WASHINGTON — The political consulting firm that has worked with the National Rifle Association to promote Tom Cotton's Senate run in Arkansas hired a consultant Thursday to look into claims that the gun-rights group advertised on a gay hook-up app.
Brett Buereck, the president of Majority Strategies, the firm that has advertised for Cotton on behalf of the NRA, told BuzzFeed News that the ad is "100% fake" on Thursday. He said the firm had engaged a third party for the investigation — "Dr. Neal Krawetz, the man who authenticated the president's birth certificate."
Buereck sent BuzzFeed News an eight-page report from Krawetz, which states, "The findings in this report conclude that the screenshot was altered and the ad was digitally inserted into the picture."
On Wednesday, The Daily Beast reported that "the NRA is running ads for a socially conservative Republican candidate" on the app, Grindr.
Asked about the pro-Cotton ad and another ad that appeared to support Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst, Grindr initially released a statement saying, "We have both direct advertisers as well third party ad networks which supply advertising to the app. The ads you reference were served by one of these third party ad networks." Noting the company has a policy against third-party ad networks using political ads, the Grindr statement concluded, "In this instance, we've reached out to the third party networks to have these ads removed."
Within hours, though, the NRA and Majority Strategies told CNN the group wasn't responsible for the ad. Additionally, Buereck claimed the ad was "doctored."
On Thursday morning, asked whether the ad could have inadvertently shown up on Grindr through a third-party ad network purchase, NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told BuzzFeed News, "Neither the NRA nor any of our immediate vendors, or those down the line, purchased ad space on Grindr. This was not an NRA ad. The ad was doctored and is a fake. Period."
Arulanandam added that Buereck would be able to provide more details. A couple hours later, Buereck did respond to BuzzFeed News' questions, stating, "We can say definitively that we did not permit Grindr to run this ad. Most sophisticated firms are now targeting based on audience and not apps or websites. Based on the error analysis that our mobile firm did, it is highly likely that the image was doctored using photoshop or another tool."
Grindr has not responded to several requests from BuzzFeed News on Thursday about the statements from the NRA and its consulting firm.
Grindr officials tell BuzzFeed News that the alleged ads in question had not run on the app.
After the publication of this story, Grindr responded with a statement from Grindr CEO Joel Simkhai: "Grindr serves billions of ads on its network and we have no knowledge of the ad mentioned. We do not welcome the NRA to advertise with us."
In a follow-up email with a spokesman for Grindr, the person told BuzzFeed News that, although Grindr had reached out to its third-party ad networks asking them to remove the ads on Wednesday, "[N]one of the ad networks had run the ads."
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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