STATEMENT OF PAUL HORNER
“Truth and Falsehood, it has been well said, are not always opposed to each other like black and white, but oftentimes, and by design, are made to resemble each other so as to be hardly distinguishable, just as the counterfeit thing is counterfeit because it resembles the genuine thing."
-Sir Anthony Cleasby (English Jurist) “Johnson v. Emerson”, (1871) L.R. 6 Ex. Ca. 357
[UPDATED DECEMBER 13, 2016 @ 10AM EST]
Until recently, I, Paul Horner, was the greatest internet prankster of all time. For almost two decades, I wrote fake news articles and shared them around the internet. Mostly using my platform to make masturbation jokes and silly hoaxes, using nearly-real web domains, which, over time, turned me into something of an underground, Internet legend. My stories would be quickly shared by morons all over the country and all over the world, only to be debunked later and make those over-sharers look like imbeciles. That was all true until a few weeks ago, when the fake became all too real. On November 17th, Caitlin Dewey at The Washington Post first reported about my claim that I swayed the election for Trump with my fake news. Some readers of her article wondered if I was only joking, while others wondered if I was just full of myself, but take it from a professional satirist when I tell you: I was being entirely serious. In total, over the course of several months of the 2016 presidential election, the Trump campaign agreed to pay me nearly $2M, as part of its Project Alamo Digital Strategy – an ingenious and revolutionary method of Facebook-based marketing that leveraged the data-driven, analytics-based, approach of Jared Kushner, overseen by Brad Parscale, to spread anti-left propaganda for the alt-right movement.
It all began just before the conventions, when I was contacted by Steve Bannon in early July 2016. I had known of Bannon from his work at Breitbart News and as a Tea Partier in 2010 who would often retweet articles written by me or other internet satirists. Bannon learned at Breitbart how people feeling disenfranchised by what they see as a liberal bias in mainstream news media are cynical and therefore more willing to believe incredulous stories about the Left that come from alternative sources like the Web, regardless of the credibility of said online sources. To test this theory, Breitbart had recently cited a fake story I had written, about Clinton (or Bernie?) supporters being paid to protest at Trump rallies, and he praised me for the commercial success that article had achieved, from the hundreds of thousands of shares and subsequent pageviews in alt-right and conservative blogs and forums online. This is why Steve Bannon had called me: to enlist me in his underground propaganda war against the Clinton machine. He told me that he admired my work and that I had impressed him with my ability to disrupt mainstream media. He then remarked to me how he was going to be brought on as Trump’s Campaign CEO following what everyone at Trump Tower expected to be a commercially unsuccessful Republican convention. Bannon told me he had been talking me up to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who had taken over all digital media for the Trump Campaign in June, and how I hoaxed people with stories they believed were true. Kushner, having run New York Observer as a tabloid newspaper, understood even better than I the power of muckrake journalism. Kushner had hired Brad Parscale to oversee most of the underground data monitors and any misinformation pushed by the Trump campaign, and it was Brad that I had the most personal contact with.
Since that fateful summer phone call with Bannon, I have received large monthly payments as a retainer for my “creative services,” which Parscale simply wrote off and itemized as part of his Facebook “advertising budget.” His Project Alamo was an operation of over $100M, so his payments to me were simply a rounding error. Nonetheless, to avoid creating any digital record of bank transfers or wires, let alone a physical paper trail, I would always meet Brad in person in San Antonio, just a two-hour flight from my hometown of Phoenix, to handle all payments in cash. The way the Trump campaign saw it, they could either pay millions of dollars to make and run utterly ineffective TV ads, or they could bet on a start-up like me, to deliver unprecedented ROI on their ad spending. Make no mistake, so-called “fake news” was a significant part of the Trump campaign's ad spending in the home stretch (September through Election Day). I wrote dozens of fake articles over the course of those months, many of which went viral and were shared by Trump supporters who unquestioningly believed they were true. Brad (and sometimes Steve or Jared) would give me ideas for stories, I would craft the narratives. Then Brad would spread my fake sites in forums and blogs online he knew would echo the loudest. Brad and I would even routinely collaborate on ideas for the world’s most powerful, global editorial board: the only platform on Earth that has the power to unilaterally dictate the focus and attention of all global mass media: @realDonaldTrump. Do you all really believe that Donald J. Trump himself is tweeting at three in the morning!? He’s a 70 year-old man! How does a senior citizen who doesn't even use a cell phone or e-mail manage to type out tweets on a smartphone in the middle of the night? Brad had direct management of a huge amount of the Trump tweeting phenomenon.
