Fox jumped on a baseless and easily debunked conspiracy theory about a Democratic politician just days before Election Day.
The Daily Caller caused a stir on October 14 by publishing a story promoting flimsy claims that Newark Mayor and New Jersey senatorial candidate Cory Booker does not actually live in New Jersey. In the article, writer Charles Johnson and "filmmaker" Joel Gilbert (more on him in a minute) interview a handful of Booker's "supposed neighbors" claiming he has "never" lived in Newark and may actually live in New York, but provide no substantial evidence to support their claims.
After the story was promoted widely by conservative online media and subsequently adopted by Steve Lonegan, Booker's opponent in this week's special senate election, it fell apart. Buzzfeed explains that while "there is no clear evidence to support claims Booker lives elsewhere," property records and other documentation suggest that he does, in fact, live in Newark.
Slate's David Weigel points out another reason the story doesn't pass the smell test: the involvement of Joel Gilbert. Gilbert -- the "filmmaker" whose interviews served as a central facet of the Caller piece -- is best known for Dreams from My Real Father, the documentary he released in 2012 arguing that President Obama is the secret love child of communist poet Frank Marshall Davis.
Weigel explains that the misfire on Booker may be "only the second-flimsiest story that [Daily Caller] has published about a New Jersey politician this year," following that publication's ill-fated series of stories claiming New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez had short-changed prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.
Despite the story being entirely unconvincing and coming in part from a disreputable conspiracy theorist, it of course made it into the Fox News bubble, because it targeted a Democrat. (Fox had previously heavily promoted the Caller's series on Menendez, as well.)
On his Fox Business program Varney & Co host Stuart Varney announced to viewers yesterday that "with voting just days away," Booker had been "outed by his neighbors" who say that "he does not live in the house that he calls his home" and they "haven't seen him there in years." Varney added, "Booker stays in New York, we hear":
The story was also featured on the Fox Nation website.
Promoting implausible stories about Booker apparently isn't the only way Fox is trying to tip the scales in New Jersey. The Varney & Co. segment concluded with Varney and Fox contributor David Asman speculating on whether Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would support Lonegan in the home stretch. After Varney predicted that Christie would "reject" Lonegan, Asman warned, "if that happens -- Chris Christie better watch out."
Image via Flickr user Kars4Kids via Creative Commons License.