Anti-Trump Fake News Site Even Bamboozled A Senator

Phillip Stucky | Political Reporter

Left-leaning fake news sites eager to publish negative stories about President Donald Trump are surging in popularity following the presidential election.

One of these is the Palmer Report, a left-leaning website profiled by Business Insider that’s gaining traction, despite the fact that a large portion of their articles are poorly sourced. The outlet consistently publishes fake or inaccurate stories, but stories from the site have been picked up by MSNBC, NBC, Newsweek, CNN, and even fooled a Democratic senator.

“People want it to be true because people hate Trump,” Snopes managing editor Brooke Binkowski told Business Insider. “But how does that make anybody any better than people who hated Obama and would seize on anything to discredit him?”

Democratic Sen. Ed Markey appeared to lend legitimacy to an unsubstantiated report from the site in a May interview when he referred to an impaneled grand jury in New York.

“Subpoenas have now been issued in northern Virginia with regard to Flynn and Gen. Flynn’s associates,” Markey said during a CNN interview last Wednesday. “A grand jury has been impaneled up in New York.”

The Palmer Report widely reported the news as if the senator “confirmed” the story as true after the interview, but it turned out Markey had actually first heard the claim from the Palmer Report.

“Senator Markey first confirms what was already known: ‘Subpoenas have now been issued in Northern Virginia with regard to General Flynn and General Flynn’s associates.'” Bill Palmer wrote about the interview. “But then he adds the detail about the separate state-level case: ‘a grand jury has been empaneled up in New York.'”

But there was no grand jury to investigate President Donald Trump in New York. An aide in the senator’s office pointed to the Palmer Report as the sole source of Markey’s claims.

Markey’s spokeswoman Giselle Barry later explained how Markey obtained the information. “This morning, Senator Markey erroneously reported that a grand jury has been impaneled in New York related to the wider inquiry of possible Trump campaign and administration ties to Russia,” Barry said. “Senator Markey does not have direct intelligence that is the case, and the information he was provided during a briefing is not substantiated. … Senator Markey apologizes for the confusion.”

The article fails to mention the fact that Markey may have gotten the information from Palmer in the first place, choosing instead to argue that the information came from Markey alone.

The Palmer Report has sourced a number of dubious or fake stories from “Democratic insider” Claude Taylor. Taylor’s insider status hinges on his brief work as a volunteer on President Bill Clinton’s campaign in 1993. The progressive-leaning site Daily Kos even ran an article discussing Taylor’s lack of credentials to speak about Russia.

Taylor’s insider exclusives include the fact that Russian officials blackmailed Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the “news” that President Donald Trump had resigned, and the assertion that foreign authorities hid evidence that Trump’s children committed criminal acts.

Fact-checking site has addressed the growing trend of left-leaning fake news stories that included a story that “revealed” former FBI Director James Comey tweeted a “pee-tape” video of the president, a story in which Donald Trump said that the American people “had no right” to protest his administration or the story that Trump got late-night comedian Stephen Colbert fired.

Each story was fake, and each story played into a strong anti-Trump narrative that was widely shared on Twitter and Facebook.

“People want it to be true because people hate Trump,” Managing Editor of Snopes Brooke Binkowski told Business Insider. “But how does that make anybody any better than people who hated Obama and would seize on anything to discredit him?”

Business Insider reporter Pamela Engel found at least one instance in which the site published unverified information on Twitter. A story titled “Donald Trump privately asked GOP senators at last minute to cancel today’s Sally Yates testimony,” included unverified claims from an anti-Trump activist named Scott Dworkin.

The list of famous individuals that have shared false stories from the site includes MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid, NBC News legal analyst Lisa Bloom, Congressman Ted Lieu, Newsweek, as well as former Governor Howard Dean according to the report’s own website.

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