In Virginia, Terry McAuliffe is working hard to earn a second stint in the governor’s mansion, and he certainly didn’t count on the race becoming as tight as it has.
As the campaign enters the final stretch, McAuliffe and his team have resorted to a tactic that screams desperation. The campaign has spent over $100,000 on Facebook ads that link to fake news sites that look like legitimate news sources but resort to partisan propaganda.
The Democrat’s advertisements, which have been viewed up to 3.5 million times so far, are hidden on a Facebook page with a similar name to a local news website. The ads link to third-party websites that ostensibly publish local news, but exist to promote Democratic candidates. The websites have been widely described as disinformation and “partisan propaganda.”
The Facebook page is called The Download, and it looks and sounds like a page that promotes actual news stories, but it’s a plant from the McAuliffe campaign. Some posts on the page point to actual news sites, but many of the posts, which are promoted with advertising dollars, link to sites like The Virginia Dogwood, a “news” site that publishes left-wing propaganda and boasts George Soros among its bankrollers, and The American Independent, another liberal opinion outlet that masquerades as an unbiased news site. The American Independent receives its funding from prominent Clinton ally David Brock.
Both The Virginia Dogwood and The American Independent have received “fake news” labels from watchdog groups and media ethicists. Of course, these links could be honest mistakes, but the money trail suggests that the campaign knows exactly what it’s doing.
The McAuliffe campaign has spent a total of between $90,200 to $106,398 on advertisements linking to the Independent and the Dogwood. Those advertisements have garnered the campaign a total of between 3,290,000 and 3,470,000 “impressions,” a term that Facebook uses to describe the number of screens that an advertisement has reached.
Each ad contains a disclaimer that it was paid for by “Terry for Virginia” and authorized by the candidate himself (Facebook requires candidates to add disclaimers like these to all political ads). But none of the advertisements disclose that the websites are considered to be “fake news” or that their information may be misleading.
The Democratic National Committee has remained silent on McAuliffe’s tactics, and the McAuliffe campaign has declined to respond to Fox News’ requests for comment about the ad buys.
McAuliffe’s opponent, Glenn Youngkin, has engaged in less than savory tactics of his own throughout the campaign, even as Youngkin’s campaign has called out McAuliffe for the fake news links. Youngkin campaign staffers called local talk radio shows throughout the state, pretending to be regular citizens who had good things to say about the GOP candidate.
In one of the tightest races in recent memory in Virginia, both sides are proving that politics continues to be a dirty game, but McAuliffe’s big money for fake news ads shows how desperate he is to pull off a victory.