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Delegate shares hoax news, causes social media uproar

South Boston News
Del. James Edmunds and his Facebook post / September 30, 2016
Del. James Edmunds has a word of warning for those who get their news from social media: “You have to understand, half of the stuff on there is not true. I look at it as entertainment value.”

Edmunds, who regularly interacts with constituents on his public Facebook page, crossed lines of fact and fiction this week when he shared a link from a fake news website — “the Baltimore Gazette” — that purports to blow open a conspiracy between Hillary Clinton and NBC News leading up to this week’s presidential debate.

The bogus report — “Clinton Received Debate Questions Week Before Debate, According To Sources” — alleges that an NBC intern delivered a package to Clinton campaign headquarters with the questions that moderator Lester Holt, a network anchor, would be asking of the candidates., a digital fact-checking site that specializes in debunking urban legends and underground rumors, labeled the story “false.”

Snopes also described — named after a newspaper that died in print form 140 years ago; today the city’s major newspaper is The Baltimore Sun — as a “hastily thrown-together hoax site” with a “track record of publishing demonstrably fake news stories.”

Edmunds, a Donald Trump supporter and Republican lawmaker serving his fourth term in the Virginia House of Delegates, shared the link on Wednesday, setting off a heated exchange among constituents, some of whom upbraided the delegate for spreading false information, others who cheered him on.

“Keep it up James Edmunds. I’d never take it down true or false if it’s a lie well it fits her then,” wrote one follower of Edmunds’ Facebook page.

On Thursday, a day after the ruckus started, Edmunds allowed that “I didn’t research [the story] to see if it was legitimate” and “I just hit the share button. That’s part of the reason I didn’t take it down. I didn’t post it, I just shared it.”

He also steered clear of the debate by not adding his own comments alongside those of his Facebook friends — Edmunds’ page has 3,778 followers. Yet neither is he inclined to remove the fake news link: “When you take something down, it infers you’ve done something wrong,” said Edmunds, “and that was not my intention.

“I’ll try to do my homework next time,” he added.

“I hope no one forms their opinions based on what they read on the Internet. Everybody who looks at it knows it’s trash.”

A number of commenters who took part in the discussion thread took issue with what they suggested was the delegate’s cavalier attitude towards the truth.

“James, will you please remove your post about Clinton receiving the debate questions prior to the debate?” wrote one Halifax constituent. After pointing out the Baltimore Gazette is a hoax news site, she wrote, “As a politician, I know you can agree with me that it is vital that people receive true information on which to make their decisions.”

Another chimed in, “If people need lies to support how they feel about Trump, that’s rather sad, isn’t it?”

Yet others defended the post as a good-for-the-gander rejoinder to Clinton: “Couldn’t imagine why some people support someone who should be in prison right now,” wrote one commenter.

“But it’s okay for the main stream media to lie on TRUMP, GET OUTTA HERE,” stated another.

In a similar vein, one person who joined the debate threat pointed to an unsubstantiated, much-criticized allegation by Howard Dean, a former Democratic presidential candidate, that Trump’s audible sniffling during the debate was brought on by cocaine use: “Was it a satire when Howard Dean said Trump [was] on Coke? Same thing!” he wrote.

Yet another commenter defended Edmunds’ right to free speech and added, “just because some fact checker disputes something, means nothing. Whether it is the truth or not, it’s up to those individuals on social media to decide what they choose to read or not read.”

By Thursday, most of the comments had disappeared from Edmunds’ page. Asked about the missing remarks by his Facebook fans, Edmunds said he did not delete any information from his page and only learned about the heated back-and-forth when his wife pointed it out to him.

“I haven’t touched [the thread] or manipulated it, any comments whatsoever,” he said.

A screen capture image of now-missing comments was provided for use in this article.

Edmunds offered a commentary similar to the one suggested by his Facebook friend who said people should decide for themselves what they choose to believe on the internet.

“It’s obvious this election is tenuous in the respect everything is so strongly opinionated on both sides there’s no middle ground,” he said.

Asked whether, as an elected official, he should take responsibility for spreading false news stories, Edmunds replied, “ I can see where people might take more credence [in the information] because I shared it.

“Perhaps I should make the comment there that it’s not real but that it certainly sparked a lot of interesting dialogue and leave it at that …. Perhaps I should put a caveat before I share anything — take it for what it’s worth, consider it for what it’s worth.”

Late Thursday afternoon, after speaking to the press, Edmunds made his first contribution to the debate thread. “Well, apparently some of you got so upset that I shared this post without doing extensive research as to whether the Baltimore Gazette is a real news organization or not, that you contacted the newspaper,” he wrote on his page. “Therefore, I would like to inform my readers that everything you read on the internet is not true and I will try to do a little more background research next time. Until then, please don't formulate your political opinions based on Facebook posts.”

