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A fake news site has taken creative license by saying that a man President Donald Trump is reportedly picking to lead a top science job actually mocked scientists, calling them "dumb regular people that think dinosaurs existed."
A May 20 post by USPOLN.com headlined "Trump’s Top Scientist Pick: ‘Scientists Are Just Dumb Regular People That Think Dinosaurs Existed And The Earth Is Getting Warmer’," takes aim at Sam Clovis.
News reports have said that Trump plans to nominate Clovis as undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Research, Education and Economics division, a position that’s been held by scientists in past administrations. Clovis is the Department of Agriculture’s senior White House adviser, but reportedly lacks a science background. He has a doctorate in public administration, has taught business, management and public policy at Morningside College in Iowa, hosted a conservative radio show and was a Trump campaign policy adviser.
Has he disparaged scientists as USPOLN.com said? Facebook users flagged the post as potential fake news. We found that quotes attributed to Clovis are indeed fake.
A disclaimer in its "About Us" page plainly tells readers its intentions and accuracy:
"USPOLN may include information from sources that may or may not be reliable and facts that don’t necessarily exist. These Articles should be considered satirical and any and all quotes attributed to actual people complete and total baloney."
The USPOLN.com story about Clovis heavily borrows, almost verbatim, multiple paragraphs from a May 12 report from ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit, investigative journalism website.
USPOLN.com’s opening sentences:
"The research section of the USDA studies everything from nutrition to climate change, and according to the 2008 Farm Bill the ‘chief scientist’ is supposed to be the leader ‘among distinguished scientists with specialized or significant experience in agricultural research, education and economics.’ President Donald Trump’s pick, Sam Clovis, doesn’t seem to have any of those credentials. He has never taken science as part of his graduate course and questions the legitimacy of climate change. Although he has a doctorate in public administration and taught business and public policy at Morningside College for ten years, he barely published any academic work. Clovis had made a reputation for himself as a conservative talk radio show in Iowa and an avid Trump supporter."
ProPublica’ first few sentences:
"The USDA’s research section studies everything from climate change to nutrition. Under the 2008 Farm Bill, its leader is supposed to serve as the agency’s ‘chief scientist’ and be chosen "from among distinguished scientists with specialized or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.
"But Sam Clovis — who, according to sources with knowledge of the appointment and members of the agriculture trade press, is President Trump’s pick to oversee the section — appears to have no such credentials.
"Clovis has never taken a graduate course in science and is openly skeptical of climate change. While he has a doctorate in public administration and was a tenured professor of business and public policy at Morningside College for 10 years, he has published almost no academic work."
USPOLN.com’s post takes a satirical turn when it starts "quoting" Clovis on his comments about his credentials in an assumed interview with "KYXL Radio" (searches on the Federal Communications Commission website for a radio station with those call letters yielded zero results).
The satirical website said Clovis "argued that he was ‘proud’ he didn’t have any scientific credentials or education, because ‘scientists are nothing more than a bunch of mislead (sic) individuals anyway’."
The post also falsely claims Clovis said he thanks God he did not make him a scientist and that he’s proud not to be one "because they believe in things like evolution and the like."
USPOLN.com links as its "source" another "hybrid News/Satire" site that has the same article posted.
We asked the USDA to confirm if Clovis was Trump’s pick for the chief scientist job. The department said it could not comment in advance on any nominations for Senate-confirmed positions.
What about the quotes from USPOLN.com?
"Completely fabricated," the department’s communications office said, linking to a Snopes review of the story deeming the comments false. The Associated Press has also reported that the quotes are not real.
Fake news website USPOLN.com said, "Trump’s Top Scientist Pick: ‘Scientists Are Just Dumb Regular People That Think Dinosaurs Existed And The Earth Is Getting Warmer’."
The website borrows some information reported by a legitimate investigative journalism website, ProPublica, such as Sam Clovis reportedly being Trump’s pick for a top USDA job and details about his resume. But the post attributes false quotes to Clovis. USPOLN.com says its articles "should be considered satirical and any and all quotes attributed to actual people complete and total baloney."
We rate the claim Pants on Fire!
ProPublica, Trump’s Expected Pick for Top USDA Scientist Is Not a Scientist, May 12, 2017
Associated Press, Not real News: A look at what didn’t happen this week, June 3, 2017
Washington Post, Trump’s expected choice for USDA science job lacks hard-science background, May 13, 2017
Agri-Pulse, Washington Week Ahead: Perdue heads to Hill, USDA nominees near, May 14, 2017
LinkedIn, Sam Clovis profile page, viewed June 5, 2017
Internet Archive Wayback Machine, Sam Clovis Morningside College profile
PunditFact, PolitiFact's guide to fake news websites and what they peddle, April 20, 2017
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