The polished Demand Protest website, the Backpage.com ads recruiting paid protesters for the Trump inauguration: Apparently it was all a hoax.
A man using the alias “Dominic Tullipso” said Tuesday on Fox News Channel — well, it was hard to figure out what he was trying to say, but it was also clear that he wasn’t running a business that involved spending thousands on hiring activists.
“It’s pretty darn easy these days to just say whatever the heck you want on national TV and have it pass off as truth,” he told host Tucker Carlson. “I don’t know, it’s pretty incredible to me how easy it was to get the coverage we got.”
The unidentified prankster then added, “By the way, I’m not saying that anything of this a hoax and any of this isn’t true.”
Mr. Carlson informed him that, “Well, I’m vetting you right now, and I’m saying you are not legitimate, you are lying. You have fooled other news organizations, you have not fooled us.”
The Washington Times reported Tuesday that ads offering activists up to $2,500 per month to protest the inaugural of President-elect Donald Trump were running in more than two dozen cities, posted by a company called Demand Protest.
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All that was accurate — the ads were real, and they did in fact run on Backpage.com. But Demand Protest was evidently a hoax or a prank.
“Is this an effort to discredit the protesters at the Trump inauguration?” asked Mr. Carlson. “Is it an effort to convince conservative news organizations to pick up the story and therefore highlight their gullibility? What’s the point of the ruse that you’re perpetuating on the American news media?”
The elusive “Mr. Tullipso” didn’t explain why he set up the scam, responding instead, “Great questions. Basically there’s no way that a legitimate news agency would have somebody on that didn’t know what they were saying or was just talking out of their behinds.”
“The main point basically is that we are greatly, greatly supportive of national treasures such as Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Peyton Manning,” he deadpanned. “We really support their efforts to really get the truth out there.”
He also said that his “client” is “very interested in releasing the Roswell papers,” prompting Mr. Carlson to laugh and respond, “This is performance art!”
In their defense, those conservative media sites that did run the story included a grain of salt.
For example, InfoWars noted that the website was set up Dec. 2, after the election, adding that, “It’s unclear if the DemandProtest.com website is actually legitimate.”
Snopes.com called into question the reports Tuesday after failing to find Demand Protest, which used a San Francisco area code, on the California Secretary of State’s business registry.
During and after the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump accused “professional protesters” of swarming his events, which may have been the impetus for the elaborate con.
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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