Here’s your ‘fact-checker’: Co-founder of Snopes reportedly busted writing dozens of plagiarized articles

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The following contains editorial content which is the opinion of the author.

Most people know that the so-called “fact-checking” site Snopes is a joke.

The fact that Snopes used to serve as a fact-checking arm for Fakebook isn’t surprising. Now we’re finding out that Snopes is a bigger joke than we thought.

According to the New York Post, the co-founder of the so-called “fact-checking” site has been exposed as a plagiarist, a BuzzFeed News investigation discovered.

BuzzFeed discovered that between 2015 and 2019, David Mikkelson, the co-founder of Snopes wrote and published dozens of articles which contained content plagiarized from news outlets, including the Guardian and the Los Angeles Times.

BuzzFeed reached out to Snopes, which conducted an internal review. It was confirmed that under a pseudonym, the Snopes byline and under his own name, Mikkelson had written and published some 54 articles that contained pirated content.

The articles included topics such as same-sex marriage licenses, as well as the death of musician David Bowie.

The Bowie article looked to be a combination of paragraphs from both the Los Angeles Times and E! Online, which BuzzFeed said used “near-identical phrasing and sequencing.”

As a result of the internal probe, the company’s VP of Editorial and Managing Editor Doreen Marchionni suspended Mikkelson from his editorial duties pending “a comprehensive internal investigation.” Mikkelson retains his position as an officer of the company, as well as a 50% shareholder.

Mikkelson launched the so-called fact-checking site in 1995, portraying the company to be “the internet’s definitive fact-checking site.”

In a statement Friday, Marchionni apologized for Mikkelson’s transgressions.

“Let us be clear. Plagiarism undermines our mission and values, full stop,” she said. “It has no place in any context within this organization.”

In response to BuzzFeed’s investigation, Mikkelson said, “There is no excuse for my [54] serious lapses in judgment. I’m sorry.”

According to BuzzFeed’s investigation and the Post’s report, “Mikkelson’s Snopes posts contained phrasing—even entire paragraphs—lifted from outlets such as the New York Times, the Guardian, the LA Times and the BBC between 2015 and 2019,” which were often published under the byline “Snopes staff” or while he used the pseudonym, Jeff Zarronandia.

BuzzFeed wrote:

“’Zarronandia’ was illustriously described in his Snopes bio as a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and someone talented at ‘mule-skinning,’ whose seemingly informed stories on everything from arts and culture to national politics had in the past drawn ridicule from the likes of former Donald Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone.”

Mikkelson’s use of the Zarronandia byline first appeared in an article from 2015, seemingly completely plagiarized with the exception of a couple of words, relative to a Reuters bulletin regarding a Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

The Post reported that Snopes’ editorial staff also weighed in on Mikkelson’s plagiarism, issuing a statement in which they said they “strongly condemn these poor journalistic practices,” while adding that they “work hard every day to uphold the highest possible journalistic and ethical standards.”

Snopes Chief Operating Officer Vinny Green released a statement in which he said:

“Our internal research so far has found a total of 54 stories Mikkelson published that used appropriated material, including all of the stories BuzzFeed shared with us.” Marchionni also signed the statement.

Snopes told BuzzFeed that all of the plagiarized content was being retracted, and advertising was disabled on all of them; an editor’s note will also be appended on each story.

According to the New York Post, Snopes had retracted 60 articles while disabling advertisements on each, as reported in the New York Times and will retract additional articles as they conduct their internal review; some 140 articles have already been flagged by the company for review.

An example of Mikkelson’s handiwork was a pilfered story written by NBC News reporter Jon Schuppe, posted on Snopes.com under Mikkelson’s personal byline:

“Muhammad Ali, the silver-tongued boxer and civil rights champion who famously proclaimed himself ‘The Greatest’ and then spent a lifetime living up to the billing is dead.”

In attempting to justify his conduct, Mikkelson told BuzzFeed:

“I didn’t come from a journalism background. I wasn’t used to doing news aggregation. A number of times I crossed the line to where it was copyright infringement. I own that.”

Regarding his pseudonym, Mikkelson claims it was dreamed up as a “stress-relief thing” during the contentious 2016 presidential election, where some considered fact-checking an “ethical beacon for some, and a political bane to others.”

