Supporters of the GoFundMe account “Gays For Trump,” a group that purported to raise money from LGBTQ donors for the Trump campaign, must feel a bit scammed. The New York Times reports that the group was actually just a front for a 21-year-old delivery driver collecting donations from gullible supporters.
Josh Hall of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania created the Gays for Trump GoFundMe as well as an accompanying Twitter account as a means of raking in cash for the Trump campaign. Beginning in February, Hall began mixing QAnon conspiracy theories and off-color remarks in his Tweets to attract support. He also began dummy accounts for Trump’s family and political appointees, including Robert Trump, the president’s brother; Barron Trump, the president’s teen son; and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator.
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Hall even impersonated Trump’s sister, Elizabeth Trump Grau. One of his tweets even drew the attention of Trump himself, who replied to a tweet with a “Thank you Elizabeth, LOVE.” Even Trump himself didn’t realize the account was fake.
“I’m a big Trump supporter, but I’m thinking, ‘He’s got to know that that’s a parody,’” Hall said of his fake accounts. “How does he not know?”
Hall amassed 160,000 followers between the fake accounts.
“There was no nefarious intention behind it,” Mr. Hall told The Times. “I was just trying to rally up MAGA supporters and have fun.”
Hall, who identifies as bisexual, admits he began the accounts after struggling to hold down a job. The more incendiary his remarks, the greater his followers and donations. In all, Hall raised $7,384 in a GoFundMe account for Gays for Trump. He claims to have never withdrawn the money from the account, though GoFundMe says otherwise.
At the time of this writing, all of Hall’s dummy accounts, as well as his own personal account, have been suspended. The exposure of Hall and his GoFundMe scheme is just the latest scandal in the ongoing debate over the spread of online misinformation. Critics continue to claim social media giants Twitter and Facebook don’t do enough to weed out fake accounts designed to sew chaos and confusion online. Earlier this year, both sites began tagging or blocking dubious posts–a move which itself drew criticism.