Report: Fake Tennessee GOP Twitter account helped spread murder conspiracy theory
An investigative report from veteran investigative reporter Michael Isikoff for Yahoo! News finds a fake Tennessee social media account played a role in a Russian effort to spread a conspiracy theory before the 2016 election.
According to the report and subsequent Conspiracyland podcast released by Isikoff, the now defunct Twitter account @TEN_GOP which was found to be linked to the Russian Internet Research Agency, assisted in the spread of misinformation on the murder of Seth Rich, an employee for the Democratic National Committee who was found murdered during the election season.
Isikoff cites findings in the investigation into Russian interference in the election by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and findings by Clemson University Associate Professor Patrick Warren which connects the fake Tennessee GOP Twitter account to false information on Rich's murder. According to Isikoff's citation of the Mueller report and Warren, the @TEN_GOP account was part of 2,000 Seth Rich related tweets assisting in the spread of a conspiracy theory Rich's murder was a political hit connected with Hillary Clinton.
According to Isikoff's findings and the Mueller investigation, false accounts of Rich's murder -which is believed to have been a robbery gone bad by D.C. police- were magnified by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Trump adviser Roger Stone. Assange would later release emails from the DNC which were determined to have been hacked by Guccifer 2.0, part of the Russian troll operation.
Mueller's team indicted 13 Russians and an internet firm in election meddling, stating the @TEN_GOP account was also used "to promote allegations of fraud by the Democratic Party." TN GOP Executive Director Michael Sullivan told FOX 17 News Nashville the fake account went from spreading misinformation to gradually putting up racist and offensive posts. Although the real TN GOP reported the account to Twitter numerous times, Sullivan says Twitter replied the account was not violating any rules. The company later admitted it was at fault.
Isikoff's report outlines the path of misinformation by the Russians which traveled to Assange, U.S. personalities such as Roger Stone, and the mainstream media, leading to false information being spread on Rich's murder. During an interview with Rich's mother on the Conspiracyland podcast, the mother says the impact it has had on her family is similar to having to experience his death twice.
Seth Rich was killed on July 10, 2016 after he was shot in the street of the neighborhood Bloomingdale, located in Washington, D.C.. Police believe he was the victim of an attempted robbery. His murder remains unsolved.