As the No. 1 writer of fake news, Paul Horner is being held to account for exploiting people’s gullibility. Now he rues the consequence: Donald Trump.
“Honestly, people are definitely dumber,” Horner tells The Washington Post. “They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected.
“He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
And he’s been around.
Hoax-busting site Snopes.com says of Horner: “No list of shameless misinformation would be complete without a mention of National Report (and its omnipresent former lead writer, Paul Horner), as the site is (or was) perhaps the most prominent example of its genre.
“Among National Report‘s most widespread hoaxes were claims that notorious street artist Banksy was arrested and unmasked (as Paul Horner, naturally), that a teen was imprisoned over a ‘swatting prank,’ and that a U.S. company was hiring mercenaries to kill ISIS militants. While most of the site’s efforts have been relatively benign, their fake story about an Ebola outbreak’s prompting a quarantine in Purdon, Texas, caused headaches for local officials at the height of coverage and anxiety about the virus.”
Horner, 38, isn’t shy about taking credit for Donald Trump’s election, telling the Post: “My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time. I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything. His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist.”
And more: “I thought they’d fact-check it, and it’d make them look worse. I mean that’s how this always works: Someone posts something I write, then they find out it’s false, then they look like idiots. But Trump supporters — they just keep running with it!
“They never fact-check anything! Now he’s in the White House. Looking back, instead of hurting the campaign, I think I helped it. And that feels [bad].”