Fake news in the Alabama Senate race surges before Election Day

President Donald Trump seeks to boost Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore by recording a phone call on his behalf in the final stretch of a bitter Alabama campaign marked by sexual misconduct accusations against Moore. (Reuters)

The fake news mill has been working overtime in the closing days of a special election to decide Alabama’s next senator.

The seat, normally a cake walk for Republicans, is now too close to call. Multiple allegations of Republican Roy Moore’s sexual advances on underage girls when he was in his early 30s have scrambled the contest.

Making the story harder for voters to follow are Internet posts using false or made-up information to discredit the accusers. Here are a few claims we’ve swatted down.

The claim: Accuser admits she tampered with Roy Moore’s yearbook signature

The rating: Pants on Fire!

A conspiracy-minded website attempted to cast doubt on evidence presented by one of eight women who accused Moore of sexual misconduct. The misleading headline on Gateway Pundit said, "WE CALLED IT! Gloria Allred Accuser **ADMITS** She Tampered With Roy Moore’s Yearbook ‘Signature.’ "

Beverly Young Nelson (represented by lawyer Gloria Allred) accused Roy Moore of groping her when she was 16 years old and he, in his 30s, was the deputy district attorney of Etowah County. As evidence, Nelson presented a note she said Moore wrote in her high school yearbook before the incident took place.

The inscription reads, "To a sweeter, more beautiful girl I could not say Merry Christmas. Christmas 1977. Love, Roy Moore, D.A."

Below the signature reads "12-22-77, Olde Hickory House."

In a Dec. 8 Good Morning America interview, Nelson said she added the date and place of the inscription.

"He signed your yearbook?" ABC News reporter Tom Llamas asked Nelson.

"He did sign it," Nelson said.

"And you made some notes underneath?" Llamas asked.

"Yes," Nelson said.

Gateway Pundit, along with Breitbart and Fox News, jumped on the change. All three charged that Nelson said she either tampered with Moore’s signature or forged all or part of the inscription. Fox News later walked back its story.

We rated the Gateway Pundit claim Pants On Fire.

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PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
Pants on Fire
"Gloria Allred Accuser **ADMITS** She Tampered With Roy Moore’s Yearbook 'Signature.' "
In a blog post
Friday, December 8, 2017

The claim: Woman says she was offered big money by Washington Post to accuse Roy Moore of misconduct

The rating: Pants on Fire!

Facebook users flagged a post that continued to make the round well after it had been debunked.

"Breaking: Woman says she was offered big money by Washington Post to accuse Roy Moore of misconduct," stated a Nov. 13 headline in Evening World.

The article is based on a since-deleted Twitter account and is fake.

The website based the claim that a Post reporter offered money to a woman by citing the Twitter account of @umpire43 who identified himself as Doug Lewis #MAGA.

"A family friend who lives in Alabama just told my wife that a WAPO reporter named Beth offered her 1000$ to accuse Roy Moore????," Lewis tweeted Nov. 10.

One of the Post reporters who wrote about Moore was Beth Reinhard. The Washington Post firmly denied the allegation.

The account user had a history of perpetuating hoaxes.

The Daily Beast reported that the author of the account had repeatedly invented stories about his own background claiming to be a Navy veteran, a pollster, a baseball umpire, an expert on rigged voting machines, an American consulate worker in Calgary and "a beleaguered soul who needed time off after the 9/11 attacks when he saw Muslims ‘dancing on rooftops.’ "

The Daily Beast contacted all of his alleged employers and affiliates and found that he hadn’t held any of the positions.

A complete lack of proof is a fast track to our worst rating, Pants on Fire.

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PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
Pants on Fire
"Woman says she was offered big money by Washington Post to accuse Roy Moore of misconduct."
On a conservative fake news website
Monday, November 13, 2017

The claim: Moore’s accuser arrested and charged with falsification

The rating: Pants on Fire!

A spoof story on the website USA Mirror News carried the headline, "Roy Moore’s accuser arrested and charged with falsification."

The article said, "Alabama Attorney General John Simmons filed charges of falsification (against) Mary Lynne Davies, who said Roy Moore seduced and molested her when she was 14 years old."

Where to begin with the fabrications?

The actual Attorney General is Steve Marshall, not John Simmons. And there is no Mary Lynne Davies who has accused Moore. Nine women have come forward and there’s not a Davies among them.

USA Mirror News hasa disclaimer on its navigation bar, should any reader care to click on it, that says it is a "satirical publication that may appear sometimes to be telling the truth. We assure you that’s not the case. We present fiction as fact and our sources don’t actually exist."

There’s nothing fake about that. The story itself rates Pants on Fire.

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PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
Pants on Fire
"Roy Moore’s accuser arrested and charged with falsification."
On a fake news website
Friday, December 8, 2017
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