has been a regular guest (including an appearance only days before the summit). [The Verge, 2/15/19; Infowars, 7/3/19; Twitter, 7/8/19]

Donktum helps run a media outlet with far-right figures. Donktum has assisted with the creation of the site Culttture, which is reportedly helmed by multiple far-right figures, including fellow summit guest Ali Akbar. [The Daily Dot, 1/22/19]

Donktum regularly posts on subreddit “r/The_Donald,” which has been quarantined for calls to violence. Donktum regularly posts on the subreddit “The_Donald,” which was quarantined by Reddit in June due to multiple posts calling for violence against law enforcement. [Reddit, accessed 7/8/19; Media Matters, 6/26/19]

Donktum has ties to white nationalist Stefan Molyneux. In May, Donktum defended Stefan Molyneux, a YouTube host and white nationalist who has also pushed anti-Semitism, tweeting an image of himself with Molyneux. [Twitter, 5/20/19; Media Matters, 5/20/19; Angry White Men, 7/8/19]

Charlie Kirk

Kirk leads Turning Point USA, an organization with a history of racist incidents. Kirk’s group, which focuses on increasing right-wing political influence on college campuses, has a long history of involvement in racist incidents; for instance, its members have used social media to praise white supremacy and shared “racist memes and rape jokes” in chat messages. [Media Matters, 5/10/19]

Kirk has used social media to push lies and racist, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim messages. On his Twitter feed, Kirk has posted a number of tweets that malign immigrants and Muslims. He also once tweeted a flawed statistic that minimized police brutality against Black people, claiming that “a police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male, than an unarmed black man is to be killed by a police officer.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/16/18; Media Matters, 5/10/19]

Kirk and other TPUSA members have pushed hoaxes and smears originating from believers of the “QAnon” conspiracy theory. In December, Kirk amplified a false claim that protesters in Paris were chanting, “We want Trump.” The claim had originated from a video tweeted out by a pro-QAnon Twitter account, but it was not part of the protests Kirk was referring to -- in fact, the video wasn’t even shot in France. Trump himself retweeted Kirk’s false claim. Additionally, Joel Fischer, a member of Turning Point USA’s advisory council, pushed a baseless claim about Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) originating from believers of the “QAnon” conspiracy theory. [Media Matters, 12/4/18, 12/20/18]

Prager University

Prager University is the viral social media video enterprise of anti-LGBTQ figure Dennis Prager. Prager, a right-wing pundit whose record includes falsely claiming “heterosexual AIDS” is an “entirely manufactured” myth and calling campus rape culture a “gargantuan lie to get votes,” founded his online video outlet Prager University to push right-wing doctrines and content that opposes social justice activism on social media. Despite Prager’s baseless claims that big tech is biased against his content, PragerU’s videos have racked up over 2 billion views since its 2011 founding. [Media Matters, 7/2/14, 10/30/14; Mother Jones, March/April 2018; Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/26/19; PR Newswire, 3/14/19]

In 2018, BuzzFeed News reported on PragerU’s online success and on the site’s use of far-right internet personalities to deliver divisive messages:

Many of the people presenting these topics are establishment, PBS NewsHour–conservative types like [Bret] Stephens, Charles Krauthammer, and Steve Forbes. But more importantly, PragerU’s faculty includes an all-star lineup of internet and media personalities who have made their bones in the Trump era antagonizing the campus left: Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, James Damore, Steven Crowder, Dinesh D’Souza, Christina Sommers, Adam Carolla, Charlie Kirk, and many more. They are, according to PragerU’s founder and namesake, the conservative talk radio host Dennis Prager, “the best thinkers presenting their best ideas.” Their goal: to “undo [the] damage” inflicted by an education system that teaches US students that their country is “a land of inequality and racism” and a place of which to be “ashamed.”

These ideas — each one expressed in a five-minute video with titles like “Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings,” “Black, Millennial, Female and… Conservative,” “Why I Left the Left” and “Why Isn’t Communism as Hated as Nazism?” — have found an enormous, and growing, audience. According to PragerU’s annual report, in 2017 the organization’s videos received 625 million views between Facebook and YouTube, up from 250 million the year before, and 75 million the year before that. Individual videos frequently garner more than a million views; at least 10 PragerU videos gained more than 5 million views in 2017, and at least six gained more than 10 million.

