The “citizen reporters” at TruNews typically pump out racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy-laden articles about reptile people plotting a government takeover and secret death squads that perpetrate mass shootings, all while counting down to “the second coming of Jesus Christ.”
But on Thursday night, the right-wing fringe website scored one of its biggest stories yet: an interview with Donald Trump Jr.
Trump Jr. — the president’s eldest son, business heir and hype man — spoke to TruNews correspondent Kerry Kinsey at his father’s Grand Rapids, Mich., rally on Thursday.
“Look who we’ve got, Don. Jr.,” Kinsey says at the outset. “This is great.”
In the five-minute interview that followed, Trump Jr. rehashed tried-and-true talking points about fake news, the deep state and Hillary Clinton, as Kinsey teed up milquetoast questions. As the conversation wrapped up, Kinsey made a final request: “Would you tell your dad that TruNews loves your dad and we always give him a fair shake?”
“I’ll do that, guys. Thank you so much. Have a great day,” Trump Jr. responded.
Researchers at Right Wing Watch, a project from the nonprofit People for the American Way, have tracked TruNews for years and have described its founder, Rick Wiles, as a “crazed conspiracy theorist” obsessed with the end times.
“Wiles regularly promotes conspiracy theories about President Obama, the federal government and secret powerful forces working to shape world events and lead to the end of days,” his Right Wing Watch profile reads. “He also frequently criticizes LGBT rights and immigration.”
A spokeswoman for Trump Jr., who has his own history with conspiratorial thinking, said he hadn’t planned to do the interview, nor had he and his representatives vetted the outlet.
“This was not a pre-planned interview and Don had never heard of TruNews or had any awareness of their views until this very moment,” the spokeswoman, Amanda Miller, said in the statement.
She said Trump Jr. was scheduled to talk with Fox News host Sean Hannity and, while he was waiting for that interview to begin, nearby reporters began asking him questions. He did interviews with several outlets, Miller said.
“Unfortunately, he did not have an opportunity to run a full FBI background check on each and every one,” she said.
The Trump campaign did not respond to questions about how TruNews gained access to the Michigan rally or whether the outlet was granted press credentials to cover it.
However, this was not the first time TruNews managed to get some face time with the Trump family. In September, at a news conference about Brett M. Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, the president himself took a question from a TruNews reporter, who asked Trump for a preview of the “great deal” that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Observers, in turn, wondered how the reporter even gained admission to the briefing.
The White House did not respond to questions about TruNews and its access to news conferences. The outlet also did not respond to a request for comment late Friday night.
The TruNews archive reads like a greatest hits collection of far-right conspiracy theories, a veritable potpourri of Nazi references and fear mongering about secret cabals.
In articles and broadcasts past, the site has claimed the Las Vegas shooting, which was the deadliest in modern U.S. history, was carried out by a secret death squad from a “gay/lesbian Nazi regime” and asserted that white Americans are being pushed out of their country by a “brown invasion.” Numerous articles on the site have declared Obama a “demon from hell” — or worse. After Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston in 2017, TruNews declared the storm punishment for the city’s “affinity for the sexual perversion movement.”
Yet, TruNews is not the lone conspiracy platform that has found an audience in the White House.
Alex Jones, on his website Infowars, long claimed that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax. But that didn’t stop Trump from appearing on Jones’s show during his presidential campaign.
“Your reputation is amazing,” Trump said then. “I will not let you down.”
Just over three years later, Kinsey, a representative from another fringe site, vied for the president’s attention. At the end of the interview with Trump Jr., Kinsey turned back to the camera and signed off. It sounded like even he couldn’t believe what had just happened.
“Kerry Kinsey here for TruNews in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with Donald Trump Jr.,” he said. “Wow, how 'bout that.”