The Trump administration, which regularly complains about fake news that mischaracterizes the achievements of the president, doesn’t mind engaging in the practice to advance its agenda.
The latest example involves the devastating wild fires that swept California’s wine country. While authorities are no where close to determining how the fires started, the alt right media is naming it own culprits.
Breitbart and Infowars ran a story earlier this week claiming a homeless man, Jesus Gonzales, was arrested “on suspicion of arson in Wine Country fires that have killed at least 40 residents.”
Both news outlets cited an article in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat as their source of the information. But the PD story reported Gonzales was arrested for starting a small fire in a Sonoma regional park where he sleeps regularly and is known to law enforcement.
Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said there is no truth to the rumor Gonzales started the Wine County fires. The suspect was stopped by deputies after he was seen leaving a creek bed at the park with a plume of smoke rising behind him. “(Deputies) asked him if he started the fire, and he said he started the fire to warm himself up,” Giordano said.
The fire was so small that a deputy almost extinguished the fire by himself before fire fighters arrived, the sheriff added.
Then there is GotNews.com, which ran a story claiming the fires were “started by Mexican drug cartels in order to gain a strategic advantage over the legal marijuana industry.” The article didn’t include one quote or named source, claiming it got the information from Homeland Security, “law enforcement officials” and people involved in the marijuana industry.
The so-called news site is run by notorious troll Chuck C. Johnson, who regularly advances “often-xenophobic conspiracy theories,” according to Snopes. Like Breitbart and Infowars, GotNews is peddling its anti-immigrant agenda.
If you think Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would take a more responsible approach to the subject, you’re wrong. The federal agency issued a press release with the following headline: “ICE Director: Suspected Wine Country Arsonist Is Illegal Mexican National.”
The release warned of Sonoma County’s “repeated release of (a) dangerous criminal alien.” But if you read half way down the press release, you come across the following: “…it is not clear what role the fires Gonzales allegedly set played in the overall disaster.”
(We knew people in the Trump administration couldn’t spell. They can’t write coherent sentences either.)
Giordano called the press release “inaccurate, inflammatory” information. “ICE’s misleading statements stir fear in some of our community members who are already exhausted and scared,” the sheriff added.
Of course, ICE is just doing its part to advance Trump’s anti-immigration agenda and build support for his “big, beautiful” wall. No wonder the president loves news sources like Breitbart.