Laura Hunter, the winner of the Ms. World pageant in 2016, is suing several men in Las Vegas, Nev. for stealing her identity to promote fake news websites on the Right. Hunter is a left-leaning photographer who says she doesn’t bother with politics, but a few men in Las Vegas have created an Internet persona of her as a Trump-supporting blogger and social media sensation.
“This just isn’t right,” Hunter told Salon through her attorney, Marc Randazza. “I felt like I had to do something about this not just for me, but for other people that this might happen to.”
Randazza has branded the actions of these Las Vegas men “fake news identity theft,” and it is a new — and terrifying — phenomenon. “They’ve stolen her identity and used it to make money for themselves,” the lawyer told Salon.
As the court filing, submitted last week, explained, “A ‘fake news’ organization stole an innocent person’s identity and is using it to falsely proclaim that she is the spokeswoman for this fake news enterprise.”
Hunter realized that her identity had been stolen after October 25, 2016, when Michael Powell, the owner and agent for Gravitas Advertising, emailed her to request her signature on a release to use her headshot. She responded, and he refused to call her. Then, she realized that her photo had already been used without her permission.
As the lawsuit noted, “a Google search for ‘Laura Hunter’ reveals that Ms. Hunter’s photo and identity have not only been stolen, but unbeknownst to her, Defendants have turned her persona into a highly rated spokesperson for a right win political web site called the Conservative Daily Review.” A related Facebook Page, “LauraHunter CDR,” has over 962,000 “likes” and remains public as of Tuesday afternoon.
The lawsuit declared, “Ms. Hunter is not a conservative. In fact, she is none of the things Defendants claim her to be. They have stolen her identity and used her as a spokeswoman for and purported author of content and viewpoints antithetical to her own beliefs.”
Indeed, the lawsuit alleged that “Defendants published more than one job posting looking for writers of ‘Conservative Fan Fiction’ who can write ‘stories [that] are not real, but very well could be. You will write them in such a way that they seem factually correct but hard to verify.”
“Defendants know that they have turned Ms. Hunter into a Conservative online muck slinger of fake news, and they must answer for it,” the lawsuit declared.
Hunter filed suit for at least $50,000 in damages against the men and their company. These damages would offset an alleged “loss of business” to Hunter’s 23-year-old photography company, Beyond Photography, and set right the damage to “her reputation, both personal and professional.”
Laura Hunter is a winner of the Ms. America pageant in 2014 and the Ms. World pageant in 2016. The two pageants, and the organizations which run them, are separate from the Miss America and Miss World pageants. The Miss World pageant is the oldest-running global beauty pageant. In an email to PJ Media, the pageant winner explained the difference.
“I wasn’t a Miss winner, I was a Ms.,” Hunter wrote. “The differences are primarily age groups and marital status. Miss can never have been married and must be under 26. Ms. can have any marital status and are over 26 years old.”
Hunter further clarified that the Ms. pageants and Miss pageants “are not related.” She confirmed that “Miss America, Ms. America and Mrs. America are all owned by different people.” Hunter’s longstanding photography company is listed as a sponsor for the Ms. World pageant.
Fake news like this is not just a threat to the identities of innocent people like Laura Hunter. It also decreases people’s faith in legitimate news outlets — like PJ Media, but also like the Christian Post, National Review, and others which have been blacklisted with truly fake sites like Conservative Daily Review.
In this turbulent world, it is increasingly important for news consumers to consider the source and the web page of the news they read. President Trump may engage in hyperbole, declaring legitimate sites like CNN to be “fake news,” but there is truly fake news out there, and it is dangerous.
Here is an interview of Laura Hunter after she won the Ms. America pageant in 2014.
Here is Laura Hunter’s acting reel.