Did Bill Withers leave $2 million to President Donald Trump's re-election campaign? No, that's not true: The "Lean On Me" singer, who died on April 3, 2020, did not leave part of his estate to Trump's campaign. The claim is part of a satirical article published by a website that trolls Trump supporters. Other websites often steal such content and republish it without proper satire labels.
The satirical claim originated in an article published by Bustatroll.org on April 3, 2020, titled "Bill Withers Leaves $2 Million Estate to Trump Re-election Campaign" (archived here) which opened:
He always said there's no sunshine when you're gone, but now that's he gone himself, he left us at least one ray of sunshine. That ray of sunshine is a 2 million dollar estate left to the Trump re-election campaign.
Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:
Bill Withers Leaves $2 Million Estate to Trump Re-election Campaign
What a great man!
Other, similar articles addressed by Lead Stories from the same satire network include:
Fake News: 'Bionic Man' Lee Majors NOT Dead At 83; $6 Million NOT Left To Trump 2020
Fake News: Clint Eastwood NOT Leaving His Estate To The Trump 2020 Campaign
Fake News: Rock Icon Mick Jagger NOT Dead, Did NOT Leave Billions For Border Wall
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 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 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.