Like a virus, an old fake news story that claims White House adviser Steve Bannon is an advocate of domestic abuse has made the leap from one site full of contrived articles to another.
A Nov. 14, 2016, post on USPOLN.com (short for U.S. Political News) starts with a headline that reads, "Stephen Bannon: ‘Nobody Can Blame You For Beating Your Wife If It’s Out Of Love’." It was flagged by Facebook as being potentially fake, as part of its crusade to winnow fake news from users’ social media feeds.
The story has been popular on Facebook, which notes the USPOLN.com story link has been shared more than 58,000 times in the past four months.
The story, which is not real, makes up quotes about Bannon, the former chairman of Breitbart News who became White House chief strategist for President Donald Trump. The post includes a reference to real charges Bannon faced in 1996, when his then-wife Mary Louise Piccard accused him of domestic abuse.
Bannon was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery and dissuading a witness. Those charges were dropped in August 1996 when Piccard did not appear in court. The couple divorced in 1997.
The post cites a Politico interview (which is fake), quoting Bannon as saying that marriage is great because "you get to do all the things you’re not supposed to in a relationship." The quote isn’t worded the same way as the headline.
"And just like there’s no rape in marriage, so too can nobody blame you if you smack your wife around a couple of times so long as you’re doing it out of love," Bannon is quoted as saying. "As a matter of fact, I’ll have you know that some women actually enjoy being beaten by their husbands, and I don’t mean that in everyday life. I’m talking about when they’re performing their marital duties."
Again, Bannon did not say these things. They’re made up.
USPOLN.com, which we’ve written about before, identifies itself as "a US Political News and hybrid News/Satire platform on the web." The domain is registered to an address in Kosovo. The site didn’t respond to our attempts to contact them via email.
But the story actually comes from yet another joke site, in an Aug. 26, 2016, post on Politicops.com. That site is related to the site Newslo.com, which refers to itself in a disclaimer as "the first hybrid News/Satire platform on the web."
The same story also appears on other sites in the Newslo family, like Politicalo.com and Politicot.com. The articles were posted the day after stories recounting Bannon’s 1996 ran in outlets like Politico and the New York Times.
Newslo.com stories take a small bite of real news or quotes by real people and build fake stories around them. They feature a pair of buttons that allow readers to highlight the true parts of their stories, so readers can conceivably know the difference. But on other sites without the buttons, there’s no way to know.
The Bannon story originated on a site known for generating fake stories. We rate it Pants On Fire!