• Reilly Neill

Fake News From Eastern Montana

Some conservatives are experimenting with a scheme to exploit the credibility of local journalism: hundreds of websites with innocuous-sounding names like the “Montana Daily Gazette.” The "Gazette" is likely an attempt to mimic the "Billings Gazette."

The "Daily Gazette" is just a website on a paid domain with one author, someone called "PUBLISHER" with an avatar of a scene in Glacier overlaid with the word "Montana." The Daily Gazette is a page on a website with one author, something to be classified as an advertisement in any local Montana newspaper. But who's paying for the ad?

The “Daily Gazette” Facebook page links to itself and the “Washington Daily News Today,” another paid website with one author designed to confuse readers into thinking it’s the more substantive (since 1909 at least) “Washington Daily News” in D.C. rather than a paid, unsourced advertisement.

Opinion is stated as fact on the "Daily News" like, “Bill Barr just broke up a massive scheme to illegally funnel foreign money into darn near every Democratic political candidate and organization” And no source is given for the information. The “Daily News” and the “Daily Gazette” are just advertisements. But who is paying to publish them?

In Montana, the trace is easy. The same exact phone number for the “Daily Gazette” is listed for the “Richland Sanctuary Movement," a new GOP-funded organization in eastern Montana's Richland County on the border with North Dakota.

The Richland Sanctuary Movement has petitions available online to sign for “right to life” and the Second Amendment and works with the Sidney Area Republican Committee, who just had a meeting featuring "Sanctuary proposals" on Jan. 20 in Sidney.

The “Montana Daily Gazette” launched on Facebook and the internet page went live on February 10, 2020 with a scenic photo of central Montana and soon after they were sharing stories about the “lie of climate change,” anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and, of course, their favorite candidate, @Gregformontana.

If the Republican committee in Richland county wants to create a newspaper online to push their agenda, it should have disclaimers - but it’s the internet and anything goes. The “Daily Gazette” will pay to gain traction with Montanans across the state and allow @gregformontana to play dirty with the truth.

You can help family and friends by letting them know this is not any kind of accredited news source and is more akin to an infomercial on late night television attempting to sell them a bad set of easy-dulling knives and likely is attempting to persuade or swindle them.

The Montana GOP should have more respect for Montanan's intelligence. They should not seek to undermine the gravitas and responsibility of the fourth estate to inform the people of this state with important, sourced information.

Launching a fake online newspaper to push the GOP agenda lacking sources, transparent funding, or any kind of journalistic integrity shows how low they are willing to go to manipulate the voter. If GOP ideas for Montana are not good enough to be reported on with integrity by the viable news outlets across Montana, they don't deserve the press.

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