The site is screaming with its own statistics. A massive rolling ticker on the front page shows an ever-increasing view count. (Currently: 1,167,125,834.) Beneath the ticker, demographic information and claims like “86% of viewers reference our videos in political discussions online” cycle through. Stay on the page more than a few seconds and a box pops up asking for your email and phone number. [BuzzFeed News, 3/3/18]

PragerU offers a platform to extremists. PragerU has offered a platform to extremist figures, including anti-Semitic bigot and conspiracy theorist Owen Benjamin and anti-LGBTQ bigot Steven Crowder. In his five-minute rant for PragerU, Crowder took issue with Columbus Day conversations centered on America’s original inhabitants in a video featuring racist cartoon depictions of indigenous people. PragerU is also home to a podcast hosted by former TPUSA Communications Director Candace Owens, who raised her profile through YouTube and Infowars punditry that included dismissing white supremacy and likening Black Lives Matter protesters to animals. She has also defended Adolf Hitler’s actions by saying, “If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine. ... I have no problems with nationalism.” [Media Matters, 2/4/19, 10/8/18, 4/24/18; PragerU, The Candace Owens Show, accessed 7/8/19]

PragerU’s videos often “function as dog whistles to the extreme right.” As documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a number of PragerU’s videos “function as dog whistles to the extreme right” by including anti-immigrant screeds that characterize immigration in Europe as the “suicide” of the continent or claim to explore whether some cultures “are better” than others. As scholar Francesca Tripodi explained to SPLC, some PragerU presenters have “connections” to “white nationalist thinkers” and the PragerU channel is “very blatantly algorithmically connected” to YouTube’s far-right content. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/7/18]

Ben Garrison (no longer invited)

Garrison’s cartoons have been used by white nationalists and far-right figures. A 2017 ThinkProgress profile reported that Garrison’s cartoons -- which regularly laud Trump and target his perceived enemies -- “have helped white nationalists spread their message online by coating the themes of racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny in layers of humor and irony.” The report also noted that his “work regularly features at the top of the popular sub-reddit, r/The_Donald, and has been shared by Mike Cernovich and Julian Assange.” Another profile, from Wired, noted that “his cartoons constantly trend on alt-right social media platforms like Gab.” [ThinkProgress, 9/7/17; Wired, 6/19/17]

Garrison has ties to multiple far-right figures. The Wired profile noted that “thanks in part to the support of alt-right figureheads like Mike Cernovich” -- who also pushed the Pizzagate conspiracy theory and has connections to white nationalists -- “Garrison's income continues to swell,” and added that he “has a similarly warm relationship with pro-Trump YouTube personality and alleged cult leader Stefan Molyneux and frequently includes prominent ‘alt-light’ figures like Infowars' Paul Joseph Watson and Yiannopoulos in his cartoons.” [Wired, 6/19/17; Media Matters, 8/21/18]

Garrison drew an anti-Semitic cartoon of Soros for far-right figure Mike Cernovich. In 2017, Garrison drew a cartoon showing Soros using puppet strings to control then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster, with another hand labeled “Rothschilds” using puppet strings to control Soros. Garrison later wrote that his “good buddy” Cernovich commissioned the cartoon. The Anti-Defamation League called it a “blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon.” In 2018, Garrison drew a cartoon claiming Soros was behind the migrant caravan. [HuffPost, 7/6/19; Twitter, 10/27/18]

Garrison has boosted the “QAnon” and Pizzagate conspiracy theories. Garrison has repeatedly drawn cartoons and written tweets that have pushed the “QAnon” and Pizzagate conspiracy theories. He also pushed a conspiracy theory originating from QAnon believers that falsely claimed “Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is hiding a secret illness or is even dead.” [Twitter, 6/6/19, 6/6/19, accessed 7/8/19; Right Wing Watch, 7/9/18; The Daily Beast, 1/31/19]

Garrison pushed a hoax smearing Christine Blasey Ford. Garrison pushed a hoax circulating on social media that Ford claimed to have called a friend on a cell phone in 1982 after her reported sexual assault by now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. [Twitter, 10/2/18]

Garrison has defended multiple far-right figures, falsely claiming one was thrown into a “Muslim prison.” Garrison drew a cartoon claiming Amazon was targeting far-right figures Tommy Robinson, Jared Taylor, and Daryush Valizadeh (also known as Roosh V). Garrison also drew a cartoon claiming Robinson would be put in jail with “Muslim Pedophiles, Rapists and Murderers” after Robinson was sentenced to 13 months in prison. [Twitter, 4/11/19; Media Matters, 1/19/17; The Daily Beast, 6/18/18]

Garrison drew cartoons implying Michelle Obama is a man and that David Hogg is controlled by CNN. In 2016, Garrison drew a cartoon of a muscular Michelle Obama with “a not-so-accidental looking bulge near Obama's crotch area” that implied she was a man. In 2018, he drew a cartoon of Parkland, FL, mass shooting survivor David Hogg as a “ventriloquist’s dummy controlled by CNN, which was in turn controlled by the ‘Deep State.’” [Mic, 5/14/16; Vice, 3/21/18]

