Fake News At WND, Zombies and Trolls Edition
WorldNetDaily keeps zombie lies alive long after they've been discredited. It also fell for a Russian troll pro-Trump Twitter account and profiled a pro-Trump merchandiser who doesn't appear to actually exist.
By Terry Krepel
Despite all the negative attention given to fake news this year, WorldNetDaily sure publishes a lot of it. Not only did it publish fake news, it published fake people in the form of pro-Trump trolls whose identity WND never bothered to verify before giving them a forum, as well as resurrected zombie lies, some of it nearly a century old.
Let's review how badly WND performed in these categories, shall we?
Fake news from Russian trolls
Bob Unruh fawningly wrote in a May 14 WND article:
Nicole Mincey is black, comes from a liberal Democrat background and watched closely what Barack Obama did for blacks during his presidency.
It appears none of that stuff about Mincey's background is true, because "Nicole Mincey" as profiled by Unruh apparently doesn't exist.
Writer Bob Schooley looked into Mincey after Trump retweeted a post from the ProTrump45 Twitter account, and he found that "Mincey" appears to be nothing more than a Twitter bot designed to promote the retail store, and the pictures on the account claiming to be of her are nothing more than repurposed stock photos. It's unclear from where the picture WND is representing as Mincey that WND used in Unruh's article came.
Further, while there is an actual Nicole Mincey who is a college student from New Jersey, it appears that, according to Heavy, she's the victim of identity theft -- her name and Facebook account were used without her permission to create pro-Trump websites.
After the fake Mincey was exposed, the content of the @ProTrump45 Twitter account was moved to an account named @AlexandriaM0ra (with the same stock photo), and the @ProTrump45 account claimed to be "available for purchase" (a violation of Twitter terms of service). Twitter shut down both accounts after the fraud was exposed.
It's obvious that Unruh never actually talked to the Minsey of ProTrump45 in person -- they probably just exchanged emails -- and he certainly never made no attempt to verify the person's identity. Unruh and his WND editors simply decided that the story of "liberal black Democrat becomes Trump supporter" was too good to fact-check.
And more than four months after the Mincey ruse was exposed, the article is still live and uncorrected on WND's website.
This was not WND's only promotion of a fake person. In November, a Twitter account popular among conservatives and Trump supporters, under the name Pamela Moore, was revealed to be the creation of the Internet Research Agency, a "troll farm" funded by the Russian government that also operated thousands of other fake Twitter accounts. According to Philly.com, the "@Pamela_Moore13" account heavily promoted Trump's presidential campaign and was retweeted by Trump administration officials.
WND also forwarded a "Pamela Moore" tweet. In a June 16 article, Alicia Powe embedded several tweets attacking CNN for a tweet containing incorrect information. One of those was from "@Pamela_Moore13" screaming "CNN IS SO BIAS." The formatting on"Moore's" tweet has disappeared because the account was deactivated after it was exposed as a troll-farm production, but the content of the tweet and a now-dead link to the original is still there.
While it's unlikely that WND could have known at the time that "Pamela Moore" was a fake and a Russian troll, it doesn't look good for WND to have promoted her, since it rails against the idea that the Russian government tried to help Trump get elected.
Zombie fake news
Aside from the birther stuff, the biggest bit of fake news WorldNetDaily has perpetuation over the past decade is that Barack Obama's 2008 reference to a "civilian national security force" was something sinister, an allusion to creation of a police state. Despite ConWebWatch having debunked it at the time -- Obama was actually referring to a beefed-up diplomatic corps -- WND claimed it again and again.
Since the predicted police state never surfaced during Obama's presidency, WND should have exhibited a sense of shame and admitted they were wrong and were simply pushing a bogus talking point in order to smear Obama. But then, WND never corrects anything unless there's a threat of a lawsuit, so the only obvious choice for WND was to double down.
Which brings us to WND editor Joseph Farah's Sept. 4 column. He began this way:
Way back on July 2, 2008, Barack Obama issued a declaration that made my head spin, yet no one, and I mean no one, took notice until I wrote about it several days later.
Farah is lying. He knows he's lying because we caught him in this lie more than nine years ago. He knows Obama was never talking about establishing a police state, but he pretended otherwise as part of WND's failed scorched-earth campaign against Obama. It was a lie then, and it's a lie now.
And like any shameless, inveterate liar, Farah won't admit he was wrong, and he expanded on his zombie lie, inventing a new, bogus interpretation of what "civilian national security force" means:
Lately, I’ve been getting inquiries from readers about whether we’re now seeing the realization of Obama’s concept in the streets of America from Berkeley to Charlottesville.
Lies, all of it. This is why nobody believes WND.
