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Anatomy of a Fake News Story, Kavanaugh Edition

President Trump pointing

Episode 15,306 of Washington, D.C.'s longest-running hit series, Fake News, features an NBC reporter and -- get this -- an anonymous source!

I bet you can't wait to find out what happens.

Twitter sage @Redsteeze memorialized the initial shady allegations of wrongdoing: that the White House had a secret deal with retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy to nominate Brett Kavanaugh. This story spread like wildfire on Twitter.

Then, the walk-back came:

Followed by a complete retraction of the fake news:

On The Hugh Hewitt Show this morning, Trump adviser Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society denied absolutely and repeatedly that there was any "deal" with Justice Kennedy. Leo called the rumor "garbage":

LL: Anyone who knows Justice Anthony Kennedy knows that that is garbage. He treats his office with tremendous dignity and independence. And there is literally no way in the world that that would have happened. And no president or White House Counsel who even knows Justice Kennedy a little bit would ever have tried to pull that stunt.

HH: So unequivocally, 100% denial, and you would have known about it?

LL: Oh, absolutely. I’ve known Justice Kennedy a little bit over the years, and I know Don McGahn even better. And there’s just no way, no way that that is possible. And that’s very insulting and offensive to Justice Kennedy. He’s a man who has greatly valued the independence of the judiciary, you know, and he has always been someone who has guarded his own prerogatives, and he would understand that doing something like that creates too much of a cozy connection between another branch of government and the judiciary, and I just could never see him do that.

HH: It would also be incredibly destructive of the good faith of the other candidates in the process who engaged in it. I was a Kethledge fan, but I like Brett Kavanaugh who will be fine. But I just want to make sure we drive a nail through this, because it’s spreading like wildfire on Twitter.

But the "garbage" story didn't just spread on Twitter ...

Left-wing news sites like Alternet, Think Progress, Mother Jones, and the New Republic immediately disseminated the sketchy story (based on one anonymous source). As of this writing, all but one (Mother Jones) still have their stories up: