AP NEWS

Viral campaign to fund Trump’s border wall led by veteran behind network of fake news sites

December 21, 2018

An Iraq War veteran whose online effort raised more than $12 million as of Friday for President Trump’s Mexican border wall has been linked to websites responsible for propagating right-wing conspiracy theories.

Brian Kolfage, a retired U.S. Air Force senior airman and triple amputee, acknowledged his ties to the dubious sites during an interview with NBC News conducted amid his GoFundMe campaign, “We The People Will Fund The Wall,” receiving over 200,000 separate donations since launching last weekend.

“I don’t wanna mix the two,” he told NBC News. “That shouldn’t be the focus. My personal issues have nothing to do with building the wall.”

Mr. Kolfage previously identified himself as an operator of the website “Right Wing News” and its associated Facebook page after the latter disappeared alongside hundreds of other pages shuttered for violating the social network’s rules against “inauthentic behavior” in Oct. 2018.

In addition to Right Wing News, Mr. Kolfage also ran several related websites that have since gone offline, including “VeteranAF” and “FreedomDaily,” NBC News reported Thursday. Both websites pushed conspiracy theories during the 2016 U.S. presidential race involving former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, the report said.

VeteranAF and FreedomDaily both went offline weeks after the latter was sued by Joel Vangheluwe, a Michigan man who was falsely identified by the website as the motorist who drove into a crowd of counterprotesters during the Aug. 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one person and injuring over a dozen others.

“Although it was originally reported that the driver of the car was a far right sympathizer it’s now been confirmed that it was indeed a Democrat Party member and Antifa terrorist drove his car into free speech advocates in Charlottesville Virginia this morning,” the website reported in an article published alongside a photograph of Mr. Vangheluwe.

James Alex Fields, 21, was found guilty earlier this month of 10 counts related to the automobile attack, including first-degree murder. A jury has recommended he spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Other articles published by Mr. Kolfage’s websites contained headlines including “Obnoxious Black People Lose Their Minds When Victoria Secret Models Say This 1 Word On Live Video” and “Trump Just Released Embarrassing Vids Of Obama’s Muslim Friends That He Never Wanted Seen,” NBC News reported.

Facebook removed the social networking page belonging to Right Wing News amid a recent purge that resulted in over 500 accounts being similarly purged for breaking the platform’s rules prohibiting spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior.

“Facebook lied, they shut down my page because it was conservative, powerful, and the elections are in 2 weeks,” Mr. Kolfage said at the time. “We have MAJOR support flowing in all the way from the top of the Trump administration. Get ready!”

Created on Dec. 16, the GoFundMe campaign seeks $1 billion in donations to bankroll the beginning of Mr. Trump’s proposed border wall.

“If the 63 million people who voted for Trump each pledge $80, we can build the wall,” Mr. Kolfage wrote on the fundraiser. “We can do this.”

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