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The announcement of indictments stemming from Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election sparked a fake news story that said a Democratic quartet was ensnared in the inquiry.
"Breaking: Breitbart leaks names of four Dems being charged in Mueller’s Russia probe," read the headline on an Oct. 27, 2017, post on FreedomJunkshun.com. Facebook users flagged the story as being potentially fabricated, as part of the social network’s efforts to curb the spread of fake news.
The post came the same day that news broke of a grand jury approving criminal charges in Mueller’s probe. The Special Counsel’s Office did not immediately announce who was being indicted.
The FreedomJunkshun.com post said conservative outlet Breitbart broke the news, posting a fake quote that read:
"While we won’t go to press ourselves until Monday, we can say with some certainty that Senators Hal Lindsay and Mel Shearer along with Representatives Kurt Mishtain and Bob Newfork will face charges of collusionm with the Russian governement to change the outcome of the 2016 election." (sic)
This didn’t happen, of course, and not just because the alleged Breitbart story to which FreedomJunkshun.com linked actually directed readers to a July performance of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at a theater in Berea, Ky.
There are no members of Congress in either the House or Senate by those names, either. (The fake Hal Lindsay was previously caught up in a fake news saga involving a drug bust, as chronicled by a site related to FreedomJunkshun.com.)
On Oct. 30, the real indictments came down, with President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates pleading not guilty to 12 counts of making false statements, money laundering and more.
George Papadopoulos, a former Trump foreign policy adviser, also was indicted for lying to the FBI and pleaded guilty.
FreedomJunkshun.com is member of a series of fake websites associated with Christopher Blair, a self-described liberal troll who creates fictional stories to try to fool conservative readers.
The website uses a similar layout and style as other Blair-affiliated sites, and carries a disclaimer that reads, "All people, places, names and images should be considered fictitious or fictitious representations."
We’re indicting this story as another attempt by the troll network to capitalize on the news of the day. Pants on Fire!
FreedomJunkshun.com, "BREAKING: Breitbart Leaks Names Of 4 Dems Being Charged In Mueller’s Russia Probe," Oct. 21, 2017
PunditFact, "If you're fooled by fake news, this man probably wrote it," May 31, 2017
PunditFact, "Claim that Democratic senator busted by DEA is fake news," June 14, 2017
CNN, "First on CNN: First charges filed in Mueller investigation," Oct. 28, 2017
Los Angeles Times, "$10 million bond for ex-Trump chairman Paul Manafort after not guilty plea in Russia probe," Oct. 30, 2017
NPR, "Russia Tried To Infiltrate Trump Campaign, Mueller Documents Confirm," Oct. 30, 2017
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