“Let’s have some fun and watch these people vent their spleen inventing reasons why this nonexistent persona is based,” he said.

Insiders at Snopes, BuzzFeed said that Mikkelson’s goal was more so intended to drive traffic to the website, with being among the first sites to share trending news headlines a priority.

“He would instruct [writers] to copy text from other sites, post them verbatim so that it looked like we were fact and could scoop up traffic, and then change the story in real time,” according to Snopes’ former managing editor Brooke Binkowski to BuzzFeed. “I hated it and wouldn’t tell any of the staff to do it, but he did it all the time.”

Binkowski also told BuzzFeed that Mikkelson would “write about topics he knew would get him hate mail under that assumed name. Plus it made it appear he had more staff than he had.”

Mikkelson co-founded the company with his ex-wife, Barbara Hamel in 2015. In the midst of a messy divorce, Hamel’s share of the company was sold to tech firm Proper Media. That company filed a lawsuit against Mikkelson in 2017, alleging mismanagement of Snopes’ finances. This led to Mikkelson launching a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the website.

 BuzzFeed notes that despite Snopes claiming on its website about its practices that it “follows all industry guidelines for transparency in reporting,” the fact that Mikkelson was writing under an assumed name isn’t disclosed anywhere on the site.

Snopes goes on to say that “…we think being transparent with readers is the coolest.” In another display of “transparency,” Mikkelson’s pseudonym Zarronandia has been removed from his bylines and replaced with “Snopes staff.”

BuzzFeed noted that out of the articles they found which was copied without attribution, six of them were published under Zarronandia’s byline, three under Mikkelson’s own, and the rest under “Snopes staff.”

According to Edward Wasserman, professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, an ethics specialist, using other people’s work “must be conducted subject to rules of attribution, so that the reader isn’t misled into crediting the current writer with finding the information first, which is an important claim to credibility and proficiency,” BuzzFeed said.

BuzzFeed noted that Mikkelson’s posts via email and Slack messages indicated plagiarism was in his DNA. They noted one Slack message from January 206 in which Mikkelson outlined his method of copying and then quickly turning articles, then rewriting them after they were published:

“Usually when a hot real news story breaks (such as a celebrity death), I just find a wire service or other news story about it and publish it on the site verbatim to quickly get a page up. Once that’s done, then I quickly start editing the page to reword it and add material from other sources to make it not plagiarized,” he wrote.

Going further, emails written in 2014 and 2015 told Snopes staff to “pop over to one of our competitor sites (urbanlegends.com or hoaxslayer.com), pick something out that they’ve recently published that we haven’t covered,” and “rewrite it just enough to avoid copyright infringement.”

A former Snopes writer was interviewed by BuzzFeed for the story and said she never followed Mikkelson’s directives to copy content.

“I remember explaining that we didn’t need to ‘rewrite’ because we’d always done this stuff quickly,” said Kim LaCapria, now with Truth or Fiction. “He just didn’t seem to understand that some people didn’t plagiarize.”

The revelations about Mikkelson confirm what many on the right new all along. Snopes was, is, and ever shall be a sad joke.

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Of course, when speaking of plagiarism, we cannot leave out the king of plagiarism, current White House occupant Joe Biden. For more on that, we invite you to:

DIG DEEPER

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an ironic twist, a 2007 interview with then-Senator Joe Biden on the David Letterman show has resurfaced, featuring Biden telling Letterman he was arrested while trespassing at the U.S. Capitol.

During the interview, Letterman referred to Biden’s election to the Senate at age 29 and asked Biden:

“What was it like, walking into the great Senate chamber at 29 years old?”

Biden responded that he actually entered the chamber long before then, saying:

“You know, I walked in when I was 21, and I got arrested.”

Explaining that the incident occurred on a Saturday when he was visiting some friends at Georgetown University, Biden stated that he visited the Capitol “because I was fascinated with the Senate.”

He added:

“And then, a Saturday session, I walked up those days, no guards stopping you everywhere, and I, and they just got out of session.

“I walked in the back.  All of a sudden I found myself in the chamber, and I was stunned.