Garrison pushed the Seth Rich conspiracy theory, which was reportedly planted by Russian intelligence. Garrison drew a cartoon pushing the conspiracy theory that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was gunned down by people working for Hillary Clinton, which Yahoo! News reported was planted by Russian intelligence agents. [Twitter, 7/9/19; Yahoo! News, 7/9/19]

Garrison has a long history of pushing other conspiracy theories. When pipe bombs were mailed to multiple figures who had criticized Trump, Garrison drew a cartoon “entitled Raising a false flag, featuring Hillary Clinton, CNN media reporter Brian Stelter, and former CIA director John Brennan – all bombing targets.” Garrison also drew a cartoon of “a leering Obama” watching “as the South African state steals farmland from tearful whites,” a reference to a white nationalist conspiracy theory. In response to the death of Hillary Clinton’s brother in June, Garrison tweeted that “no one is safe around Hillary Clinton, not even her own brother.” [The Guardian, 10/26/18; Right Wing Watch, 10/26/18; The Atlantic, 8/23/18; Media Matters, 8/23/18; Twitter, 6/9/19]

Will Chamberlain

Chamberlain pushed a likely hoax smearing protesters as pedophiles. In 2017, Chamberlain, a lawyer who co-runs the conservative site Human Events with Breitbart alum Raheem Kassam, pushed what clearly seemed to be a hoax that protesters of a Cernovich speech at Columbia University had supported pedophilia. [The Washington Post, 3/1/19; Media Matters, 10/31/17]

Chamberlain’s Human Events pushed a smear from a far-right troll linking journalists to antifascists. Human Events pushed a smear from far-right troll Eoin Lenihan that claimed certain reporters were “closely associated” with antifacist activists. Lenihan’s methodology was described by a social media researcher as extremely suspect, but Chamberlain defended Human Events for pushing the smear, saying “that it considered Quillette” -- where Lenihan published a piece pushing his smear -- “a ‘reputable outlet’ and would not independently fact-check work appearing on its site when commenting on it ‘in broad terms.’” [Columbia Journalism Review, 6/12/19]

Brent Bozell

Bozell’s Media Research Center promoted white nationalist pieces that claimed Black people are “a threat to all” they encounter. In 2015, MRC published a piece directing readers to an article on American Renaissance, a site headed by white nationalist Jared Taylor, that said Black people are “a threat to all who cross their paths.” In 2017, another article from the same contributing editor who penned the MRC piece linked to VDare, another white nationalist outlet, calling it a “center-right” outlet. [Media Matters, 7/11/18]

Bozell criticized social media platform bans on Infowars. After multiple social media platforms banned Alex Jones and his conspiracy theory outlet Infowars, Bozell released a statement saying, “I don’t support Alex Jones and what InfoWars produces,” but that the bans were “part of a disturbing trend” meant “to satisfy CNN and other liberal outlets.” [Media Matters, 8/6/18]

Bozell called far-right actor and conspiracy theorist James Woods “one of the top conservatives” on Twitter. When Twitter briefly suspended actor James Woods -- who regularly pushes conspiracy theories and narratives from the far-right -- for pushing a 4chan meme that falsely claimed Democrats were urging men not to vote in the midterm elections, Bozell tweeted that he was “one of the top conservatives” on Twitter. [Media Matters, 3/19/19]

Bozell: It would be "fun" to start banning reporters from covering the White House. Bozell said on the May 9, 2018, edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Company that it would be “a whole lot of fun, if [President Donald Trump] were to follow through on that tweet and start banning these people from covering the White House because they have no vested interest in objectivity.” [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 5/9/18; Twitter, 5/9/18]

Bozell likened President Barack Obama to "a skinny, ghetto crackhead." On Fox News' Hannity, Bozell said, "How long do you think Sean Hannity's show would last if four times in one sentence, he made a comment about, say, the President of the United States, and said that he looked like a skinny, ghetto crackhead? Which, by the way, you might want to say that Barack Obama does." [Fox News, Hannity, 12/22/11, via Media Matters]

Bozell said rapper Common's invite to the White House is another example of the "Obamas surrounding themselves with ... anti-American, American hating people." When First Lady Michelle Obama invited the rapper Common to the White House for a poetry event, Bozell responded by accusing the Obamas of "surrounding themselves with ... anti-American, American hating people." [Fox News, Hannity, 5/12/11, via Media Matters]

Bozell claimed "the gay agenda endorses the right of gays to marry and teach children, and that's in utter opposition to mainstream America." The Hartford Courant quoted Bozell as saying that "the gay agenda endorses the right of gays to marry and teach children, and that's in utter opposition to mainstream America." [Hartford Courant, 9/14/92]

