At age 85, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the oldest member of the U.S. Supreme Court. She is also regarded as one of the court’s more liberal justices, so when she was hospitalized in November 2018 after fracturing three ribs, many Democrats were fearful Ginsburg’s injuries were a sign that declining health might compel her to step down from the bench in the near future — well before the November 2020 elections that might allow the Democrats to regain the White House or a U.S. Senate majority and thus have some control over the selection of her replacement.
Ginsburg’s injury also prompted renewed interest in a 27 September 2018 report from the Santa Monica Observer, an article holding that Ginsburg was experiencing a recurrence of cancer and had disclosed to her law clerks and to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee members that she would be retiring in January 2019:
While the Nation is preoccupied with the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, it appears there will soon be another vacancy on the US Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has had a re-occurrence of malignant melanoma, she has told her law clerks. Ginsburg was treated in 1999 for colon cancer and had surgery in 2009 for pancreatic cancer.
She has told key Democratic members of the Senate about her medical condition, including ranking Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee Dianne Feinstein. This explains in part the “take no prisoners” attitude of the Democrats during the Kavanaugh nomination, carefully orchestrating weak 37 year old allegations against Kavanaugh by Women he barely remembers knowing in High School and College.
(The term “malignant melanoma” typically refers to a particular type of skin cancer that is distinct from pancreatic or colon cancer. We found no record of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s having previously been treated for malignant melanoma.)
Curiously, no reputable news outlet reported similar information about Ginsburg at the time, nor has any reputable news outlet reported on the subject in the intervening months since the Observer‘s article was published — despite the abundance of leaks in Washington that make such rumors virtually impossible to keep a secret. Also curiously, Ginsburg’s supposed retirement decision came just a few months after she had suggested she would remain on the court for another five years:
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she hopes to stay on the Supreme Court until the age of 90.
“I’m now 85,” Ginsburg said on Sunday. “My senior colleague, Justice John Paul Stevens, he stepped down when he was 90, so think I have about at least five more years.”
She has already hired law clerks for at least two more terms.
How is it that not only did an obscure Santa Monica newspaper/website seemingly manage to scoop the entire U.S. news media on a subject of momentous importance, but none of those news outlets even so much as took note of it? Could it be that, as Santa Monica Next suggested, the Observer publishes fake news penned by non-existent staff?
Santa Monica Observer plays fast and loose with the facts.
Under the “News” section of the Observer’s website is this headline: “Kanye West Appointed Under-Secretary of the Interior After Meeting at Trump Tower.”
It is unclear whether the article is meant to be satire since there is no indication that it is different from the other, actual headlines also listed under “News.”
The other peculiar thing about The Observer is that it’s unclear whether the authors are real people. The story “Cornell University Astronomers Claim to Have Detected 234 Alien Civilizations” is by Sarah Storkin, according to the byline on the article. However, the photograph that accompanies her byline appears to have been pulled from the online resume of one Hannah Sorkin, a university student in Staffordshire, England.
Indeed, our review found that the Observer has a history of publishing scads of questionable, false, and outright ridiculous articles, ranging from conspiracy theory (“Bedridden, Sick Hillary Clinton Sends Body Double to Debate Donald Trump”) to alien encounters (“Alien Spacecraft Explodes Over Greenland, Releasing 2.1 Kilotons of Explosive Force”) to fake news (“Gov. Brown Signs Bill Allowing Dead People to Vote, As Long As They’re Democrats”) to the out-and-out absurd (“YouTube Shooter Said to Be the Dwarf in the Jose Cuervo Beer Commercials”).
And we don’t really need to say much about the credibility of a source that reported rapper Kanye West was appointed “Under-Secretary of the Interior,” a position that hasn’t existed for nearly thirty years now.
Looking behind the scenes doesn’t inspire much confidence in the Observer‘s bona fides, either. Their listed business address corresponds to the location of the Kathmandu Boutique, which is a rather strange place from which to be running a supposed news operation. (The Observer subsequently altered the address on their website after we questioned it.)
Moreover, the site’s roster of editorial staff appears to consist of a non-existent editor represented with a stolen profile picture and a couple of other writer/editors who are real but haven’t published anything in the Observer in years. Meanwhile, current Observer articles are published under the bylines of persons who aren’t identified as staff at all.
The Observer‘s publisher, David Ganezer, acknowledged in response to our inquiry that Observer writers employ pseudonyms and that the site “frequently” alters the dates of published material (as they did with the Ruth Bader Ginsburg article) to artificially enhance its currency.
In short, this “news” about an imminent Ginsburg retirement was reported exclusively by a single obscure site — one that publishes fake news written by fake people. Its credibility should be judged accordingly.
Associated Press. “Ginsburg, 85, Hospitalized After Fracturing 3 Ribs in Fall.”
8 November 2018.
Greene, Stan. “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Will Retire from the US Supreme Court in January, 2019.”
Santa Monica Observer. 27 September 2018.
Associated Press. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospitalized for Pancreatic Cancer.”
5 February 2009.
Berman, Dan. “Ginsburg Suggests She Has at Least Five More Years on the Supreme Court.”
21 August 2018.
Islas, Jason. “Fake News: Santa Monica Edition.”
Santa Monica Next. 19 December 2016.