An Arizona congressman who earlier tweeted a coded conspiracy theory about Jeffrey Epstein appears to have no shame over posting a fake photo of former President Barack Obama to make a point about Iran.
Republican Rep. Paul Gosar tweeted a 2011 photo of Obama shaking hands with a former prime minister of India that was doctored to show him instead with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. “The world is a better place without these guys in power,” the caption said.
Twitter users pounced.
For one thing, Obama never met Rouhani in person. The altered version of the photo to make it appear otherwise was debunked in 2015 in a FactCheck.org post called “Obama-Rouhani Photo Is Not Real.”
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But rather than back down once corrected, Gosar pressed on to mock “dim witted reporters,” insisting that “no one said this wasn’t photoshopped.”
“No one said the president of Iran was dead,” he wrote. “No one said Obama met with Rouhani in person. The tweet says, “the world is a better place without either of them in power.”
And that leads to the second point: Although Obama left the White House in 2017, Rouhani is still in office, a point Gosar dismissed (though he changed his tense is a subsequent tweet.)
“The point remains to all but the dimmest: Obama coddled, appeased, nurtured and protected the worlds No. 1 sponsor of terror. The world is better without Obama as president. The world will be better off without Rouhani.”
Asked whether Gosar would apologize to Obama, Gosar’s congressional office responded that the tweets were posted from an account not run by the staff and that the request for comment had been forwarded.
The tweets were on Gosar’s private page and he did not respond.
"It is highly inappropriate for Rep. Gosar to use his platform to spread disinformation," said Matt Grodsky, a spokesman for the Arizona Democratic Party. "This is just the latest reason why Arizonans can't trust him to put us first in Washington."
Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics who has been consistently critical of President Donald Trump, tweeted about whether Gosar’s choice of a fake, disparaging photo should have consequences for a member of Congress.
“Question for @CongressEthics: House ethics standards require Members to "Conduct themselves at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House." Does a Member falsely disseminating a doctored photograph of a former president reflect creditably on the House?”
A special episode of NBC News' "Meet the Press" on Dec. 29 explored similar cases of politicians spreading disinformation.
“We live in an environment where people are able to spread crazy conspiracy theories and absolute falsehoods and lies,” Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron said on the show. “And that’s made possible by the internet and social media. And people are drawn to sources of information, so-called information, that confirms their pre-existing points of view. And you know, that’s what’s contributing to this environment that we have today.”
Clint Watts, a national security analyst for NBC News spoke of a cycle of spreading untruths. "You can continue to make more and more lies, which then wears out anybody trying to rebut them,” he said.
For Gosar, this was the latest in a series of provocative actions on Twitter. In November, in a series of messages about the first public hearing of the impeachment inquiry against Trump, Gosar spelled out a secondary message with the first letter of each tweet: “Epstein didn’t kill himself.”
Later, he wrote: “What? Epstein didn’t kill himself?”
The New York City medical examiner has concluded that the financier accused of sexually abusing underage girls had killed himself.
Also in November Gosar went after a son of billionaire George Soros, whom he's targeted before. He falsely suggested Alexander Soros was the whistleblower who sparked the impeachment investigation into Trump.
Alexander Soros pointed out that the whistleblower had to be a government employee. NBC News and others have reported that the whistleblower who reported concerns about the president pressuring his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate a political rival is a CIA employee detailed to the White House.