Bozell described an episode of Ellen which featured Ellen DeGeneres coming out of the closet as "thrusting garbage down the throats of children." After ABC aired an episode of Ellen which featured Ellen DeGeneres coming out of the closet, Bozell said of the show: "There's this sense almost of horror ... there are some elements in Hollywood who are bent, come hell or high water, on thrusting garbage down the throats of children." [Associated Press, April 1997, via Media Matters]

Bozell complained Glee's Chris Colfer, Hollywood are "Evangelists for ... sexual immorality." In a CNSNews.com column, Bozell complained that Entertainment Weekly, Glee's Chris Colfer, the Hollywood Foreign Press awards (Colfer won a Golden Globe for playing a bullied gay teen on Glee), and the entertainment industry in general are "evangelists for a revolution of sexual immorality." [CNSNews.com, 1/28/11, via Media Matters]

Bozell said of Whoopi Goldberg: "[D]og muzzles, for people's mouths, sometimes are a very good thing." As a guest on CNN's now-defunct Crossfire, Bozell said, "[W]hen I think of the people like Whoopi Goldberg and the kind of things they say, I'm reminded that muzzles, dog muzzles, for people's mouths, sometimes are a very good thing." [CNN, Crossfire, 8/5/04, via Media Matters]

Bozell blamed Hollywood for "eroding America's moral character on 'gay marriage,' " and selling a "radical devolution in moral standards." In a NewsBusters.org column, Bozell wrote that "Hollywood has played a part in eroding America's moral character on 'gay marriage.' " He added: "It's about time somebody admitted that Hollywood isn't just persuading people into buying Wrigley's Gum or McDonald's burgers. In between the commercials, they're selling a radical devolution in moral standards." [NewsBusters.org, 5/12/12]

Heritage Foundation

Heritage advocates against LGBTQ equality and uses dehumanizing rhetoric about trans people. Heritage has railed against LGBTQ equality for decades, including opposing marriage equality, gay Boy Scout leaders, and inclusive nondiscrimination protections. In 2019 alone, it has hosted at least five panels targeted at the transgender community, including opposing nondiscrimination measures to protect trans people, spreading misinformation about affirming medical care for trans youth, fearmongering about trans athletes, and opposing trans inclusive language in international policy. Panelists and Heritage staff repeatedly misgendered trans folks, a behavior considered harassment that stigmatizes trans folks and invalidates their identities. These panels are also livestreamed and posted on YouTube by the Heritage Foundation. Heritage staff have also expressed support for the harmful and discredited practice of conversion therapy and compared being transgender to having an eating disorder. Heritage senior fellow Ryan T. Anderson wrote an entire book attacking trans people that misgendered trans people throughout its text and also deadnamed Caitlyn Jenner, referring to her by her former name. [Heritage Foundation, 8/3/15, 8/3/00, 3/25/19; Media Matters, 4/18/19; The Daily Signal, 7/2/19; ThinkProgress, 1/25/18]

A co-author of a Heritage study claimed Hispanic immigrants have lower IQs than whites. Jason Richwine, the co-author of a 2013 Heritage Foundation study criticizing an immigration reform bill then under consideration in the Senate, had written in 2009 “that Hispanic immigrants generally had an I.Q. that was ‘substantially lower than that of the white native population’ — and that the lower intelligence of immigrants should be considered when drafting immigration policy,” according to The New York Times. [The New York Times, 5/8/13]

A Heritage panel on the Benghazi attacks mocked a Muslim student. A 2014 Heritage Foundation panel about the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, mocked a Muslim law student who pointed out that not all Muslims supported terrorism. Panelist Brigitte Gabriel questioned whether the student was “an American.” Gabriel is a major anti-Islam leader who has said that “a practicing Muslim … cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States.” [Media Matters, 6/17/14, 5/31/19]

A Heritage associate director claimed universities have become “laboratories with madrassas attached to them.” During the June 17 edition of Salem Radio Networks’ America First with Sebastian Gorka, Arthur Milikh, associate director of Heritage’s B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics, claimed that U.S. universities had become “laboratories with madrassas attached to them.” [Salem Radio Networks, America First with Sebastian Gorka, 6/17/19]

Ryan Fournier

Fournier is a pro-Trump social media influencer with ties to extremists and the Trump campaign. Fournier is the founder of Students for Trump, a grassroots group and self-identified “social media phenomenon,” which organizes high school and college students in support of Trump, primarily on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In July, Turning Point USA acquired Students for Trump, keeping Fournier on its board as co-chairman. [Students for Trump, accessed 7/9/19]

As national chairman of Students for Trump, Fournier brought on white nationalist James Allsup as director of the group’s Campus Ambassador Program. Allsup, an alt-right YouTuber and member of the white nationalist group American Identity Movement (formerly known as Identity Evropa), was on Student for Trump’s leadership team in 2016. He resigned as president of his college Republican chapter after footage surfaced of him marching at the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. [Students for Trump, 10/9/16; Mother Jones, 6/18/18; Southern Poverty Law Center, 3/12/19]

