Fake News Site National Report Admits to Setting Traps to Damage Conservatives
Sites like National Report and Christwire are successfully fooling conservatives into spreading their articles.
The left is actively planting fake news to trick conservatives into sharing the stories so they can ridicule them. I covered this previously, but there is much more to the story.
The publisher of the fake news site National Report, “Allen Montgomery” (a pseudonym), brazenly admitted to Wyoming’s Casper Star-Tribune, “We have been targeting Tea Party types recently as they are the most gullible and are willing to spread misinformation across the internet with little/no research.” Conservative Headlines, which has compiled a list of sites that “troll conservatives,” observed, “The site NationalReport.net seems to be actively trying to embarrass conservatives on social media.”
People think it is a mainstream conservative/Tea Party site because they have a picture of Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz in their top banner. When a conservative website falls for one of their hoaxes and syndicates the story, left-wing websites then mock them. NationalReport.net has become a source of entertainment for the Left.” Vice News agreed in an article about the site: “The hoaxes more frequently target the right wing territory dominated by Glenn Beck and Alex Jones.”
One article on National Report fooled a Fox News host in 2013. During the Democrat-induced government shutdown, broadcaster Anna Kooiman repeated the hoax that Obama was offering his own personal money to keep a Muslim museum open, “President Obama has offered to pay out of his own pocket for the museum of Muslim culture,” she said.* She apologized later for the error, but Media Matters and other lefty sites like Huffington Post pounced on her mistake.
Montgomery has no sympathy for National Report‘s victims, telling the Tribune, “It is our opinion that if a person is too lazy to check for multiple references [or at least one other source] … and they spread misinformation around as fact, then they are to blame for their own stupidity, not us.”
George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley pushed back in a post about National Report’s tactics. “These stories dance dangerously on the line of false light in torts,” he said, and added, “For the life of me, I cannot imagine why adults want to spend their time trying to victimize people who feel strongly about public issues and act on those feelings.”
Neal Larson, a radio talk show host in Idaho, quit his job as a conservative columnist for The Twin Falls Times-News last month after being viciously savaged on the internet for referencing a fake news story. In his article, Larson accused the famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson of attacking a nine-year-old girl on Twitter. Unfortunately, the article he cited was from the fake news site Clickhole.
Tyson was furious and publicly debunked Larson in a rebuttal in the Times-News. Larson wrote in his farewell column about how the mistake devastated him. “I had no recourse, no comparable media platform at my disposal. It was as terrible and as helpless as you can imagine,” he said. “Even more disappointing, a few people that I honestly thought were friends, shared online my unfortunate story with glee.”
Ridiculing Christian Conservatives
Another site that ridicules the right is Christwire. It features fake articles that put conservative Christians in an unflattering light, which is also reflected in its fire-and-brimstone mission statement. Splitsider describes it as “a played-extremely-straight satire of the religious far right,” which is “designed to be sexist, racist and homophobic.”
Co-founder Bryan Butvidas told New York Magazine that the site’s basic concept is to “see what Glenn Beck is talking about and then make it ten times worse.” The Casper Star-Tribune opined, “Many of the articles assume an ironically fanatical conservative tone.” Not surprisingly, The New York Times reports, “Neither of the two founders is a conservative Christian.”
Fox News Takes the Bait
Two Fox News hosts were sued recently over repeating a fake news story on air. A school superintendent sued Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade for repeating fake quotes by him regarding a school prank. Although the judge eventually threw the lawsuit out, Media Matters ran an article about it with the headline, “‘Gullible’ Fox & Friends escape lawsuit for repeating yet another false news story.”
Other Fox News hosts were fooled into repeating a fake quote attributed to an Occupy Toronto protester, including Stuart Varney. The satire piece ran on The Globe and Mail’s site, a respected newspaper in Canada.
Dishonest Twitter Accounts
Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) has gotten three fake Twitter accounts shut down for pretending to be him. A fourth one, which tries to give the appearance that Schweikert is running on a joint platform with Donald Trump, is so poorly done that the “gear” it is selling has Schweikert’s name spelled wrong, as “Scheweikert.” Likely created by Democrats in Arizona or the Democratic National Congressional Committee, the account sends out tweets that make it appear Schweikert is both praising and criticizing Trump, with a dual purpose of associating Schweikert with anything negative about Trump.
The Left Traps Itself
Ironically, although these sites ridicule conservatives in the hopes of getting them to share the articles, gullible liberals eager to believe the worst about the right have also been tricked. Left-wing MSNBC host Rachel Maddow fell for a Christwire story that said Sarah Palin wanted to invade Egypt.
Even the biggest newspapers in the country, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, have fallen for fake news. Twitter accounts pretending to be offensive Republican congressmen (but who do not exist) have fooled the left. The journalist Christine Amanpour responded seriously to conservative “Rep. Steve Smith of Georgia” when he criticized Germany. Two journalists at MSNBC fell for the fake racist tweets of conservative “Rep. Jim Hankle of Arkansas.”
Megyn Kelly for Hillary?!
The site Conservative 101 may be another fake conservative news site meant to trap conservatives. Two of their fake articles have gone viral and caused great embarrassment.
One story alleged that the actor Tom Hanks was backing Donald Trump (he’s actually backing Hillary Clinton). The other one, a fake report that Megyn Kelly was leaving Fox News because she supports Clinton, even went viral on Facebook as one of its trending news stories.
Conservative 101 has no identifying or contact information, likely an indication the owner(s) realize they are spreading harmful information.
How to Stop the Damage
All of these traps mean that it’s more dangerous than ever to share or cite an article without first researching it. If someone shares an article on your FB page or emails you something, do not comment on or share it until you have verified it for accuracy. This means checking all articles with a myth-debunking site and investigating whether legitimate, larger news publications have covered the topic.
One trick the fake news sites use is to open a story somewhat legitimately, because most people don’t bother reading past the headline or first couple of paragraphs. Paul Horner of National Report bragged to Vice News, “All it takes is a semi-plausible headline and two quick paragraphs to provoke outrage.” So read all the way to the end.
One sign a story may be fake is when the headline doesn’t match the video or story.
This is becoming a serious problem as these sites multiply, and 30 percent of adults now get news from Facebook. While Snopes is the best known myth-debunking site on the internet, it leans to the left. Fortunately, Fake News Watch has compiled a list of fake news sites.
But beware, more fake sites are surely in the offing. Proceed with caution.
*This article has been corrected to reflect that the Democrats induced the 2013 government shut down, not the Republicans.