Benny Johnson ​Falsely Claims That Gun-Toting Couple Were Democrats

Benny Johnson speaking with attendees at the 2018 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo: Gage Skidmore, WikiMedia Commons)

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.

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:

-Supports BLM

-Are Democrats

-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.

Johnson’s tweet had been shared more than 5,000 times before it was deleted and was cited as proof by several high-profile conservative social media figures, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who quipped​, “Maximum cognitive dissonance.”

Multiple plagiarism scandals defined Johnson’s ​disgraced​ career in journalism, but Johnson has nevertheless maintained a high level of influence in conservative activism circles.