Fournier has also claimed to have connections with the Trump campaign. Fournier and the former vice chairman of Students for Trump (who was recently arrested on charges of wire fraud) met with Trump campaign officials in 2016. According to an open letter published by Students for Trump, Trump and campaign officials “expressed how proud they were of our efforts and members getting involved in the campaign.” But the director of communications for Trump’s reelection campaign disputes the campaign’s relationship with Students for Trump and claims to have sent cease and desist letters to Fournier. [Politico, 5/9/19]

In addition to his connections with white nationalist personalities, Fournier has promoted false and anti-immigrant content on Twitter. In 2018, Fournier falsely claimed that California was registering noncitizens to vote. Fournier also promoted Brian Kolfage’s scam GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. [Twitter, 7/25/18; FactCheck.org, 9/14/18; Media Matters, 12/20/18; The Washington Post, 5/11/19]

Ali Akbar (Alexander)

Akbar pushed a racist smear that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) was not Black. In June, Akbar, a Republican political operative who co-launched the site Culttture with other far-right figures, tweeted a racist smear that Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris is “*not* an American Black” and “is half Indian and half Jamaican.” The same language was later tweeted by a network of bot accounts and Donald Trump Jr. pushed the tweet. Smears questioning Harris’ background had been circulating online for months and were popularized by an Obama birther and neo-Nazis. [Observer, 10/30/18; The Daily Dot, 1/22/19; BuzzFeed News, 6/28/19]

Akbar co-hosted a Periscope session with a Charlottesville rally participant where a Nazi flag was waved around. In 2017, Akbar co-hosted a Periscope session with Matt Colligan, who goes by “Millennial Matt” online and was a participant in the “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA. During the Periscope stream, Colligan waved a swastika flag in front of the camera, saying, “Adolf Hitler, he was a great man,” and referring to white nationalist Richard Spencer as “a good guy.” [Media Matters, 10/19/17]

Akbar was briefly suspended from Twitter after he tweeted about an upcoming “civil war in America” and called for people to buy guns and ammo. [Media Matters, 1/9/19]

Akbar co-created a film with far-right trolls smearing Ilhan Omar, during which they filed a false police report. Akbar co-created a film with far-right trolls Wohl and Laura Loomer suggesting Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was a threat to the country. During the film, the trio went to a Minneapolis police station to report supposedly threatening messages they received on Twitter. The film, according to Right Wing Watch, “shows a threat that was sent by an account using the name ‘Drake Holmes’ that NBC News’ Ben Collins reported to be controlled by Wohl.” [Right Wing Watch, 3/13/19]

James O’Keefe

O’Keefe has repeatedly pushed doctored and misleading “undercover” videos. O’Keefe has repeatedly made “undercover sting” videos that are false and misleading. He has hired a woman to pretend to be an accuser of then-Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, made deceptive videos targeting the community organizing group ACORN (for which he was forced to pay $100,000 and publicly apologize as part of a court settlement), put out a video claiming that a voter was dead (he was later found to be very much alive) and that non-citizens were voting (they were actually citizens), and selectively edited a video of census workers to falsely suggest supervisors were encouraging employees to falsify information on their time sheets. Multiple purported exposes done by O'Keefe of targets like CNN and the Russia narrative were complete duds. [Media Matters, 6/27/17, 11/28/17, 1/12/18]

O'Keefe attempted to lure CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau onto a boat he called his "pleasure palace," where he would secretly record his attempts to "hit on her" with props including a "condom jar," Viagra, pornography, a ceiling mirror, and "fuzzy handcuffs." Boudreau reported that a document she obtained explained the motivation: "The joke is that the tables have turned on CNN. Using hot blondes to seduce interviewees to get screwed on television, you are faux seducing her in order to screw her on television." [CNN, 9/29/10; Media Matters, 9/29/10]

O'Keefe pled guilty to a misdemeanor in a scheme where he entered Sen. Mary Landrieu's [D-LA] office under false pretenses. [New York Times, 5/26/10]

O'Keefe stung himself, detailing his plans to infiltrate a progressive philanthropist's organization on its own voicemail. O’Keefe accidentally detailed his plans to infiltrate and smear progressive organizations on the voicemail of Dana Geraghty, an employee of liberal philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. [Media Matters, 5/20/16]