It's not the only zombie lie Farah has tried to resurrect. In his Dec. 15 column, he declared that Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger " very enthusiastically supported infanticide." It's unclear where Farah got this ridiculous notion; it's not even among WND's usual slanders of Sanger. This may be a reference to a Sanger statement that "The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it" -- which, when taken in context, is a reference to the research of the time highlighting that large, poor families later children have a higher risk of death.
Taking Sanger's words out of context, as Farah ham-handedly did here, is nothing more than fake news with a malicious intent.
Zombie 'body count'
Another bit of fake news WND has promoted over the years is the "Clinton body count," a completely discredited accounting of people peripheral to the Clintons who have died over the years whose deaths are attributed to the Clintons themselves. An anonymously written July 16 article tried to add a new name to the list:
Klaus Eberwein, a former Haitian government official who was expected to testify against alleged Clinton Foundation corruption and malpractice next week, has been found dead in Miami via gunshot wound to the head.
WND made sure to push the angle that the Clintons are somehow responsible for his death by including this promotional line between the second and third paragraphs: "How many people do YOU know who have died mysteriously? Not as many as the Clintons! Check out WND’s explosive report, '‘Clinton death list’: 33 spine-tingling cases.'"
But as blogger Richard Bartholomew pointed out, the BBC attributed that quote to Dahoud Andre, a protest group leader. Bartholomew also couldn't find any independently sourced on-the-record statements Eberwein made about the Clintons, which makes WND's other statements about what Eberwein purportedly claimed -- i.e., "According to Eberwein, a paltry 0.6 percent of donations granted by international donors to the Clinton Foundation with the express purpose of directly assisting Haitians actually ended up in the hands of Haitian organizations' -- factually suspect as well.
Indeed, there's no on-the-record evidence that Eberwein was to testify about the Clinton Foundation. As the Miami Herald noted: "Eberwein was scheduled to appear Tuesday before the Haitian Senate’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, the head of the commission, Sen. Evalière Beauplan confirmed. The commission is investigating the management of PetroCaribe funds, the money Haiti receives from Venezuela’s discounted oil program." No mention of anything Clinton-related was made.
Zombie-lie business news
ConWebWatch detailed how WorldNetDaily loves to push the fake-news story that financial woes at Macy's are somehow directly tied to the department store chain discontinuing Donald Trump's clothing line. But WND is bizarrely trying to keep the false story alive, with another attempt coming in a June 27 article by Liam Clancy:
Nearly two years after phasing out its Donald Trump line of menswear, Macy’s stock has plummeted to its lowest levels in years.
As usual, Clancy ignores the actual reasons Macy's is in trouble: customers moving away from traditional department stores and shopping malls to online, fast-fashion and off-price retailers.
Zombie Obama smear
WND reporter Bob Unruh thought he has a scoop, according to a July 28 article:
The Obama administration repeatedly fudged on the issue of Islam.
Unruh's introduction includes at least one blatant lie, that Obama said "the U.S. wasn’t a Christian nation." He did no such thing.
But it appears Unruh's larger claim -- that "Obama holdovers" at State are eliminating any reference to genocide by ISIS -- is, shall we say, fake news. He's simply regurgitating press releases from the right-wing ACLJ, who apparently does not name any of the alleged "Obama holdovers" purportedly doing this.
How do we know? Even the Obama-haters at Breitbart wouldn't back up the story. Former CNSNews.com reporter Penny Starr, now at Breitbart, writes that the State Department said the claim was "categorically false," adding:
There is no evidence on the State Department website suggesting the removal of references to genocide. One report titled “The Global Coalition Working to Defeat ISIS” does mention genocide and explicitly states that holding the Islamic State accountable for genocide remains a priority for the department.
Unruh repeated his zombie lie in a Sept. 19 article, falsely writing that "the former president claimed that the United States never was a “Christian nation.”
90-year-old fake news
WND's penchant for publishing fake news is clearly not limited to recent events. In his Oct. 11 column, Erik Rush recited the history of "Hollywood excess" that allegedly resulted in the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal. His first example of this: "silent film actor Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle killing Virginia Rappe with a wine bottle in 1921 (he did not beat her to death with it)."
In fact, the available evidence is that he didn't do either.
Actual historians at the Smithsonian recounted the case. Witnesses reportedly corroborated Arbuckle's claim that he was never alone with Rappe, and he claimed that she tore off her own clothes complaining she couldn't breathe. As far as Rush's implication that Arbuckle killed her by raping her with a wine bottle (she died of a ruptured bladder, and medical evidence introduced at trial showed she had a chronic bladder condition) even the National Enquirer doesn't buy it.
Arbuckle was tried three times; the first two ended in hung juries, and the third returned an innocent verdict in five minutes, four of which were reportedly used to prepare a statement apologizing to Arbuckle for the injustice he had suffered. Alas, Arbuckle's career and life were ruined beyond repair by this point, driven by sensationalized media coverage of the case, and he died in 1933.
Old fake news, alas, is still fake news.