Just Because It's Trending Doesn't Mean It's True
Hoax Alert

Fake News: Pope Francis Did NOT Say God Will Abandon America If Trump Is Re-elected

  • by: Maarten Schenk
  • (Mon, 21 Oct 2019 09:04:21 Z)

Did Pope Francis Say God will abandon America if President Donald Trump is re-elected? No, that's not true. The story was published by a liberal satire website that tries to mislead Trump supporters and Republicans into sharing made up stories that are clearly marked as satire when you actually click them. Articles from the site are frequently copied by foreign-run fake news websites. The people liking and sharing these stories are enriching foreign website operators (or a liberal from Maine) via the ad revenue generated with the content which is probably not what they expected or wanted.

The story originated from an article published by BustaTroll.org on September 21, 2019 titled "Pope Francis : 'God Will Abandon America If Trump Is Re-elected'" (archived here) which opened:

Vatican City was packed with onlookers yesterday as Pope Francis stood on the Papal Promenade, delivering a speech that was half-sermon and half-political observance. But when the 82-year old's remarks turned to criticism of American President Donald Trump, silence suddenly engulfed the streets like when Melania is gently packed back into her shipping crate for a peaceful evening's rest.

"The time of election is fast approaching the United States of America, where many of my children of Christ reside. I am fearful that the least among them will fall victim again to the evil and morally decrepit creature Trump. I believe that should he be re-elected, God wil abandon all of his blessings upon America, and may see fit to raze it down, as Sodom, as Gomorrah."

Screenshot of https://bustatroll.org/2019/09/21/godcries/

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

Pope Francis : 'God Will Abandon America If Trump Is Re-elected'

Can we impeach a pope?

The article in question was posted in two categories, named "Satire and/or Conservative Fan Fiction" and "Supreme Satire". There were several other satire labels, warnings and disclaimers scattered around the page as well. There is also no such thing as a "Papal Promenade" in Vatican City. The rest of the article veered off into the weird, calling Argentina (the country where the current Pope was born) "a country of Brown people" and refering to the Pope as "a glorified man-nun". Not really the hallmarks of a trustworthy news site.

The site is part of the "America's Last Line of Defense" network of satire websites run byself-professed liberal troll Christopher Blair from Maine along with a loose confederation of friends and allies. Blair has been in a feud with fact checking website Snopes for some time now and has also criticized other fact checkers in the past who labeled his work "fake news" instead of satire. In reaction to this he has recently rebranded all his active websites and Facebook pages so they carry extremely visible disclaimers everywhere.

Every site in the network has an about page that reads (in part):

About Satire
Before you complain and decide satire is synonymous with "comedy":

sat·ire
ˈsaˌtī(ə)r
noun
The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

Everything on this website is fiction. It is not a lie and it is not fake news because it is not real. If you believe that it is real, you should have your head examined. Any similarities between this site's pure fantasy and actual people, places, and events are purely coincidental and all images should be considered altered and satirical. See above if you're still having an issue with that satire thing.

Articles from Blair's sites frequently get copied by "real" fake news sites who often omit the satire disclaimer and any other hints the stories are fake. Blair has tried to get these sites shut down in the past but new ones keep cropping up.

Here is a video of Blair explaining how his process works:

If you are interested in learning more about Blair and the history of his sites, here is something to get you started:

The Ultimate Christopher Blair and America's Last Line of Defense Reading List | Lead Stories

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below. Yesterday Eli Saslow at the Washington Post wrote a fantastic article about Christopher Blair, a man from Maine who has been trolling conservatives and Trump supporters online for years and occasionally even made a living out of it.

If you see one of his stories on a site that does not contain a satire disclaimer, assume it is fake news. If you do see the satire disclaimer it is of course also fake news.

NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalist to rank the reliability of websites, describes bustatroll.org as:

A site that publishes false stories and hoaxes that are often mistaken for real news, part of a network named America's Last Line of Defense run by hoax perpetrator Christopher Blair.

According to NewsGuard the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.

We wrote about bustatroll.org before, here are our most recent articles that mention the site:

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About the author:

Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

About Lead Stories

Lead Stories uses the Trendolizer™ engine to detect the most trending stories from known fake news, satire and prank websites and tries to debunk them as fast as possible. Read more about how we work and how we select stories to check here.

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