O’Keefe criticized social media platforms for banning Infowars and has been boosted by Infowars. After social media platforms banned Infowars and Alex Jones, O’Keefe tweeted, “Infowars targeted, taken off social media. These tech companies' practices are opaque and given their power must be made more transparent. We will expose the entire rotten tech machine.” O’Keefe has also been an Infowars guest multiple times, appearing, for instance, with Roger Stone in 2016 to push claims that the 2016 election would be rigged against Trump. A week prior to that Jones made an on-air fundraising pitch for O’Keefe while hosting him, calling him “an example … to everybody else on how you can go out and take on these criminals.” [Media Matters, 8/6/18; Genesis Communications Networks, The Alex Jones Show, 10/20/16, 10/27/16]

O’Keefe attended events featuring multiple far-right figures. In 2017, O’Keefe attended the “Real News Correspondents Gala” in Washington, D.C., which was sponsored by far-right blog The Gateway Pundit and which was attended by Cernovich and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes. During the event, Gateway Pundit founder Jim Hoft gave O’Keefe an award, and in an acceptance speech O’Keefe said, “Not only do they not do the journalism, but they’re too afraid. ... We really are the only ones left to actually do the job.” In 2018, O’Keffe made a video appearance at a panel also put together by Hoft complaining about social media that included anti-Muslim figure Pamela Geller. [Media Matters, 5/5/17, 2/9/18]

The Donald J. Trump Foundation previously gave a $10,000 donation to O'Keefe's Project Veritas in May 2015. [Media Matters, 10/20/16; ThinkProgress, 10/20/16]

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL)

Gaetz falsely suggested Soros was funding a migrant caravan. Last October, Gaetz tweeted a video and wrote, “Footage in Honduras giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border @ election time. Soros? US-backed NGOs? Time to investigate the source!” The video was actually was from Guatemala, and there is no evidence that Soros was involved. [The New York Times, 10/20/18]

Gaetz was an Infowars guest and has been praised by Infowars hosts. In 2018, Gaetz appeared on Infowars and host Alex Jones called him “one of the strongest, most focused, eloquent, on target voices” defending Trump. Another Infowars host, Owen Shroyer, the following month said that he thought Gaetz and Fox host Tucker Carlson “agree with the things we say and they probably like us.” [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 1/29/18, 2/13/18]

Gaetz invited a far-right Holocaust denier to the State of the Union address. Gaetz invited Chuck Johnson, a far-right troll and Holocaust denier, to Trump’s 2018 State of the Union address, and later falsely told a Fox host that Johnson is “not a holocaust denier, he’s not a white supremacist.” [Mediaite, 2/1/18]

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)

In 2017, Blackburn claimed Twitter was censoring her campaign ad that included the phrase “baby body parts.” In October 2017, Blackburn claimed that Twitter was censoring a video announcing her run for Senate (which she eventually won). In the video, Blackburn alleged that she “fought Planned Parenthood, and we stopped the sale of baby body parts” in reference to her time as chair of the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives -- which was convened following the release of deceptive videos about Planned Parenthood by a discredited anti-abortion group. Twitter initially refused to let Blackburn’s campaign pay to promote the video because the platform claimed it violated “inflammatory” content rules (though it was still allowed to remain on Blackburn’s Twitter account). Twitter backtracked the next day and allowed the ad to run as promoted content. In 2019, Blackburn referred to this incident during a Senate hearing on social media censorship and received an apology from Twitter’s representative at the hearing. [Media Matters, 10/12/17, 4/11/19; Vox, 10/30/18]

Tim Pool

A study found that Pool was at the near center of network of far-right YouTube accounts. A study published last September from Data & Society’ Rebecca Lewis about what she called the “Alternative Influence Network” -- a group of YouTubers that push far-right content and appear in each others’ videos -- put Pool at nearly the direct center of this network.

[Data & Society, September 2018]

Pool has done videos and otherwise interacted with multiple white nationalists and far-right figures. Pool has done multiple YouTube videos with white nationalist figures such as Brittany Pettibone, who has worked with other far-right figures to prevent refugees from reaching Europe and was banned from the U.K. with her fiance, Martin Sellner, a leader of the white nationalist Austrian Identitarian movement.Pool has also appeared with Lauren Southern, who amplified the white supremacist conspiracy theory of a white genocide occuring in South Africa. Pool has also socialized with James Allsup and Tim Gionet (also known as Baked Alaska), who often tweeted neo-Nazi imagery and Hitler apologism. Pool has also been a guest on Infowars, and in 2017 he offered to help Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson investigate an area of Sweden that Watson called “crime ridden migrant suburbs.” [Twitter, 3/5/19, 3/27/19, 5/7/19; Media Matters, 11/20/17, 3/28/19, 4/8/19; Mashable, 2/21/17]

