Lee Fang in The Intercept:
But a closer look reveals that some of the biggest fake news providers were run by experienced political operators well within the orbit of Donald Trump’s political advisers and consultants.
Laura Ingraham, a close Trump ally currently under consideration to be Trump’s White House press secretary, owns an online publisher called Ingraham Media Group that runs a number of sites, including LifeZette, a news site that frequently posts articles of dubious veracity. One video produced by LifeZette this summer, ominously titled “Clinton Body Count,” promoted a conspiracy theory that the Clinton family had some role in the plane crash death of John F. Kennedy, Jr., as well as the deaths of various friends and Democrats.
But LifeZette, for all its influence, pales in comparison to the sites run by Floyd Brown, a Republican consultant close to Trump’s inner circle of advisers. Brown gained notoriety nearly three decades ago for his role in helping to produce the “Willie Horton” campaign advertisement, a spot criticized for its use of racial messaging to derail Michael Dukakis’s presidential bid. Brown is also the political mentor of David Bossie, an operative who went to work for Trump’s presidential campaign this year after founding the Citizens United group. In an interview this year, Brown called Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway a “longtime friend.”
Brown now produces a flow of reliably pro-Trump Internet content through a company he co-owns with his family called Liftable Media Inc., which operates a number of high-impact, tabloid-style news outlets that exploded in size over the course of the election. One of Brown’s sites, Western Journalism, is the 81st largest site in the U.S. with 13 million monthly unique monthly visitors, according to rankings maintained by the site Alexa. Another, called Conservative Tribune, is the 50th largest site with over 19 million monthly unique visitors. Liftable Media is run on a day to day basis by Brown’s son, Patrick, who is the president of Liftable Media.
Trump’s relationship with one particularly influential online news site with a history of fabricated stories couldn’t be much closer. Steve Bannon, the chairman of Breitbart News, took a leave of absence from the organization to become the chief executive officer of Trump’s presidential campaign and has been tapped to serve as Trump’s chief strategist in the White House. Trump himself regularly promoted Breitbart stories, including a tweet used to justify his campaign to prove Obama was not born in the U.S.
Breitbart News blends commentary and journalism with inflammatory headlines, in many cases producing fake stories sourced from online hoaxes. The site once attempted to pass off a picture of people in Cleveland celebrating the Cavaliers as a massive Trump rally. The site furiously defended Trump’s false claim that “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey were “cheering” the 9/11 attacks, a claim that multiple fact-checking organizations have thoroughly debunked.
Other conservative content farms, including WorldNetDaily, maintained ties to the Trump election effort. Campaign finance records show that Great America PAC, a Trump-backing Super PAC, paid WND, known as the largest purveyor of Obama birth certificate conspiracy theories, for “online voter contact.”
Presumably the New York Times and others missed this interesting connection because they were too busy focusing on Clinton’s emails and, well, you can’t do two things at once, can you?