Man behind viral border wall GoFundMe fundraiser also peddled false news

GoFundMe screenshot
GoFundMe screenshot

The man behind a viral GoFundMe page created to help fund Trump’s border wall isn’t just a citizen fundraiser.

Brian Kolfage, a 37-year-old triple-amputee Iraq war veteran from Florida, also runs Right Wing News, a website often cited for promoting false and inflammatory content. (And one we’ve fact-checked before.)

In the face of a partial government shutdown over border wall funding, Kolfage established a fundraiser named "We The People Will Fund The Wall."

As of noon Dec. 21, it has raked in more than $12 million from over 200,000 donors.

Kolfage included a section titled "How do you know this is not a scam?" under which he states that he is a "credible and real person." He asked donors to look up his background and pointed to a verified Facebook page and personal website.

He didn’t mention Right Wing News, whose Facebook page was removed by the platform in October. Facebook scrubbed more than 559 pages due to what it called "coordinated inauthentic behavior" that misled users about their mission and activities.

In addition to Right Wing News, Kolfage also oversaw VeteranAF and FreedomDaily, NBC News reported, two now shuttered sites that pushed conspiracy theories like the one claiming Hillary Clinton was hiding a deadly illness in 2016.

After the Facebook pulldown, Kolfage launched a group called "Fight4FreeSpeech," which also accepts donations on GoFundMe. Kolfage didn’t mention the group, or Right Wing News, in the border wall fundraiser, because they could be a potential distraction from his fundraising goal, according to NBC. (Kolfage did not respond to our request for comment.)

"I don’t wanna mix the two, that shouldn’t be the focus. My personal issues have nothing to do with building the wall," he continued.

PolitiFact has called out Right Wing News for its falsehoods. In November, the site promoted an apocalyptic story that armed Black Panthers took over the streets of Atlanta on Election Day and that an "all-out war" was breaking out. We rated it Pants on Fire.

His effort to crowdfund the border wall has been shared more than 950,000 times and received widespread media attention since its Dec. 16 launch. Donations have surged since Kolfage appeared on Fox News with host Laura Ingraham Dec. 20.

In a statement posted on the GoFundMe page, Kolfage proposed that if every one of the 63 million people who elected Trump pledged $80 each, that would give them roughly $5 billion to fund the wall. (The total cost of the wall is expected to be considerably higher.)

"What’s $80 bucks for 60 million people?" Kolfage said on Ingraham’s show. "The common person can give that kind of money … this is America coming together and they want the wall and they’re putting their money where their mouth is."

On the fundraiser page, he promises contributors that "100 percent of your donations will go to the Trump Wall" and he contacted the White House to "secure a point of contact where all the funds will go upon completion."

GoFundMe charges a 2.9 percent payment-processing fee on each donation, along with 30 cents for every donation. 

Kolfage told NBC he plans to rely on connections in the White House to make sure the wall is funded, saying "we have a lot of people watching this," which would "serve as a motivating factor not to screw this up."

Correction: This story included an incorrect calculation for GoFundMe’s share of fundraisers when it was published. The reference has been removed.