- A consultant for Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, has made several dupes of prominent 2020 Democratic candidates’ campaign websites, the New York Times reported Saturday.
- The fake websites are similar in appearance to real ones, but paint the candidates in an unflattering light with images, videos, and quotes taken out of context alongside negative write-ups.
- The fake Joe Biden campaign website, for instance, has received more visitors than Biden’s real website, partially thanks to search engine boosts from news media and Reddit.
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A digital consultant for President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign used his spare time to create fake campaign websites for top Democratic candidates, The New York Times reported Saturday.
The consultant, Patrick Mauldin, runs a Republican political consulting firm called Vici Media Group, which the Trump campaign hired for the 2016 election and currently has on retainer for 2020.
Mauldin has made fake campaign sites for Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, too, but those sites are difficult to find, let alone accidentally stumble upon. The fake Biden site, however, is still in the second page of Google search results for “Joe Biden,” and had more unique visitors than the real campaign webpage through the end of May.
Mauldin’s parody website highlights accusations of Biden’s inappropriate behavior toward women, with videos and photos of the candidate touching women and children. It mentions Biden’s 2012 remarks saying President Barack Obama “has a big stick.”
The website also shares legislative “accomplishments” of when Biden voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 2006, against busing as a way to desegregate schools in the ’70s, and for the Iraq War.
Though the website was created by a Republican, the rhetoric is appears geared to sway Democrats from Biden to a more progressive candidate. In fact, all of the parody websites target the least progressive aspects of each candidate, not unlike the strategy Russian troll accounts took on both liberal and conservative stances to convince both Democrats and Republicans to vote for someone other than Hillary Clinton.
To make the Biden parody site more successful, Mauldin posted repeatedly about it on Reddit, including in the now-quarantined pro-Trump subreddit r/The_Donald, where he encouraged users to use his dupe to “red pill” Democrats. Red pilling describes exposing people to truths that may be hard to accept, such as in the film “The Matrix.”
Mauldin told The New York Times that his intentions were to give voters the facts, but his websites only target Democrats.
A representative of Biden’s campaign told the Times it had been aware of the fake site for months, but not its creator’s identity.
A representative from the Trump campaign, which Mauldin said did not endorse his parody creations but was made aware of them, told the Times it was “great that talented supporters of President Trump use their time to help his re-election.”
Update: After the publishing of this article an unrelated business named Vici Media Inc says that they were incorrectly targeted online by critics who had mistaken them for Vici Media Group. Vici Media Inc is not related to Vici Media Group.
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