Allen West, Who's Meeting With Trump Today, Runs a Fake-News Empire

Former South Florida Congressman Allen West is meeting with Donald Trump today, for the second time in seven days. To put things mildly, this is less than ideal. West has a demonstrable hatred of Muslims: He was kicked out of the military a decade ago for psychologically torturing an innocent Iraqi cop, spent his two-year congressional career calling Islam a threat to the West, and Saturday retweeted a meme calling for the "extermination" of Muslims.

West, a frequent Fox News contributor, has taken a well-deserved lashing for posting the meme (one of his staffers claimed responsibility for the ordeal and apologized), but it's worth looking into the underlying reason anyone from West's camp would post memes in the first place: In addition to being a frightening bigot, West is also one of the nation's preeminent publishers of so-called fake news.

In light of a report in Politico this morning that a hushed rule change could let Donald Trump run a taxpayer-funded propaganda outlet, West's status as a junk-news kingpin should worry anyone who cares about freedom of the press.
As New Times reported in June, before the phrase "fake news" became a household term, West has turned himself into a one-man conservative propaganda magnate. According to the web-traffic-ranking site Alexa.com, West's personal website, allenbwest.com, is basically dead-even with the Miami Herald in homepage web traffic and is beating out scores of reputable news outlets, such as the Denver Post.

How did he do it? By peddling a series of insane, demonstrably untrue conspiracy theories to his millions of social media followers.
It's somewhat surprising that the tactic West used to catapult himself to publishing fame is legal: By the time he left Congress in 2013 (after losing his own reelection bid), he had gained a huge online presence.

But after leaving the job, he contracted with an outside publishing house, the Liberty Alliance, to turn his public Facebook and Twitter pages — which he'd previously used to announce congressional updates — into fake-news factories.
Now, West has more than 2.5 million Facebook fans and 593,000 Twitter followers. And every single one of them is fed a daily diet of conservative commentary (which is perfectly fine), alongside straight-up factual garbage (which is not good).

West now employs an entire team of staff writers and editors to churn out Daily Caller- and Breitbart-style news. In June, New Times called his site a "clickbait empire" — but now it's clear West has been cashing in on the fake-news rise for years. Though many have complained it's difficult to properly define "fake news" — both liberals and conservatives have co-opted the phrase to refer to anything from blog posts and Fox News to the New York Times — West's site is very clearly in the habit of peddling untruths.

Example: West's site consistently has attacked climate change as a "hoax" and shared articles trying to debunk basic global-warming science. This past Friday, a writer for West's site attempted to cast doubt on the fact that the majority of scientists believe that manmade climate change is real. The writer, Michael Lee, claimed the "TRUTH about global warming" was revealed in a study last week, which said only 36 percent of geoscientists and engineers believed in climate change.

But there were a few massive problems with that data, and West's site conveniently hid all of them: For one, the study was published in a journal that concentrates on the science of organizational management, not actual earth science. (Oddly, the rest of the journal's articles focus on topics such as branding or management at Honda.) Two, the company that publishes that journal was cited by the scientific community for publishing junk science without adequate editorial review.

Most important, however: The data was blatantly flawed. If you delve deep into the study, the researchers admit all 1,077 responses came from a small trade group of oil-company scientists in Alberta, Canada.

Elsewhere on West's site, he peddles a factually bunk theory that Barack Obama plans to "steal" $3,000 from every American before leaving office through the Environmental Protection Act (even though the website he cites admits that's not how the EPA rule changes work).

West's site also has a clear anti-Islam bent. The so-called news outlet has devoted a good bit of time to attacking Ahmad Abrar Saleem, a former Council on American-Islamic Relations leader in Florida who was caught in a pedophilia sting. The charges against Saleem are real and troubling, but West's site has tried to use Saleem's case to slander the Muslim faith in general and has implied that Saleem was a pedophile because he was inspired by the Prophet Muhammad.

(West's site also doesn't write about pedophilia stings elsewhere, so you're welcome to guess why a Muslim leader's pedophilia charges bother West so much.)

West himself is also prone to publishing his own, totally bonkers anti-Islam rants online. Here's an excerpt from one November 30 screed, titled "Possibly the BEST news for Christians in some time":
Here in America we always hear about Muslims being victimized and how they live in fear… Hmm, wonder what emotional scars are felt by the survivors of Ft. Hood; San Bernardino; Orlando; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Moore, Okla.; St. Cloud, Minn.; Ohio State University; or 9/11? Perhaps the progressive socialists, aligned with the Islamo-fascists, really don’t care, and the potential DNC chairmanship by Keith Ellison indicates such.

Ask your favorite liberal progressive just how many Christians visit Mecca or Medina for vacation spots — oops, sorry, no infidels allowed. And just how many churches have been destroyed by Islamists? And how many Christians are being driven from their ancestral lands, beheaded, crucified, sold and used as sex slaves? Doggone, the young Somali fella in Ohio was upset about how he felt Muslims were treated in America — so he ran Americans over with a car and slashed and stabbed them.
(Later in that article, West claims liberals want to force Christians to worship "underground." It bears noting that he is also a rampant homophobe and doesn't believe women should hold day jobs.)

Don't forget he was deeply unpopular in his native Broward County by the time he tried to mount a reelection campaign in 2013. It took mere months for Florida voters to tire of his unhinged antics.

But now West is back from the dead — and sounds like a prime candidate to run Trump TV.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.