Twenty hours. That's about how long it took for a picture to make its way from the depths of Reddit to the Twitter account of the president of the United States.
In response to reports that various members of Trump's campaign and transition team met with Russian officials during last year's election, the White House and areas of the pro-Trump internet are zeroing in on a photograph of New York Sen. Chuck Schumer posing with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The photo, they argue, is proof of hypocrisy on the part of Democrats who are calling for further investigations into Trump's Russia ties. This afternoon, the image was tweeted by President Trump with the caption: "We should start an immediate investigation into @SenSchumer and his ties to Russia and Putin. A total hypocrite!"
The image is an AP photograph from September 2003, which appeared in newspapers after Putin visited the first New York gas station of the Russian company Lukoil. However, before it was tweeted by Trump on Friday, the image gained popularity the previous night on Reddit and across the fringes of the conservative internet. And while it's not unusual for Trump to tweet from unconventional sources and odd corners of the web, rarely has there been a more clear-cut example of how a Trump tweet gets made.
Here's a brief timeline:
Late Thursday afternoon, Redditor willdogs posted the image of Schumer enjoying coffee and donuts with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The image was posted to r/The_Donald, the popular and active pro-Trump subreddit. Willdogs urged The_Donald to upvote the image to the top of Reddit.
Given Reddit's popularity and The_Donald's reputation among the pro-Trump corners of the internet, the image was quickly upvoted to the top of r/The_Donald and picked up among Trump supporters across the web.
Far-right blog The Gateway Pundit posted the image on its site just two hours later, at 7:10 p.m., with the caption, "Where's the outrage?"
One hour later, the image was picked up and tweeted by Infowars Editor-at-Large Paul Joseph Watson. The image was quickly retweeted over 6,500 times.
The image bounced around the internet, amassing RTs and comments on The_Donald. Other far-right, alt-right, and new-right websites picked it up. Here it is in the comments of an article yesterday on the conservative site Free Republic:
Then, early Friday morning White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino posted the image to his personal Twitter account. The image was posted as a response to a tweet from Schumer, who had pledged to "evaluate the scope of Russia's interference in our election."
By noon on Friday, the photo was the lead image on Drudge Report.
As the image hit peak saturation on the conservative internet, it received its final push. At 12:54 p.m. President Trump's personal account posted the tweet.
You can also see the the blurred image outlay on the right side of the Scavino and Trump photos, which indicate that it came from the Reddit photo.
As a number of journalists and Trump Twitter watchers have pointed out, the tweet was sent from an iPhone, potentially signaling that it was tweeted by a staffer (possibly Scavino) rather than Trump himself, who is known to tweet from his Android phone.
Finally, at 1:28 p.m. the loop was closed as The Gateway Pundit Editor Jim Hoft, bragged that the president used the far-right blog's story and image to "SLAM" Schumer.
Charlie Warzel is a senior writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Warzel reports on and writes about the intersection of tech and culture.
Contact Charlie Warzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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