Multiple Outlets, Politicians Duped by Fake Michael Flynn Tweet

Politicians and news outlets mistook a parody account's remarks for legitimate statements made by ousted White House national security adviser Michael Flynn.

On 13 February 2017, a number of news outlets and politicians were taken in by an unverified Twitter account bearing Gen. Michael Flynn’s name in the wake of his ouster as the Trump administration’s national security adviser.

The tweets came from an account opened in January 2017:

By the afternoon of 14 February 2017, the account was clearly labeled as “parody.” It is not clear whether that label appeared at the time the tweets were referenced, but a pinned tweet mocked media and political responses:

Reps. Elijah Cummings and Nancy Pelosi had both discussed the tweet while speaking to press:

“Something is wrong here,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said during a press conference in Washington, D.C.

“Madam Leader, just this morning Flynn tweeted — and this is a quote here — ‘scapegoat,’ end of quote,” added Cummings, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee. “Scapegoat. He basically describes himself as a scapegoat.

“I believe we need to hold a public hearing with Flynn to get to the bottom of this. If there was any emergency at this moment in the history of this country, this is the moment.”

Pelosi reiterated the claim:

I didn’t know until I heard from our colleague that the tweet of Gen. Flynn today was ‘scapegoat.’ Do you know what a ‘scapegoat’ is? That means in a community where people want to absolve themselves of guilt, they get a goat and heap all the ills onto the goat and then they run the goat out of town. So the inference to be drawn from his statement [is] that other people have blame that should be shared in all of this.

As mentioned, not only politicians were duped. A long-form, multi-author New York Times piece about Flynn’s departure had the following note added to it:

An earlier version of this article misstated the day on which the White House sent out a series of conflicting signals about Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser. It was Monday, not Tuesday. Also, because of an editing error, an earlier version quoted three posts from an unverified Twitter account purporting to be Mr. Flynn’s, responding to the resignation.

According to The Hill, the outlet Newsmax also fell for the fake Flynn tweets, but still derided the Times’ flub as “fake news”. The Democrats’ House Committee on Oversight later tweeted to acknowledge Cummings and Pelosi’s misstatements.