Pool pushed a smear from a far-right troll linking journalists to anti-fascists. Soon after far-right troll Eoin Lenihan pushed a smear that certain reporters were “closely associated” with anti-facist activists, Pool amplified the smear in a YouTube video titled “Verified Journalists Exposed Working With Antifa And Far Left Activists.” [Columbia Journalism Review, 6/12/19; YouTube, 5/17/19]

Pool pushed a flimsy rumor that anti-fascist protesters threw cement milkshakes. Pool pushed an extremely dubious claim fueled by far-right “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec that anti-facist protesters in Portland, OR, threw milkshakes containing cement at right-wing protesters. There has been no actual evidence for the claim. [Twitter, 7/1/19; Media Matters, 7/1/19]

Benny Johnson

Johnson is a serial plagiarist. Johnson, who joined Turning Point USA in February, was fired from Buzzfeed News in 2014 “for repeatedly copying others’ work.” He was reportedly later caught plagiarizing again while working at Independent Journal Review. [The Daily Beast, 2/6/19]

Johnson was suspended from IJR for pushing far-right conspiracy theory about Obama and Trump’s Muslim ban. In 2017, Johnson was suspended as chief content officer of Independent Journal Review after pushing a far-right conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama’s then-recent visit to Hawaii influenced a federal judge’s ruling that froze Trump’s revised Muslim ban. [Media Matters, 3/22/17]

Johnson hinted at far-right conspiracy theory that Obamas were involved with Jussie Smollett’s incident and its aftermath. After charges were dropped against actor Jussie Smollett for what police say was a staged attack, Johnson posted a meme on Instagram of the Obamas with Smollett and the words “there is more to this story.” Johnson also wrote on Instagram about the Obamas’ past connections with Smollett and claimed that “there is a deeper story here.” Before Johnson’s post, far-right figures, social media accounts, and message boards had suggested that the Obamas were directly involved in the staged attack. [Media Matters, 3/29/19]

Johnson kicked off a TPUSA event by saying, “Oh my God, I've never seen so many white people in one room. This is incredible!” [Twitter, 3/30/19]

Johnson suggested Kanye West was born into poverty because he was Black. After rapper Kanye West expressed support for Trump, Johnson defended him by writing in a since-deleted tweet, “A black man, born impoverished & into a broken home, works his way into a multimillionaire global pop star, fashion guru & cultural icon. He dares think different politically.” West actually grew up in a middle-class family. [Splinter News, 10/12/18]

The Gateway Pundit

Gateway Pundit has repeatedly pushed misinformation, and one of the victims of its false stories sued the site. The site has regularly pushed false stories and inaccurate information, such as a parody article (presented as if it were real) about former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate (which it called a “forgery” in another piece), a piece claiming Obama was “photoshopped into famous Situation Room photo” during the Osama bin Laden raid, and an article suggesting Hillary Clinton had a “a seizure on camera.” It has also repeatedly accused the wrong people of mass shootings and attacks, including after a white nationalist drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters during the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. The wrongly blamed person in turn sued Gateway Pundit, along with other far-right outlets, that had misidentified him. [Media Matters, 1/25/17; The Daily Beast, 3/13/18]

Gateway Pundit published an Internet Research Agency tweet later directly cited in one of Robert Mueller’s indictments. In 2016, the site embedded a tweet from Twitter account @TEN_GOP in a piece to allege that voting fraud was occurring in Florida. @TEN_GOP was later revealed to be one of the Twitter accounts run by Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, and special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment against the IRA specifically cited that @TEN_GOP tweet. [Media Matters, 2/16/18]

Gateway Pundit defended the QAnon conspiracy theory. Last August, the site published a blog criticizing media outlets that tried to “mischaracterize and discredit” the QAnon conspiracy theory and questioning whether “QAnon’s central theme” is “truly farfetched.” [The Gateway Pundit, 8/12/18]

Gateway Pundit relied on a QAnon account to push a false smear against E. Jean Carroll. After author and advice columnist E. Jean Carroll reported that Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s, the site cited a QAnon Twitter account to push a smear that Carroll took her allegation from a Law & Order: SVU episode. A person “with knowledge of how the ‘Law & Order: SVU’ episode came together” told CNN that there was “no correlation -- none whatsoever” between Carroll’s account and the episode. [Media Matters, 6/26/19; CNN, 6/27/19]

Gateway Pundit pushed an 8chan hoax that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in a medically induced coma. In January, while pushing a QAnon-popularized conspiracy theory about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s whereabouts and health, the site embedded a tweet with an image of a post from voat, a Reddit clone popular with alt-right trolls, that in turn pushed a hoax from 8chan that Ginsburg was in a medically induced coma. [The Daily Beast, 1/31/19; Twitter, 1/29/19]

Gateway Pundit pushed forged documents uploaded to 4chan to smear Emmanuel Macron. In 2017, the site pushed forged documents uploaded to 4chan alleging that then-French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron was evading taxes. [Media Matters, 5/5/17]