I often wondered how I ended up on that team – I don’t even like Donald Trump. In fact, part of my motivation for publishing this Statement now is that I am deeply horrified at the prospect of his upcoming Presidency. America has elected an utterly unqualified, unprepared real estate investor/reality TV star/former professional wrestler (who was inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2013), arguably the greatest snake-oil salesman in American political history. He has plans already in place to transform the United States of America into the world’s largest open kleptocracy: An American Oligarchy. All legal experts, from judges to legal scholars, are in agreement: the conflicts of interest and ethical quagmires faced by Donald Trump are unprecedented in American history.
People have said it so many times, it has lost all affect. But the truth is still the truth: Donald Trump is a shameless, bald-face liar. How can we all pretend everyday that he hasn’t openly claimed that Hillary started the “birther” movement or even more absurdly, that President Obama is the founder of ISIS. His entire campaign was built on lies, and he won the Presidential election by surrounding himself with other "expert liars" (Kushner, Bannon, Parscale ... and even myself). The world should know now that Trump is in office because of lies. The American people have been deliberately fed misinformation and disinformation for too long. I am ashamed of the part I have played in this, but know that I did not act alone. The data crusade that Kushner and Parscale ran in the closing months and days of the election used trolls and hackers from all across the globe, including, of course, Russia. A lot has been made in the press about Trump’s alleged connections to Russia, in general, and Vladimir Putin, in particular. I cannot say definitively whether the shocking allegations in the damning Mother Jones article are true, or what to make of the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies’ finding, but I can tell you this: On multiple occasions, articles of mine were copied in whole or in part by other, Russian-owned, “fake news” websites. In each instance, I threatened legal action through my Russian-speaking attorney in Veles, Macedonia, the pages were taken down, and I was financially compensated. In this sense, it is absolutely accurate to say that the Russians paid me to write "fake news" to destabilize and sow doubt about American institutions, such as the mainstream media, voter registration protocols, and even Western democracy itself.
Nearly everyone I have shared this sensitive information with has wondered if I am trying to pull another prank or hoax. At first, I didn't understand why they wouldn't believe me, because I am actually an honest person. Perhaps it is because the figure of $2M sounds unbelievable. So allow me to clarify. I received $40K monthly for six months (June - November), for a total of $240K. However, I negotiated an additional payment, which was structured as a "victory bonus." Specifically, I was to be paid a one-time, lump sum additional payment of $1.5M IF DONALD TRUMP WON THE ELECTION. Not surprisingly, I never received that money, and both Bannon and Kushner have completely ghosted me since Election Day. Brad finally replied to me with a single, cryptic, three-word text message on November 27, 2016, after my incessant attempts to contact him, saying simply: "We will see." I suspect that he too has been stiffed by the Trump campaign for the "victory bonuses" he too was promised. In retrospect, I guess I should not be surprised; after all, failing to pay contractors for completed work is classic Trump modus operandi. In fact, I have asked my attorney to explore coordinating a legal strategy with Tony Fabrizio's counsel, as he too has been stiffed for $750K.
In conclusion, feel I have made a horrible mistake. All the money I was paid (or promised) for propaganda online I am now donating to my wonderful, very real, charity: Sock It Forward, where I raise money and collect donated socks for homeless people living around my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. Today, I am announcing my permanent retirement from "fake news," or, as I sometimes prefer to think of it, "alt journalism," and all my sites will hopefully be shut down by the end of the year. I have learned the hard way the cost of telling lies, and I realize now that I have arrived at the most profound discovery: “Sometimes it takes a lie to tell the truth.”
December 9th, 2016
(updated December 13, 2016)
United States of America