Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe has been caught using social media to steer voters to fake news sites that give favorable coverage to him while disparaging his Republican opponent, retired business executive Glenn Youngkin.
According to published reports, McAuliffe’s campaign has spent well into six figures on the project, utilizing a campaign tactic that is increasingly frowned upon by political commentators and news officials who consider it dishonest.
McAuliffe’s campaign purchased Facebook ads that redirected viewers to third-party websites that have all the appearance of local news outlets but which in fact publish purposefully slanted stories and what some reports described as “partisan propaganda.”
One site, reportedly operated by the McAuliffe campaign itself, is a Facebook page called “The Download Virginia,” launched in June 2021. Though the name resembles that of an online news outlet, according to Fox News it has not published any posts or photos and has little more than 100 followers as the election entered its final week. An analysis of data on the Facebook Ad Library Report projected spending of nearly half a million on ads distributed by the page since it was launched.
A July advertisement including positive comments about McAuliffe’s views on small business linked to an article published by a third-party website called the Virginia Dogwood, a website designed to like a local news outlet claiming to publish “credible, fact-based reporting.” In reality, the site was operated by Courier Newsroom, a group founded and funded by progressive billionaires supportive of the big government socialist agenda who reportedly include George Soros, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and several Hollywood movie producers. After it began operating, the Courier site network was allegedly purchased by the group Good Information Inc., a company whose stated mission is to fight “disinformation” by investing in local news companies but who, at least one published report said, shared overlapping donors with those involved in getting the Courier Newsroom project up and running.
Up to this point the Facebook ads, Fox estimated, have been viewed by as many as 3.5 million potential voters and others while McAuliffe, himself a former Virginia governor, and Youngkin slug it out in what most expect to be the closest election the commonwealth has seen in some time. The latest polls have the two in a dead heat.
The McAuliffe campaign also did not respond to Fox News’ requests for comment, but the network reported that two advertisements that linked to another faux news page recently as last week were disabled after the network made inquiries.