Gateway Pundit pushed the Seth Rich conspiracy theory. The site played a major role pushing the Seth Rich conspiracy theory, using the theory to falsely claim Russia did not hack the Democratic National Committee in 2016 and suggesting Hillary Clinton was involved in his death. [BuzzFeed News, 5/22/17]

Gateway Pundit pushed a Twitter hoax smearing Roy Moore accusers. In 2017, the site pushed a tweet from an anonymous Twitter account claiming The Washington Post offered money to one of the women who reported sexual misconduct by then-Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. The person behind the account was, according to The Daily Beast, “a serial fabulist who has been using the identity of a Navy serviceman who died in 2007” and who “repeatedly invented stories in the past.” [The Daily Beast, 11/14/17]

Gateway Pundit pushed a hoax smearing Pete Buttigieg. The site helped spread the hoax from Wohl and Burkman targeting Pete Buttigieg. [Media Matters, 4/30/19]

Gateway Pundit held a gala for multiple far-right figures. In 2017, the site held a “Real News Correspondents Gala” in Washington, D.C., which included Cernovich and McInnes as attendees. [Media Matters, 5/5/17]

Minds.com

Minds.com is filled with white nationalist content. Social media platform Minds.com features content that has included Holocaust denial, celebration of swastikas, racist memes, anti-Semitism, and misogyny. Google has barred the platform from using its AdSense advertising service to monetize content. [Media Matters, 2/22/18]

Neo-Nazi groups used Minds.com for recruitment. Vice reported that “miliant neo-Nazi groups connected to Atomwaffen Division—a violent American hate group connected to several murders—was using Minds as a platform for recruiting and spreading propaganda.” [Vice, 7/10/19]

Joy Villa

Villa has pushed the QAnon conspiracy theory. Joy Villa, a singer who says she is a delegate for the California Republican Party and a former member of Trump’s campaign advisory board, wore “Q” earrings at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. She has also tweeted about the conspiracy theory. [Twitter, 1/7/18, 2/19/19, 3/1/19; The Daily Beast, 7/11/19]

Lila Rose

Rose, founder of the anti-abortion group Live Action, fundraised off inaccurate allegations that social media platforms are censoring her organization. In 2017, Rose appeared on the June 26 edition of Fox’s Tucker Carlson Tonight and claimed that Twitter was censoring Live Action’s ads. In reality, the content remained on the platform -- Live Action simply wasn’t allowed to promote the ads because the group had violated several of Twitter’s content policies. During the same appearance, Rose also mentioned that Live Action had a $40,000 fundraising goal to meet within the week. By June 30, the organization had reached its fundraising goal and was asking supporters to continue donating in order to “guarantee” it could continue working “to expose the abortion industry” in spite of alleged censorship. More recently, Rose claimed Pinterest was censoring anti-abortion content when her group was banned from the platform. However, as Pinterest explained, the group was banned for promoting "misinformation related to conspiracies and anti-vaccination advice.” In spite of these continuing allegations of “censorship,” Live Action regularly dominates abortion-related news, at least on Facebook. [Media Matters, 7/6/17, 4/18/18, 4/11/19, 5/28/19, 6/5/19, BuzzFeed News, 6/11/19]

Mark Dice

Mark Dice is a conspiracy theorist who blamed the Illuminati and the U.S. government for 9/11. Dice, a far-right YouTube personality, previously claimed that “the illuminati were instrumental in assuring that the 9/11 attacks happened,” and had planned to send letters to American soldiers in Iraq claiming the U.S. government was behind 9/11. Conspiracy theory outlet Infowars has also repeatedly promoted Dice. [Media Matters, 8/6/15]

Dice spread a hoax that the Green New Deal included a proposal to use recycled urine. Dice urged his followers to spread a hoax he created about the Green New Deal, asking them to make it “go viral.” The hoax was later promoted by Posobiec and others in far-right circles, and it impacted Google autocomplete search suggestions. [Media Matters, 2/8/19]

Dice spread a far-right sexist smear about Kamala Harris. On Twitter, Dice helped spread a sexist smear that was popularized by the subreddit “The_Donald” and message board 4chan that claimed Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris had used her relationship with a California elected official to help her political career. [Media Matters, 1/31/19]

Dice pushed a false smear against E. Jean Carroll popularized in part by a QAnon account. Dice pushed the smear on Twitter that the details of author E. Jean Carroll’s reported sexual assault by Trump were taken from a Law & Order: SVU episode, a false claim that had been popularized in part by a QAnon account. [Media Matters, 6/26/19]

This post has been updated with additional examples.

Natalie Martinez, Brennan Suen, and Julie Tulbert contributed research to this piece.

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