It started with a single tweet.
Hours after Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore was accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl when he was 32, several Alabama Republican officials and right-wing pundits rushed to discredit the Washington Post’s explosive story.
One Twitter user, who goes by the name “Doug Lewis #MAGA” and claims to be a former US Navy Seal, made the following baseless claim: “A family friend who lives in Alabama just told my wife that a WAPO reporter named Beth offered her 1000$ to accuse Roy Moore.”
Nevertheless, right-wing blogs immediately ran with the unfounded claim from the unverified Twitter user.
Media Matters reports:
The Gateway Pundit, a disreputable website that frequently promotes hoaxes and employs far-right trolls, published an article based solely on Lewis’ claims with the headline “Alabama Woman Claims WaPo Reporter Offered Her $1000s to Accuse Roy Moore of Sexual Abuse!!” While Hoft noted it was “just a report at this time,” he explained it is “HUGE news if true.” Infowars.com, which is operated by leading far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, also ran with the report in an article bylined by reporter Kit Daniels that asked, “Accusations against Moore already debunked?”
MediaMatters has also highlighted some suspect changes in patterns of speech from the “Navy Seal” which mirrors tweets from Russian bot accounts.
I am Former Seal, 3 yrs SS,2 yrsSD CC for all 50 states.I will also offer free bodyguard for any elector near me.
— Doug Lewis #MAGA (@umpire43) December 16, 2016
Anyone come to my home in need and I will feed you and offer seasonal clothing and comfort.Come to harm my family I will shoot you dead.
— Doug Lewis #MAGA (@umpire43) November 28, 2015
May I also offer in Nomination for VP Condoleeza Rice to Trump both the SOS and Woman cards https://t.co/d9Af8Gqxsu
— Doug Lewis #MAGA (@umpire43) May 3, 2016
The Twitter account has yet to share any evidence proving its unfounded claims that have now reached millions of readers.
The Washington Examiner’s Tsar Becket Adams notes that the dollar sign in the fake tweet is consistent with a Russian bot account: “Fun fact: In Russian, the ruble sign (₽) follows the value. In English, we put it *before* the listed amount. Easy to get confused when you’re juggling multiple languages, I suppose.”
I’m still stuck on this all-American MAGA account putting the dollar sign *after* the 1,000.
Fun fact: In Russian, the ruble sign (₽) follows the value. In English, we put it *before* the listed amount. Easy to get confused when you’re juggling multiple languages, I suppose. pic.twitter.com/xy95EZvNoz
— Tsar Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) November 10, 2017