Hillary Clinton calls out fake news in farewell to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid

Source: AP
Source: AP

Amid Hillary Clinton's farewell speech honoring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who is retiring from his post, came a pressing call to action: Stop spreading fake news.

"The epidemic of fake news and false propaganda that flooded social media over the last year — it's now clear that so-called fake news can have real-world consequences," Clinton said Thursday, according to the Huffington Post.

"This isn't about politics or partisanship. Lives are at risk, lives of ordinary people just trying to go about their days to do their jobs, contribute to their communities."

Clinton was alluding to a conspiracy theory that accused her of orchestrating a child sex ring out of Washington, D.C., pizzeria Comet Ping Pong. Incited by the news, 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch took matters into his own hands, arming himself with an assault rifle, entering the restaurant and firing at least one shot in an effort to "self-investigate" the fake reports. 

The incident became colloquially known as "pizzagate" and resulted in multiple other pizzerias falling under the suspicion of conspiracy theorists, who made anonymous threats to restaurants in Brooklyn, New York, and Austin, Texas.

Comet Ping Pong in Washington, D.C., was at the center of "pizzagate."
Source: 
Jose Luis Magana/AP

Many people have pointed to similarly outrageous fake news stories as one of the reasons Clinton lost the presidency. 

In November, the Washington Post interviewed Paul Horner, a fake news writer who earns $10,000 a month in ad revenue from peddling false stories on the web. He told the Post he has at least 10 sites disseminating the false information.

Horner said he was incredulous when his stories were readily accepted as fact by President-elect Donald Trump's supporters and even his campaign staffers, who shared the fake stories across social media, like former campaign manager Cory Lewandowski, who tweeted a fake story about a Trump protester getting paid $3,500. The story had been published on the site ABCNews.com.co — eerily similar to the verifiable ABCNews.com.

"My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time," Horner told the Post. "I think Trump is in the White House because of me."

But even now that the election is over, the issue of fake news still remains prescient, with the consequences becoming more real every day.

"It's a danger that must be addressed and addressed quickly," Clinton said Thursday.

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Marie Solis

Marie is a Slay staff writer with focuses in culture and class. Her writing has appeared in Gothamist and the Awl. You can reach her at marie@mic.com.

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