While Donald Trump decries any media outlet that writes a critical story about him as “fake news,” actual “fake news” websites that completely fabricate stories are still churning out content and finding new readers.
The creator of UndergroundNewsReport.com, Florida native James McDaniel, recently announced that in just over a week after its launch, his website already received over 1 million views.
And he had Trump supporters to thank for reaching such a milestone.
UndergroundNewsReport exclusively featured hoax stories, usually ridiculous reports about Hillary Clinton (arrest imminent!), Barack Obama (calling for Trump’s assassination!) and Elizabeth Warren (Soviet spy!).
One story about Whoopi Goldberg supposedly mocking the widow of the Navy SEAL killed last month in Yemen went viral on Facebook.
In a statement on his website, McDaniel thanked Trump supporters for their gullibility: “To my surprise, the Trump masses embraced my stories as fact, almost universally. It seemed that there wasn’t anything I could write that was too wild or outrageous to be believed by this particular audience.”
He told PolitiFact in an interview posted today that he started the website just for kicks, and found great success in fooling Trump voters:
McDaniel, who lives in Costa Rica and works for an American nutrition company, says his website was dreamt up as a side project for laughs.
Unlike many fake news purveyors, McDaniel didn’t want to sway conversations or make money through ad revenue. Curious about how easily people could be fooled, he cooked up a post he thought would normally sound too crazy for anyone to believe, just to see if it caught on.
His first story was a fabricated tale about how Obama allegedly ran a pedophile ring out of the White House, and then McDaniel decided to create more. He started posting the links he created to Donald Trump fan groups on Facebook to see if they would take the bait.
UndergroundNewsReport.com was launched Feb. 21. In less than two weeks, more than 1 million people had viewed stories on the site and spread them across social media platforms.
“I was surprised by how gullible the people in the Trump groups were, but as I continued to write ridiculous things they just kept getting shared and I kept drawing more viewers,” McDaniel told PolitiFact. “I saw how many fake ridiculous stories were making rounds in these groups and just wanted to see how ridiculous they could get.”
“I think that almost every story I did, or at least the successful ones, relayed off of things that Trump supporters already believed. Obama is a Muslim terrorist. Hillary (Clinton) is a demonic child trafficker,” McDaniel said. “These are things much more widely believed among Trump supporters than I had previously thought.”
Before the election, fake stories about Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump, John Podesta running a pedophile ring and Clinton selling arms to ISIS went viral on Facebook.