Fake news bloggers have seized on the mass shooting at a Texas church, which killed 26 and injured 20 others, to spread disinformation about the shooter’s identity and motive.
Freedumjunkshun.com, a self-avowed fake news website, portrayed the perpetrator as a desperate Democratic activist whose killing spree at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, was motivated by atheism.
"FBI and Texas State Police are both confirming that Raymond Peter Littleberry, the man accused of shooting up a Texas church, was an avid atheist on the payroll of the Democrat National Committee," the article claimed.
The fake news article missed basic facts and fabricated others. It wrongly identified the alleged shooter as Raymond Peter Littleberry. Law enforcement officials identified the gunman as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley.
Some media reports quoted acquaintances of Kelley describing the man as an avowed atheist.
But the fake news article’s claim that atheism motivated the attack was undercut by law enforcement officials who said religion was not a factor, and that the shooting appeared to stem from a "domestic situation."
"There was a domestic situation going on with this family. The suspect's mother-in-law attended this church. We know that she had received threatening texts from him," Freeman Martin of the Texas Department of Public Safety told reporters in a Nov. 6 press conference. Martin added the shooting "wasn't over religious beliefs."
The fake news article portrayed the perpetrator as "a liberal island in the middle of a conservative sea" who organized Black Lives Matter protests and gay pride parades. It noted that the shooter "was on the DNC payroll," in reference to the Democratic National Committee.
"That’s completely false," DNC spokesman Michael Tyler told PolitiFact of the alleged connection.
Freedumjunkshun aims to dupe conservative readers into mistaking its satire for truth. "Here we gather a boatload of bullhonkey, works of pure satirical fiction, to give the fist-shakers of the world a reason to hate," its disclaimer reads. "Reality is often in the eye of the beholder. You won’t find any of it here."
The fake story was wrong to say that Kelley was on the DNC payroll, and authorities said his religious beliefs do not appear to have been a factor in the shooting. We rate this Pants on Fire!