Turning Point USA chief creative officer Benny Johnson attempted to claim that a white couple that aimed firearms at Black Lives Matter protesters in St. Louis, Missouri, were not supporters of President Donald Trump, but rather Democratic Party voters. Johnson turned to Federal Election Commission data to support his claim, but there was a problem: He found the wrong guy.
Right Wing Watch emailed Johnson to inquire whether he was aware of his error, if he planned to correct himself, and if he generally tries to ensure that what he tweets is accurate. Johnson deleted his tweet after we sent our inquiry, but not before we could archive it. Johnson posted another tweet correcting himself, but he did not answer our inquiry.
I deleted this tweet because the FEC screenshot that went viral online was from a different donor of the same name. pic.twitter.com/BvfGhFsUoI
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) June 30, 2020
Johnson’s since-deleted tweet was posted Monday and contained a screenshot of FEC data with a name matching that of Mark McCloskey, the man who was pictured wielding firearms with his wife. The data displayed in Johnson’s screenshot showed an individual with the same name donating to ActBlue, an online fundraising tool used by left-of-center politicians and causes. Johnson shared the screenshot with the comment attached:
So it turns out the gun-toting couple:
-Are representing a victim of police brutality.
The media is going to have a hard time comprehending this since they spent all of last night and this morning smearing them.
But there was a glaring problem, as The Daily Beast reporter Lachlan Markay noted: Johnson had identified the wrong guy. In fact, if Johnson had bothered to continue scrolling on the election data page or had taken a few additional seconds to check where the individual he singled out in his tweet registered their donation from, he would have seen that the Mark McCloskey he found was another man by the same name who lives in Michigan—not Missouri. Rather, the gun-toting McCloskey in Missouri is recorded donating $2,700 toward the Trump campaign and allied Republican causes during the 2016 election cycle.
Maximum cognitive dissonance. https://t.co/6U4v1zFyST
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 30, 2020
Multiple plagiarism scandals defined Johnson’s disgraced career in journalism, but Johnson has nevertheless maintained a high level of influence in conservative activism circles.