Did four Democratic senators turn Republican because they oppose the impeachment hearings against President Trump? No, that's not true: Four Democrats are not switching parties. The claim was first published by a liberal satire website that tries to mislead Trump supporters into sharing made up stories that are clearly marked as satire. Foreign-run fake news websites frequently copy articles from the site. 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 bustatroll.org on December 15, 2019 titled "4 Democrat Senators Are Turning Republican Because They Oppose Impeachment" (archived here) which opened:
Not every Democrat is a supporter of the sham attempt at impeachment of President Trump. Some actually have a conscience and respect for the Constitution. These few have been kept quiet about their opposition by their party but now, after the passing of the articles and a House vote just around the corner, they are speaking out. One by one, the left are letting America know that some of them are patriots too.
Four more Democrats are now publicly stating their anger at the impeachment proceedings initiated by their own party and all are preparing to abandon their party and cross over to the GOP because of it. Jack Layton of Michigan, Christina Clark of Washington, Gordon Campbell of California, and Kareem Jabari of New York have all filed the papers needed with Congress for a mid-term party transfer, and they've all done so out of anger with what they say is an "illegal action against the President"."
Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:
4 Democrat Senators Are Turning Republican Because They Oppose Impeachment
Not every Democrat is a supporter of the sham attempt at impeachment of President Trump. Some actually have a conscience and respect for the Constitution. These few have been kept quiet about their...
The site named four politicians who it said were switching parties. However, three are actually Canadian politicians. The fourth is a fictitious name. The story does not mention the one Democrat who has announced he was switching parties and opposes the impeachment of President Trump: Rep. Jeff Van Drew from New Jersey.
The site is clearly marked as satire and fan fiction and is part of the "America's Last Line of Defense" network of satirical websites. Self-professed liberal troll Christopher Blair runs those sites. The Maine resident works alongside a loose confederation of friends and allies. Blair has been in a feud with fact-checking website Snopes, and he has also criticized other fact-checkers who labeled his work "fake news" instead of satire. In reaction, he has recently rebranded all his active websites and Facebook pages, so they carry prominent disclaimers everywhere.
Every site in the network has an about page that reads (in part):
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, 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 journalists to rank the reliability of websites, describes bustatroll.org 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 bustatroll.org before; here are our most recent articles that mention the site:
- Fake News: Pelosi Did NOT Say: 'If Impeachment Fails, I Will Resign Immediately'
- Fake News: Dr. Phil Did NOT Say 'Women Who Support Trump Are Damaged.'
- Fake News: Rep. Omar Did NOT Demand Capitol Tree Be Topped By Qo'Nos Crescent Moon
- Fake News: Ilhan Omar DID NOT Just Host a Flag Burning Party
- Fake News: Michael Jordan is NOT Running for US Senate as a Republican