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Here’s How A Baseless Roy Moore Conspiracy Theory Kept Spreading Even After The Original Tweets Were Deleted

A Twitter account that previously spread misinformation claimed the Washington Post offered to pay for accusations against Roy Moore, gave no proof, then deleted the tweets and the account. That didn't stop people spreading the conspiracy theory.

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Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for Senate in Alabama, was accused Thursday by multiple women of inappropriate sexual conduct with them when they were teenagers, the Washington Post reported.

Leigh Corfman told the Post that Moore initiated inappropriate conduct with her in 1979, when she was 14 years old and he was 32. Three other women also told the Post that Moore "pursued" them around the same time. They were between ages 16 and 18 at the time, while Moore was in his thirties.

Moore called the allegations "yet another baseless political attack" and said the report was part of a "vicious and nasty round of attacks" from the "Obama-Clinton Machine’s liberal media lapdogs."

A baseless conspiracy theory then began spreading on social media, starting with a Twitter account that goes by the name "Doug Lewis #MAGA" and making its way to conservative websites. The user later deleted the tweets. The account was then also deleted, but it's not clear why.

In a tweet Thursday, @umpire43 claimed without evidence that a Washington Post reporter offered to pay a person in Alabama to make accusations against Moore.

The Twitter user then claimed they had contacted an Alabama district attorney, the FBI, and the Secret Service about the claim, but provided no proof. The FBI office in Mobile, Alabama, said it could neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.

A Washington Post spokesperson Shani George told BuzzFeed News there was no truth to the tweet. “The accusation against the Post is categorically false. We have an explicit policy that prohibits paying sources,” she said.

The Twitter account has spread misinformation in the past. One example is when it falsely claimed the gunman responsible for killing 26 people in a Texas church was an "antifa" member, or anti-fascist activist.

That false theory was pushed by pro-Trump commentators hours after the shooting took place.

Four days after making the unsubstantiated claim, @umpire43 tweeted, "I just registered to http://DeleteAllTweets.com/ to delete all my Tweets instantly!" and deleted all of his tweets from 2012 onward, including those about Roy Moore, saying that someone had "infiltrated" his account. As of the evening of November 13, the entire account was gone.

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The user has also repeatedly tweeted about their military service record, but has miscounted the number of Purple Hearts they allegedly received. One Twitter thread challenged the user's military-related claims in detail.

Twitter: @AdamWeinstein

BuzzFeed News was unable to verify the identity of the Twitter user. The person has not posted any links to a personal social media profile, has no personal photo, and has not responded to a request for information.

A man named Doug Lewis who lives in the Florida city listed on the user's profile told BuzzFeed News he doesn't have a Twitter account.

Despite the evidence that @umpire43 was spreading misinformation about the Moore story, pro-Trump websites treated it as a legitimate claim.

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According to social tracking tool BuzzSumo, a post parroting the Twitter user's claim on the far-right website the Gateway Pundit had received more than 7,500 likes, shares, and comments on Facebook by Friday and nearly 28,000 by Monday. People had shared the article 4,000 times on Twitter by Friday, which more than doubled to 8,600 by Monday.

The Gateway Pundit hedged its story with "This is just a report at this time— We will post any updates—" when it published Friday. It later issued an update: "We have not been able to confirm these allegations by Doug Lewis."

Some pro-Trump commentators also downplayed and twisted the accusations against Moore.

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who heads the website InfoWars, dismissed the allegations on his show, claiming that the women accused Moore of telling them they're "purdy."

Viewers who tuned in to the segment would not have learned that when Corfman was 14 Moore allegedly "took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes," touching her over her bra and underwear, and guiding "her hand to touch him over his underwear."

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Four days later, Moore's wife, Kayla, said on Facebook that the allegations against her husband were a "witchhunt" and seemed to nod to the unfounded claim. Moore's campaign shared the post.

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Kayla Moore claimed that she and others were "gathering evidence of money being paid to people who would come forward" in preparation for a lawsuit. Roy Moore made a similar claim in an interview with Sean Hannity on Friday.

Neither he nor his wife have provided evidence. Kayla Moore did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Gateway Pundit repurposed Moore's post into an article which has begun to spread on Facebook. People shared, commented, and liked it 1,600 times on Facebook and tweeted it almost 800 times in only a few hours, according to BuzzSumo.

Moore's official Senate campaign Facebook page also shared a Gateway Pundit article that claimed to discredit the Post's reporting as a "complete fabrication," but did not provide any evidence.

Facebook

The Gateway Pundit article is based on a Nov. 9 episode of the conservative talk radio program The Mark Levin Show. The description of the episode claims, "The Post was fed this information by someone or some group," but offers no proof to back this up.

According to BuzzSumo, people liked, shared, and commented on the Gateway Pundit story more than 1,400 times on Facebook and shared it nearly 7,600 times on Twitter. Those number skyrocketed over the weekend to more than 21,000 likes, comments, and shares on Facebook and 9,400 tweets and retweets.

Moore's campaign opened BuzzFeed News' request for comment on the article and on the baseless conspiracy theory about paid accusers but did not respond.

Jane Lytvynenko is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada. PGP fingerprint: A088 89E6 2500 AD3C 8081 BAFB 23BA 21F3 81E0 101C.

Contact Jane Lytvynenko at jane.lytvynenko@buzzfeed.com.

Blake Montgomery is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.

Contact Blake Montgomery at blake.montgomery@buzzfeed.com.

Contact lizahicks at liza.hicks@buzzfeed.com.

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