Lurid Trump allegations made by Louise Mensch and co-writer came from hoaxer

  • Mensch and Claude Taylor tweeted details of criminal inquires that didn’t exist
  • Hoaxer who fed information said she acted out of frustration over fake news
  • Taylor issues mea culpa on Twitter after being approached by Guardian

The allegations made by Claude Taylor were endorsed as authentic and retweeted by his co-writer Louise Mensch. Mensch said her allegations came from her own sources. Photograph: Olivia Harris/Reuters

Explosive allegations about Donald Trump made by online writers with large followings among Trump critics were based on bogus information from a hoaxer who falsely claimed to work in law enforcement.

Claude Taylor tweeted fake details of criminal inquiries into Trump that were invented by a source whose claim to work for the New York attorney general was not checked, according to emails seen by the Guardian. The allegations were endorsed as authentic and retweeted by his co-writer Louise Mensch.

The source’s false tips included an allegation, which has been aggressively circulated by Mensch and Taylor, that Trump’s inactive fashion model agency is under investigation by New York authorities for possible sex trafficking.

The hoaxer, who fed the information to Taylor by email, said she acted out of frustration over the “dissemination of fake news” by Taylor and Mensch. Their false stories about Trump have included a claim that he was already being replaced as president by Senator Orrin Hatch in a process kept secret from the American public.

“Taylor asked no questions to verify my identity, did no vetting whatsoever, sought no confirmation from a second source – but instead asked leading questions to support his various theories, asking me to verify them,” the source said in an email.

After being approached for comment by the Guardian on Monday, Taylor posted what he described as a “mea culpa” on Twitter. “As a ‘citizen journalist’ I acknowledge my error and do apologize,” he wrote.

Mensch denied using the bogus information and said her allegations about Trump’s model agency came from her own sources. Asked why she had retweeted Taylor’s false posts, Mensch said: “I don’t think anybody can vet anybody else’s sources.”

The source falsely claimed to be an official named “Caitlin” in the office of Eric Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general. She shared details of her hoax on the condition of anonymity to avoid retaliation from followers of Taylor and Mensch. The Guardian verified her true identity…

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