Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez' grandfather an illegal immigrant from Val Verde? No, that's not true: This satirical story is based on a fictional South American country that is featured several times in the work of Hollywood writer Steven de Souza.
The story originated from an article (archived here) where it was published by Bustatroll.org on December 6, 2019, under the title "AOC's Grandfather Was An Illegal Immigrant From Val Verde". It opened:
A truth has been uncovered by our intrepid reporting staff that could affect both the political and the citizenship status of New York Democrat House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This information not only reveals her own criminality but may show complicity of the Democrat Party in illegal activities as well.Law enforcement documents from Queens have revealed a name - José Cortez. This name is significant in that it is the same name that AOC stated was that of her paternal grandfather, who she claimed was a legal immigrant escaping the dictator, Arius, in Val Verde. She claimed that his escape was aided by none other than American hero, John Matrix, and that Matrix provided him citizenship to the United States
Here is what social media users saw:
In the 1985 action movie "Commando," John Matrix is a retired Special Forces colonel played by Arnold Schwarzenneger. Dan Hedaya played the role of Arius, the dictator in the fictional country Val Verde. Like the country of Val Verde itself, this narrative that Ocasio-Cortez wove a tale of her family history that included these characters is entirely made up.
Val Verde even has its own Wikipedia page listing the original works by Steven de Souza - as well as many Val Verde tributes appearing in other fictional works over the years.
Here is the trailer for the "early action classic" Commando:
The article ends by casting doubt on the citizenship status of Ocasio-Cortez because of this made up story about her grandfather. If anyone has lingering confusion about this, they can refer to the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which clearly states in Section 1: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."
Bustatroll.org is part of the "America's Last Line of Defense" network of satire websites run by self-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 visible 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 that 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:
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 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: AOC Does NOT Suggest the Earth May Be Flat
- Fake News: Kaepernick Did NOT Lobby To Remove National Anthem From Football
- Fake News: Clarence Thomas Did NOT Say SCOTUS Is Ready To 'Crush The Coup Against President Trump'
- Fake News: Barr Did NOT File Charges, Did NOT Indict Obama
- Fake News: Trump Did NOT File Abuse Of Power Charges Against Nancy Pelosi And Chuck Schumer