Republican war machine targets Buttigieg. We tracked what went down.
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This week, the Future Majority War Room tracked the Republican media machine setting its sights on presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg with false and disgusting allegations of sexual assault.
What transpired from the time the false accusation was made to when the Daily Beast outed the hit-job, we can track exactly how Republicans take false information and weaponize it online.
- At 6:00 AM ET, April 29, Medium posted an article by Hunter Kelly, where he accuses Mayor Pete of sexually assaulting him. By 6:21 AM EST, Hunter posts the article to a Twitter account that identifies as Hunter. The post gets some traction, but when conservative giant Infowars publishes the article at 1 PM EST, it’s off to the races.
- From there, big GOP accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers like @ChuckWoolery (bluntforcetruth.com), Jim Hof (@gatewaypundit), and @AllAmericanGirl spread the story from their accounts reaching millions. It is interesting to note is that @AllAmericanGirl’s account featured a “click-to-tweet sheet” in her bio, allowing for others to quickly tweet the same content that she posts with one click. The tweet about the accusation was on that page.
- Next comes the bots. From commenting on Buttigieg’s account asking if he will step down, to inundating reporter’s coverage of his luncheon with Reverend Al Sharpton that was happening as the story broke, bots helped to spread the story widely online.
- By 7:55 PM EST, the Daily Beast broke that this accusation was just another hit job by “right-wing provocateurs” lobbyist, Jack Burkman, and internet troll, Jacob Wohl. This isn’t Wohl’s first rodeo when it comes to trying to take down someone with a false accusation. In late February, USA Today reported that he attempted the same online attack against Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
This is an evolution of how the GOP uses social media to destroy opposition, campaigns, and reputations in a single day and the power that they wield. We have since learned the person who wrote the article falsely accusing Buttigieg was allegedly impersonated by Wohl and Burkman. While he is a Trump supporter, he claims that he refused to participate in the false allegation against Mayor Pete.
This is textbook GOP (and Russian) tactics to create a smokescreen and cause division. From a story on an obscure internet “news” site, to larger sites like Infowars, and disseminated throughout the social media landscape through large Twitter accounts and bots alike, this information will creep into the mainstream until it is picked up by mainstream media networks. Trump supporters create “Tweet Storms” to push these news articles as well as utilizing bots. Once outside of the far-right channels, “Non-MAGA” folks looked at the originating accuser it appears on the surface to be a Bernie supporter, not affiliated with Trump, and many other Bernie supporters began retweeting and sharing the article because it is damaging to a candidate that isn’t their own.
This is how quickly and how potentially damaging it is to be a Democratic candidate in 2019 under fire by the GOP; and they’re just getting started. One could even say that this is a small test case for the larger, full-scale attacks that we will see on other candidates in the coming weeks and months ahead.
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