Can't Handle the Truth

The President Created His Own Fake News This Week (Again)

Donald Trump has a history of spreading falsehoods. This week he, well, did some more of that. What'd you expect?

by Mike Pearl
02 October 2017, 12:50am

Illustration by Lia Kantrowitz

Welcome back to Can't Handle the Truth, our weekend column looking at the past seven days of fake news and hoaxes that have spread thanks to the internet.

Fake news pioneer Paul Horner—a person with emotions, goals, and the inherent dignity that comes from being human—died tragically at the age of 38 earlier this week. While Horner was among us, he used the gift of life to make a name for himself spreading bullshit on the internet. In case you think I'm being harsh, Horner referred to his own website, The National Report, as "America's shittiest independent news source."

Horner was also that fake news guy who offered himself up for interviews just after the 2016 election when Trump's election victory had the lamestream media feeling all rattled and confused. He gave the very memorable quote, "I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don't fact-check anything—they'll post everything."

But despite his acknowledgment that his deliberate falsehoods probably influenced national politics at the highest level, when it came to culpability, Horner fell back on the old I'm-just-joking-and-if-you-don't-get-it-that's-your-fault excuse. As he says in the CNN segment above, "Anyone that's read any of my articles—I have a lot of fans, a lot of people that like my stuff—they know, I mean it's pretty obvious, the stuff I write is political satire. There's a lot of humor, a lot of comedy in it."

According to NPR, police don't suspect foul play in Horner's death. Rest in peace, Paul, and if you can read this in Fake News Heaven, here's a little bit of your legacy:

A senator whose vote would have pushed Trumpcare to victory was in the hospital

Misleading statements made on Trump's behalf this week are illuminating, because they contrast startlingly with the president's own style of lying.

For instance, look at economic adviser Gary Cohn's claim from Thursday that "the wealthy are not getting a tax cut under our plan." That statement stretches the truth in the extreme. Meanwhile, the lies that come from Trump directly are very different; rather than saying underhanded things about the way an action or policy will work—like other presidents including Barack Obama—President Trump's statements can easily be falsified within minutes.

On Wednesday, Trump was being questioned about a bill that had just been pulled from the floor due to a lack of votes. That bill was supposed to repeal and sort of replace Obamacare before a crucial deadline this weekend, ahead of which just 50 votes would pass the bill via budget reconciliation. When that plan fell apart, just like five others before it, Trump told reporters, "I just wanted to say, though, on health care, we have the votes for health care. We have one senator that's in the hospital. He can't vote because he's in the hospital."

No, no one was in the hospital, and also, the bill didn't have the votes. There was one Senator, Thad Cochran, who tweeted shortly afterward to say he was chilling out at home in Mississippi after some kind of urological issue, and emphasized that he was not in the hospital. But Cochran wouldn't have been a tiebreaker anyway, even if he put on padded underwear and showed up to vote yes. But instead of correcting the record, Trump tweeted that lie, and ran around telling it during interviews. He got around to repeating the lie an astonishing six times, according to The Washington Post.

That's an incredible number of times to blurt out the same lie in one week. I'd like to say it's Trump's all-time lie record, but I don't have the details, so that would be a lie. I guess I could fall back on one of the old standbys: "People are saying it's his record. I dunno. Someone gave me that information."

Leftists are kneeling to protest at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Last weekend, the United States was completely consumed by a national fervor over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality against black men. These quiet acts of rebellion had been ongoing for many months, but a little over a week ago, Trump told a crowd of supporters his fantasy of calling the players sons of bitches and firing them. So this past weekend, players protested in much greater numbers as a response to Trump's comments.

But what's going on in the photo below?

The explanation being passed around for the photo is that the guy is kneeling in an extremely provocative gesture during the performance of "Taps" at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. The photo appears to have begun its life online as a Reddit post, and then spread to websites like the ride-or-die pro-troops blog American Military News, and, of course, it garnered approximately a zillion patriot shares on Facebook, including one from Sarah Palin.

I have no idea if the guy in the photo is really protesting, and actually no one does. There's no trace of a positive ID for the guy in the photo, nor is there a confirmation that this was a protest, nor any kind of proof he wasn't, like, picking up his Purple Heart after accidentally dropping it because the ceremony made him so sad.

Remember: In the first place, these protests never had anything to do with The Troops (may they be cherished and respected by all, amen). So even though the photo doesn't appear to be photoshopped, viral posts claiming that "Leftists are kneeling to protest at the tomb of the unknown soldier" are hogwash. This guy may have gone down on one knee for some weird reason, and it's possible that he meant it as a protest, but the implication that the patchouli-stinking lefties are finding new and exciting ways to be dicks to dead soldiers en masse? That's nonsense.

Vice President Pence is being replaced by Sean Hannity

This hoax comes from unfunny satire site Our Land of the Free, which I've previously praised in this column as a standard-bearer in the fake news world. I'm cheating a bit, because their "joke" about Pence being replaced by Fox News host Sean Hannity comes from all the way back on September 17, and it didn't go viral.

The only reason I'm mentioning it here is that something appears to have gone awry at Our Land of the Free after this post went up. It looks like the site has stopped updating altogether, but in addition to the downturn in productivity, the top row of stories on the site in the "Latest News" section, have all had their titles replaced with, um, names of potato dishes? This includes "baked potato," "french fries," "potato cakes," "baked potato," and "potato soup." I can't help but read them in the voice of Bubba from Forrest Gump reciting every shrimp dish he could think of.

I don't know about you, but I'm worried. If you know anyone who works at this venerable fake news publication, please let them know my thoughts and prayers are with them.

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