In Brief

Fake news king Paul Horner dies of suspected drug overdose

Horner twice impersonated Banksy and claimed to have put Trump in the White House

Paul Horner, the 38-year-old writer who gained notoriety for his fake news stories and took credit for Donald Trump’s election victory, has died of a suspected accidental drug overdose at his home near Phoenix, Arizona.

Horner gained fame by trolling the US with fabricated stories. He twice convinced the internet that he was British graffiti artist Banksy, published the viral false story that Yelp was suing South Park for $10m and claimed former president Barack Obama was a gay, radical Muslim.

Horner's artist brother, J.J. Horner, posted a tribute on Facebook, calling the fake news kingpin “a loving son and brother, an artist, a heroic writer and story teller, a preacher, a caretaker for our brother Brian, an internet wizard, a humanitarian, an activist, a philosopher, a comedian, a patriot, Banksy (twice), Bill Murray, a dolphin, and my biggest fan”.

Paul Horner called his stories satire and made a living publishing “click bait” fake news, but the humour was lost on readers who believed his tall tales. Under the byline “Jimmy Rustling”, Horner claimed protesters were being paid $3,500 (£2,600) to disrupt Trump rallies in an article that was then spread online by the Trump campaign manager and Trump’s son Eric.

Horner told The Washington Post he was responsible for getting Donald Trump elected – but he wasn't a Trump supporter and found it shocking that people believed his stories. 

“Honestly, people are definitely dumber [now],” Horner told the Post. “They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore - I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary.”

Horner told CNN much of his writing was a mixture of comedy and activism. "I do it to try to educate people,” he said. “I see certain things wrong in society that I don't like and different targets.”

Horner was found dead in his bed on 18 September but the news of his death was only released yesterday. His family said Horner had sometimes abused prescription drugs and Associated Press reports that Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office found no sign of foul play. 

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