A Republican lawmaker in Maryland has sacked an aide after he was exposed as the person behind a fake news website. Del. David Vogt III (R-Frederick) said that he fired Cameron Harris “on the spot” on 18 January 2017, after the New York Times revealed that Harris was the creator of ChristianTimesNewspaper.com.
Vogt confirmed firing Harris in an interview with Snopes.com on 19 January 2017, saying that the discovery of his activities would spur changes to his vetting procedures for future hires. Constituents who have contacted him regarding Harris’ posts, he said, were appalled that they could come from someone so “close to home”:
The integrity of public service is the number one thing that we have to defend. We have to represent people who trust us to do that here. It is the disintegration of that integrity at its worst.
Harris admitted to fabricating a story claiming that “tens of thousands” of pre-marked ballots casting votes for Hillary Clinton were found in a warehouse in Ohio. According to the Times, the story was shared with six million people. We have also debunked several other posts Harris published on the site.
Harris, who reportedly made tens of thousands of dollars from his site overall, claimed that his motivation for propagating fake pro-conservative posts was financial, rather than political:
Given the severe distrust of the media among Trump supporters, anything that parroted Trump’s talking points people would click. Trump was saying ‘rigged election, rigged election.’ People were predisposed to believe Hillary Clinton could not win except by cheating.
Harris posted a statement on Twitter apologizing to people whom he had “disappointed” with his actions:
My wish is that I will be allowed to contribute my informed experience to a larger dialogue about how Americans approach the media, tough issues, and the manner in which we, collectively, will inform our decisions going forward.
— Cam Harris (@camharris_us) January 19, 2017
We have contacted Harris seeking further comment.