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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Far-right pro-Trump blog The Gateway Pundit wrongly accused a man of being behind a mass shooting in Las Vegas, NV.

Late on October 1, Stephen Craig Paddock reportedly opened fire at a concert in Las Vegas, killing at least 50 people and injuring more than 400. Police have located the alleged gunman’s roommate, who they believe “at this time not to be involved.”

Users on 4chan’s “politically incorrect” (/pol/) message board almost immediately incorrectly claimed they had “confirmed” that the gunman was the roommate’s husband and shared a screen capture of his Facebook page. (Media Matters is not publishing their names.) The users called the man a “social Democrat MOTHER FUCKER” and said he was part of a “communist revolution.” Users also urged people to “PUSH THE FACT THIS TERRORIST WAS A COMMIE ON ALL SOCIAL MEDIA. MAKE SURE EVERYONE KNOWS.”

The false claim from 4chan, which has previously helped far-right trolls and fake news purveyors spread misinformation, also spread on Twitter and was pushed on other message boards such as CoguarBoard. It even appeared as a top story on Google News. The claim later spread to The Gateway Pundit, which reported, based on the likes on the supposed husband’s Facebook page, that the shooter was “Reportedly a Democrat Who Liked Rachel Maddow, MoveOn.org and Associated with Anti-Trump Army.” The Gateway Pundit later deleted the article, but Facebook has since prominently featured another Gateway Pundit article about the shooting on its “crisis response” page for the shooting.

This is not the first time The Gateway Pundit, a blog connected to the “alt-right” that has regularly published misinformation, has misidentified a suspect in a killing. In January, the blog misidentified the alleged shooter at Fort Lauderdale’s airport. And in August, the blog wrongly accused a Michigan man of being the driver who drove over and killed counterprotester Heather Heyer during the white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville, VA. Nor is it the first time Gateway Pundit pushed a false claim from 4chan’s /pol/. In May, the blog hyped forged documents uploaded on the message board alleging that then-French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron was evading taxes. Additionally, in January, Gateway Pundit falsely accused a Washington Post reporter of taking photos of now-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s personal notes at his confirmation hearing, spurring online harassment.

The blog, which President Donald Trump’s favorite morning showFox & Friendshas frequently cited or otherwise drawn from, was granted White House press credentials in February. It has since been denied a press pass to cover the Senate, a decision it said it planned to appeal.