“I walked up, sat down in the presiding officer’s seat.”

To laughs from the audience, a smiling Biden continued:

“Guy grabbed me by the shoulder, said, ‘You’re under arrest.’”

Biden next recounted a later encounter with the man he says arrested him, saying:

“Literally nine years later, as I walked onto the Senate floor through the same door, that same guy, cop, said to me, “Senator, do you remember me?”

“I said, ‘Geez, I don’t.’”

To more laughter from the audience, Biden said:

“He said, ‘I arrested you nine years ago.’

Biden laughed and continued:

“He said, ‘Welcome back.  Welcome back.’”

Given that the FBI has arrested over 250 people, the majority of whom were nonviolent, for trespassing on Capitol grounds, and that Biden has expressed support for a 9/11 style commission to investigate the breach further, the Twitterverse erupted over the irony of Biden’s self-reported history of trespassing at the Capitol.

One Twitter user simply stated:

“Impeach for insurrection.”

Another wrote:

“Not just trespassing, but sitting in the “presiding officer’s seat,” like he was a role model for the doofuses on Jan. 6.”

https://twitter.com/elgandahc/status/1363530437763686400

Another Twitter user quipped:

“It’s hard to believe a word he says, but this is certainly ironical.”

Indeed, Joe Biden does have quite a history of being loose with facts.

For instance, during his run for the 1988 presidential nomination, Biden was dogged by a 1987 plagiarism scandal that revealed that he plagiarized during law school and on the campaign trail.

Even Politifact has a lengthy list of Biden statements that it deems false.

For instance, Politifact reports that Biden stated during his recent run for president:

“If the president [Trump] had done his job, had done his job from the beginning, all the people [who died from COVID] would still be alive.

“All the people.  I’m not making this up.  Just look at the data.”

Of course, as Politifact points out, he was making it up.  The fact checker website states that Biden’s assertion that Trump could have prevented all coronavirus deaths “goes too far.”

More to the point, Biden has lied about a previous arrest.

The New York Times reported in 2020 that Biden claimed three times in two weeks during his recent presidential campaign that he was once arrested in South Africa while trying to get access to Nelson Mandela.

The Times noted that Biden said at a campaign event:

“This day, 30 years ago, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and entered into discussions about apartheid.”

Biden continued:

“I had the great honor of meeting him. 

“I had the great honor of being arrested with our U.N. ambassador on the streets of Soweto trying to get to see him on Robbens Island.”

CNN’s John Berman later pinned Biden down on the subject, asking about Biden’s three mentions of his arrest in South Africa.

Starting with, “What I meant to say was…” Biden segued into an explanation that he was maneuvered apart from the Congressional Black Caucus after exiting a plane.

Biden added that he refused to enter a door that said “Whites Only” and that he insisted on continuing to accompany the members of the CBC, but was prevented from doing so.

He continued:

“And they kept me there until finally I decided, they, it was clear I wasn’t gonna move.

“And so what they finally did, they said, “OK, we’re not going to make the Congressional delegation go through the black door,” they’re not going to make me go through the white door, they went, took us out, if memory serves me, through a baggage claim area.”

Biden further explained his fabrication, saying:

“When I said ‘arrested,’ I meant I was not able to, I was not able to move.  Cops … would not let me go with them, made me stay where I was.

“I guess I wasn’t arrested.  I was stopped.  I was not able to move where I wanted to go.”

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Ignoring Antifa, Biden calls former police, military a threat to national security, says they fuel white supremacy

The following article contains editorial content written by a retired Chief of Police and current staff writer for Law Enforcement Today. 

MADISON, WI- We said it in the lead up to the 2020 presidential election, and we will repeat it. Any police officer or member of the military who would vote for Joe Biden needed to have their head examined. Biden confirmed at a CNN Town Hall on Tuesday the reason why our advice was solid.

During that Town Hall hosted by leftist hack Anderson Cooper, Biden made the outrageous claim that former military and former police officers “fuel the growth of white supremacy.” Go back to sleep Joe.

As reported by American Military News, according to Biden, he claims that “studies” have shown that former military and police are contributing to the growth of extremist groups.

