Q: Did WikiLeaks release an email showing that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign bribed prominent Republicans to oppose Donald Trump during the 2016 election?
A: No. That email was fabricated by a self-described satirical website. It was later amplified by Sean Hannity and published by other websites.
Two years ago, a self-proclaimed satirical website made up a politically charged email and claimed that it had been released by WikiLeaks. That fictitious email is still circulating online, and it’s being presented as though it is real.
It originated on Dec. 7, 2016, on a website called America’s Last Line of Defense, which describes its content as satire aimed at provoking conservatives. Six days later, the phony email was copied and included in a story on a prominent partisan site, the Conservative Daily Post. Two days after that, conservative commentator Sean Hannity read the made-up email on his radio show, saying if true it “could shake up the political world.”
And it’s still making headlines on dubious websites, such as the Columbus Post. The story on that site has been shared on 29 different Facebook pages since it was posted on Sept. 2.
The claims made in the stories that cite the phony email have morphed over the years, but the text of the email has stayed the same.
When America’s Last Line of Defense originally posted the story, it had a headline that said: “Wikileaks Latest: Podesta Emails Show 3 PROMINENT Republicans On Clinton Payroll.”
But that claim has changed as the story has circulated online. For example, the headline on the Columbus Post says: “Wikileaks Huge Exposure: These Are The Six Republicans That Hillary Had Bribed To ‘Destroy Trump’!”
The email was supposedly sent from John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, to longtime Clinton aide, Huma Abedin, and it references the initials of Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, and John Kasich — all of whom sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
America’s Last Line of Defense, Dec. 7, 2016: According to the email: “JB, CF, and JK PACS will be noticeably silent for the rest of the campaign. Each will receive a significant allowance from advertising budget. HRC is in the loop and has talked to all three personally. Eyes only.”
The story claims that the email is “document number 1078645” on the WikiLeaks website. But that document number corresponds to a real 2009 email that was included in a release of files from an intelligence company called Stratfor. It has nothing to do with the 2016 presidential election.
A search of Podesta’s hacked emails, which WikiLeaks posted on Oct. 7, 2016, turns up no results for the bogus email.
Also, the original story claimed that the email was sent in July 2016, but by that time all three of those GOP presidential contenders had dropped out of the race. Fiorina dropped out on Feb. 10, 2016, Bush withdrew on Feb. 20, 2016, and Kasich dropped out on May 4, 2016.
Updated, Sept. 17: Yournewswire.com retracted its story, which it acknowledged was false. “The email was fabricated by a self-described satirical website,” it said in a note to readers.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on the social media network.
“Wikileaks Latest: Podesta Emails Show 3 PROMINENT Republicans On Clinton Payroll.” Thelastlineofdefense.org. 7 Dec 2016.
Cole, Michael. “6 Republicans May Have Taken Payments From Clinton Team To Damage Trump (New Wiki Leak).” Conservative Daily Post. 13 Dec 2016.
Conservative Citizen. “Julian Assange on The Sean Hannity Radio Show (12/15/2016).” Youtube.com. 25 May 2018.
“Wikileaks Huge Exposure: These Are The Six Republicans That Hillary Had Bribed To ‘Destroy Trump’!” Columbuspost.site. 2 Sep 2018.
WikiLeaks. Email-ID 1078645. “RE: INSIGHT – KSA/YEMEN – KSA refraining so far from sending natl guard to fight Houthis.” Wikileaks.org. 12 Nov 2009.
WikiLeaks. The Podesta Emails. Wikileaks.org. Accessed 12 Sep 2018.
FactCheck.org. “2016 Presidential Candidates.” Accessed 17 Sep 2018.