We double-checked this story to make sure it was true: A prolific fake-news writer has been found dead in his home outside Phoenix, the result of a possible overdose.
During the 2016 election cycle, Paul Horner crafted numerous untrue stories that nonetheless went viral—including pieces alleging protesters were being paid to disrupt Trump rallies and an article claiming President Obama was gay and a Muslim.
According to the AP, the 38-year-old "was known for writing false stories and disseminating internet hoaxes that often went viral on Facebook and hoodwinked thousands of people."
In 2016, Horner told The Washington Post that Trump supporters ate his flimsy reporting with a fork and spoon.
"I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything—they’ll post everything, believe anything," he said. "His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist."
In the same interview he remarked, “Honestly, people are definitely dumber."
The gay Obama article first appeared on NewsExaminer.net under the headline "Secret Service Agent Says Obama Is Muslim & Gay In New Tell-All Book" and quickly gained traction among the alt-right.
In it, Horner claimed to be a former agent who had written The Black House: A 12-year Former Secret Service Agent Explains Why Obama And The First Lady Are Ruining This Country, which was "quickly climbing Amazon’s best-seller charts."
Everything about the story was fake—from the existence of the book to "Tom Downey," the NBC senior political analyst who allegedly verified its claims. In the made-up interview, Horner told Downey that Obama constantly berated Christians, forced the pretend agent to listen to Diana Ross, and had staff harass a Facebook page about a masturbating dolphin.
PolitiFact rated the story as "Pants on Fire" false, but it leaped to other fake news sites, including NBC.com.co and ABCNews.com.co.
Horner was far from the only one to allege the 44th president was a homosexual: Wayne Madsen claimed Obama had affairs with presidential bodyguard Reggie Love, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, among others.
In his self-published "memoir," Larry Sinclair reported that in 1999 he performed oral sex on Obama as then-Illinois state senator smoked crack.
While Horner was assumed to be a Trump supporter, his brother J.J. insists he wasn't: "He just wanted people to just think for themselves and be credible for their actions."
He considered his work satire, says to J.J: “A lot of the genius behind his work was pushing ideas that either people wanted to believe or thought was possible.”
Horner had a history of prescription drug abuse, and the medical examiner's report maintained “evidence at the scene suggested this could be an accidental overdose.” A toxicology report is forthcoming.