Biden cites unnamed “studies” being conducted no doubt by woke, leftist universities making that claim.

 

“You see what’s happening the studies that are beginning to be done, maybe at your university as well, about the impact of former military, former police officers on the growth of white supremacy in some of these groups,” Biden said.

Name the studies Biden.

Never before have police officers and members of the military been held in such low regard by a presidential administration. We thought it was bad under Obama? Biden says “hold my beer.” What an absolute insult to those who have served their country, risking their lives. What a clown.

Biden claimed he got involved in politics because of civil rights and his opposition to white supremacists such as the Ku Klux Klan, except for his old buddy Sen. Robert Byrd, who started the Ku Klux Klan in West Virginia. In the early 40’s, Byrd recruited 150 friends and associates to form a local chapter of the Klan in West Virginia, according to The Washington Post at the time.

Let’s see how “opposed” to the Klan Biden was.

In a eulogy for Byrd at his 2010 funeral, Biden said of the former Klan member:

“Bishop, Reverend Clergy, Mona and Marjorie, the entire Byrd family—if you didn’t already know it, it’s pretty clear the incredible esteem your father was held in,” Biden said at the beginning of his remarks.

Byrd also filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

In his remarks, Biden continued to describe Byrd as a “friend,” “mentor” and a “guide.” Wow, Biden was really opposed to the Klan and hate groups, huh?

Biden now refers to white supremacy as “the greatest threat of terror in America.” Not Antifa, which he calls “an idea,” which has been destroying Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington almost nightly for eight months.

Not Black Lives Matter, which once again this past week wreaked havoc in New York City, assaulting police officers and harassing diners. No, they’re not a terror threat…retired cops and military members are.

Biden continued, saying, “So I would make sure my Justice Department and the Civil Rights Division is focused heavily on those very folks. I would make sure…we focus on how to deal with the rise of white supremacy.”

Biden then harkened back to one of his debates with former President Trump, saying:

“You may remember in one of my debates from the former president, I asked him to condemn the Proud Boys—he wouldn’t do it. He said ‘stand by, stand ready’ or whatever the phrase exactly was. It is a bane on our existence. It has always been. As Lincoln said, ‘we have to appeal to our better angels.’ These guys are not…they are in fact demented. They are dangerous people.”

Of course, Biden got the Lincoln quote wrong, but at least he didn’t refer to white supremacists as “lying dog-faced pony soldiers.”

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Of course, Biden refused to call out the violence by the aforementioned domestic terror groups, BLM and Antifa because well, they’re his people. As American cities were destroyed, buildings were burned, people were assaulted and cops were being maimed and killed, Biden said nothing.

It was only when polling numbers showed the silence of he and other Democrats was hurting his campaign that he made tepid condemnations of the violence. In other words, Biden is a freaking hypocrite.

Biden was asked about “ongoing threats to our country,” to which Biden said the problem is “complex, it’s wide ranging, and it’s real.”

A report was released by the Pentagon from last October which detailed efforts of the military to keep extremists out of its ranks.

The report, obtained by CQ Roll Call explains measures taken by the Defense Department to remove service members who maintained extremist connections, and also included reviewing an FBI database of extremist tattoos, and by improving security clearance questions.

The report confirmed that neither neo-Nazis or other extremist groups aren’t’ common in the United States military but said service members and veterans were “highly prized” recruits for extremist groups.

So in other words, Biden is proposing a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, or at least doesn’t exist at a level where Biden needs to throw the entire military, while adding in the police under the bus.

The report said, “Despite a low number of cases in absolute terms, individuals with extremist affiliations and military experience are a concern to U.S. national security because of their proven ability to execute high-impact events.”

It continued, “Access to service members with combat training and technical weapons expertise can also increase both the probability of success and the potency of planned violent attacks.”

Leftists however are jumping on the report. Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and former member of the House Armed Services Committee will introduce legislation requiring the Defense Department to implement the report’s suggestions.

“What the report made clear is that white supremacists are using our military to further their hateful and violent agenda,” Aguilar said.

“We need further collaboration between agencies like the DoD and FBI to make sure that we’re keeping extremists away from our service members and keeping our communities safe as well.”

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