Fake News: Judge in Epstein Case NOT Found Dead of Apparent Suicide

Fact Check

  • by: Maarten Schenk
Fake News: Judge in Epstein Case NOT Found Dead of Apparent Suicide

Was a judge named Harry P. Schuter who was overseeing the Epstein case found dead of an apparent suicide too? No, that's not true. The story was published several weeks ago (even before Epstein's own first failed suicide attempt on July 25, 2019 or his second, successful, attempt on August 10, 2019) by a liberal satire website that tries to fool Trump supporters and Republicans into sharing made up stories that are clearly marked as satire when you actually click them. Articles from the site are frequently copied by foreign-run fake news websites. The people liking and sharing these stories are enriching foreign website operators (or a liberal from Maine) via the ad revenue generated with the content which is probably not what they expected or wanted.

The story originated from an article published by Potatriots Unite on July 16, 2019 titled "Judge in Epstein Case Found Dead of Apparent Suicide" (archived here) which opened:

The small apartment on Washington's Batt Street served as a temporary office for Judge Harry P. Schuter, 62, who had been specially selected by federal investigators to officiate the case of accused sex-crime perpetrator and pimp to dozens of secret famous figures Jeffrey Epstein. Today, it's a scene of police tape, CSI investigators, and a family left mourning. Schuter's body was found this morning by a cleaning lady.

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

Judge in Epstein Case Found Dead of Apparent Suicide

The small apartment on Washington's Batt Street served as a temporary office for Judge Harry P. Schuter, 62, who had been specially selected by federal investigators to officiate the case of ...

The story had several hints in it that it was satirical in nature including the category it was posted under: "Confirmation Bias Fan Fiction", as well as several "satire" logos. The image used with the story was used earlier in another satirical story involving John Bolton that was run by a site belonging to the same network of websites.

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The site is part of the "America's Last Line of Defense" network of satire websites run byself-professed liberal troll Christopher Blair from Maine along with a loose confederation of friends and allies. Blair has been in a feud with fact checking website Snopes for some time now and has also criticized other fact checkers in the past who labeled his work "fake news" instead of satire. In reaction to this he has recently rebranded all his active websites and Facebook pages so they carry extremely visible disclaimers everywhere.

Every site in the network has an about page that reads (in part):

About Satire
Before you complain and decide satire is synonymous with "comedy":

The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

Everything on this website is fiction. It is not a lie and it is not fake news because it is not real. If you believe that it is real, you should have your head examined. Any similarities between this site's pure fantasy and actual people, places, and events are purely coincidental and all images should be considered altered and satirical. See above if you're still having an issue with that satire thing.

Articles from Blair's sites frequently get copied by "real" fake news sites who often omit the satire disclaimer and any other hints the stories are fake. Blair has tried to get these sites shut down in the past but new ones keep cropping up.

Here is a video of Blair explaining how his process works:

If you are interested in learning more about Blair and the history of his sites, here is something to get you started:

The Ultimate Christopher Blair and America's Last Line of Defense Reading List | Lead Stories

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below. Yesterday Eli Saslow at the Washington Post wrote a fantastic article about Christopher Blair, a man from Maine who has been trolling conservatives and Trump supporters online for years and occasionally even made a living out of it.

If you see one of his stories on a site that does not contain a satire disclaimer, assume it is fake news. If you do see the satire disclaimer it is of course also fake news.

NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalist to rank the reliability of websites, describes potatriotsunite.com as:

A site that publishes false stories and hoaxes that are often mistaken for real news, part of a network named America's Last Line of Defense run by hoax perpetrator Christopher Blair.

According to NewsGuard the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.

We wrote about potatriotsunite.com before, here are our most recent articles that mention the site:

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  Maarten Schenk

Maarten Schenk is the co-founder and COO/CTO of Lead Stories and an expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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