Did U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi say she won't pass the new and massive economic stimulus legislation to beat back the economic spiral due to COVID-19 unless senior citizens are excluded? No, that's not true: A satirical website that attempts to mislead Trump supporters and other conservatives into sharing fake stories posted the article with the made-up quotes attributed to Pelosi.
The claim started as an article (archived here) published by BustaTroll.org on April 9, 2020, under the title "Pelosi Won't Pass Stimulus Checks Unless Seniors Are Excluded." It opened:
No one knows why the Democrats hate senior citizens so much. They do everything that they can to screw our nation's retirees, trying to screw them out of Social Security, screw them out of Medicare, and now they want to screw them out of their stimulus checks.
Facebook users saw posts like this:
Pelosi Won't Pass Stimulus Checks Unless Seniors Are Excluded
They hate our seniors!
The BustaTroll.org article had over 3,000 shares on Facebook, but the site is pure satire, and it does not include real quotes in stories. It notes it is "Confirmation Bias Fiction For Boomers."
Among other things, the article claims:
The stimulus is being delivered in order to keep our economy rolling. It needs to go to those who spend so that money continues to flow. Seniors don't spend money. They sock it all away in a cookie jar or under a mattress, saving it for a rainy day that never comes. They're idiots and, if anything, they are destructive to the economy of the United States.
And besides, they get Social Security. They're already living off the government dime, getting a handout each and every month because they're too lazy to work for a living. Why would we give them more?
Seniors will just have to do with they always do. They should be thankful that we're still willing to treat them if they catch this thing. If it were completely up to me, I'd toss them away."
The also article says "The Speaker of the House presented this latest stalling technique to congress today," and the link on the word "presented" is a Google Translate quote from Russian that reads:
"You realize this is the exact opposite of what a democrat would actually do, right? Or are you really this stupid?"
In fact, the U.S. Senate is holding up the stimulus bill amid the COVID-19 pandemic - not the House of Representatives.
According to The Hill, a Washington, D.C. newspaper, Republicans and Democrats were locked in a partisan impasse as of April 9, 2020:
The Senate on Thursday blocked dueling plans to provide hundreds of billions of dollars to help small businesses contend with the coronavirus-fueled economic meltdown amid a stalemate over the scope of the package.
The site 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:
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 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.