Fake News: Campus Young Republican Club Did NOT Topple Obama Statue

Fact Check

  • by: Maarten Schenk
Fake News: Campus Young Republican Club Did NOT Topple Obama Statue

Did the Campus Young Republican Club at Bartlett College in Oregon topple an Obama statue? No, that's not true. The story was published by a liberal satire website that tries to mislead 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 ObamaWatcher on November 4, 2019 titled "Campus Young Republican Club Topples Obama Statue" (archived here) which opened:

In what some are calling an : "open act of rebellion", the young conservative group at Oregon's Bartlett College took it upon themselves this last weekend to pull down a copper statue of President Obama. Campus police have arrested all members of the club, and are pressing full charges for vandalism, destruction of private property, and hate crimes.

The statue was erected in 2012 and has been a beloved campus monument since, with many students leaving offerings of food or flowers hoping to channel: "The great and noble spirit" of the ex-President. The students responsible for its ousting have all been expelled permanently. Campus police chief Joseph Barron explained what would come next.

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

Campus Young Republican Club Topples Obama Statue

In what some are calling an : "open act of rebellion", the young conservative group at Oregon's Bartlett College took it upon themselves this last weekend to pull down a copper st...

The article was posted under a category named "Barack Obama Fan Fiction" and the site that published it contained several satire logos and disclaimers. In addition to that there is no Bartlett College in Oregon (there is one in Massachusetts but that one is unlikely to have Confederate monuments since it was part of the Union during the Civil War).

The image used to illustate the story actually shows the toppling of a Confederate monument in North Carolina:

Leaders Condemn Toppling Of Confederate Monument 'Silent Sam'

Educational and political leaders are condemning Monday night's toppling of "Silent Sam," a century-old Confederate memorial on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's campus. UNC System President Margaret Spellings said in a statement Tuesday that a full criminal investigation is being conducted after a group of about 250 protesters used ropes and banners to pull down the bronze figure of an anonymous rebel soldier - erected in 1913.

The site that posted the hoax 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 obamawatcher.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 obamawatcher.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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