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While this may have not been a real site. Others I have read have said the same thing. Sounds like the libs in Halifax are getting nervous if they have to bring this up.


How's this for hoax news. Hillary won the debate.


Keep your head up Mr. Edmunds. You can "power through" this.


Trump was driving that truck in France.
Trump's a racist.
Trump is having trouble with the women vote. The ladies all stayed home on April 26th.
The media would never censor trump.


Forgot these,
Obama thinks everyone should have air conditioning in their car.
The Orlando night club shooter was struggling with his closet homosexuality.


Shame on you Mr. Edmunds for not getting your news from CNN.


Next time try getting your news from trustworthy agencies like the State Department.


The "Basket of Deplorables" is overflowing. I once heard this news outlet referred to as a liberal rag yet here all of you are spewing the idiocies that are the talking points of the supreme petulant child to you petulant followers. Why not return to your echo chambers and save yourself from dissenting opinions. Polticians, on both sides, give the "American People" far too much credit for their intelligence. Continue to lower the bar. Lies now substitute for the truth. Facts mean nothing. "Murcia."


Why not listen to the chambers of congress and recognize the American people give leaders like Clinton and Comey far too much credit for their integrity. I think the average American is smart enough to recognize if they were under FBI investigation for mishandling classified information a search warrant would have been issued and computer equipment would be seized by armed force. Just ask the employees of Cherokee Tobacco. The average American would not have been given transactional immunity and immunity from destruction which we now know Comey gave thanks to Darrell Issa.
Or the fact that telling enough lies makes it hard to keep your story straight thanks to Representative John Ratcliffe.
All 5 key witnesses would not be given immunity and if one lied after receiving immunity it would have been taken away and replaced with obstruction of justice charges.


Ah yes, here comes the false equivalencies. Under investigation is not synonymous with guilt. Farley was found guilty. Provide a link, not an infrowars one, that rises to the level of Clinton heading to prison. Trump chanting it doesn't make it so. The average American? Your confidence in what the average American knows about the law is admirable. The below average American uses terms such as "Hitlery" and tries to convince readers of "liberal rags," in their comment section, that Trump good, lib-tards bad. The cognitive dissonance it takes to completely vote against your own interest is astounding. I await the many infowars and YouTube retorts to prove your point while I completely ignore facts and allow you to pull me into the Trump camp. Will I have to leave my common sense at the door as I enter or do I turn it later? I must however applaud your use of political names to make it seem like you know what you're talking about. Did you learn that at Trump University?


Yea it does sort of steal your thunder when the comments section is more informative than the article itself. Rock on!


Gives his constituents a lot of confidence when it comes to legislation. I wonder what he's voted on without actually having read it or researched it. This is completely irresponsible, not to mention troubling, that one of our legislators is so easily taken in by an Internet hoax. This disregard to facts could certainly explain his support for Trump, though. And the excuses he's giving are more embarrassing than the fact he shared this hoax in the first place.


Fake newspaper with fake "editor" prints fake news from fake website. Tom's everyone knows your brother is local Dem party leader. Judging from liberals stickers on your car there's no doubt where you stand. To think that your paper would be neutral on any issues in political topics is wish.
Why is it that Tom's editorial column ramblings don't allow comments? Because Dems cant debate with facts- it's Alinsky type arguments since we can't allow the minorities to leave the plantation. Democrats are the party of slavery.


Got to love this one. The New York Times breaks federal law and illegally prints Trumps tax returns from 1995 showing a $916 million loss. Drudge report then runs the headline revealing the New York Times paid no taxes in 2014 and actually received $3.5 million in taxpayer handouts.


From Hillary Clinton to John McCain, what's it going to take for people to realize leaders of this country are sold out to foreign interests?


And don't forget the previous criminal idiot george bush trying to turn control of major US sea ports over to a country that gave us a couple of the 9/11 hijackers.
Or the US government agencies approving the sale of 1/5 of US uranium.


You may have to vote for a write in.


Wow! If I were a doctor or nurse, etc. and I shared an article about heart disease, cancer, nutrition, etc and later found out it was false, there is no question that I would remove it. To say I didn't remove it because I only shared it, is simple shifting blame like a teenager or child would do. I am shocked.


funny. Tom's attempt at humour. This is from the same "paper" that didn't send a reporter to the RPV party where Barksdale was replaced and this same "paper" fabricated a story that included something about the winning candidate bringing in multiple tour buses of people to vote. Classic! Tom you are guilty of same thing. Now how about letting us comment on your editorial scribblings?

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