GOP congressman cites fake story from satire site to smear civil rights group

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First-term Rep. Pat Fallon has had trouble recognizing the truth before.

A first-term Republican congressman falsely accused the Southern Poverty Law Center of labeling two prominent veterans' organizations as hate groups. His source was a fake report from a satire website.

Texas Rep. Pat Fallon used Wednesday's House Armed Services Committee hearing on extremism in the military to grill Lecia Brooks, the chief of staff at the civil rights organization, about the group's designations.

"Has your organization named the American Legion as a hate group?" he asked. "Were you aware that the organization named the VFW, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, as a hate group? You had in the past."

Neither group has ever been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, but a September 2017 post on the military satire site Duffel Blog jokingly claimed they had been.

"In a written statement signed by SPLC President J. Richard Cohen, the organization said both the VFW and Legion were included since many of their members sympathize with radical, extreme-right-wing ideals such as freedom, safety, and family values," that story absurdly stated, noting he made the comments "from somewhere deep within a fog of pit sweat in his corporate think-tank steam room, where Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Moscow) was seen relaxing in the nude."

But Fallon apparently took the story to be real.

After Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) followed with similar questions, the committee's chair, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), scolded his colleagues for the misinformation.

"That's why we have these hearings, is to try to get to the facts," he told them. "We can debate what to do with them, but we can’t be throwing out a bunch of misinformation."

A spokesperson for Fallon did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Prior to his 2020 election to the House, he was a right-wing Texas state legislator. He made headlines for co-sponsoring and promoting needless legislation to protect the right of people at public schools to say "Merry Christmas," regardless of whether the students actually celebrate that holiday.

A strong opponent of LGBTQ rights, he also had to apologize for mocking a pansexual colleague in 2018.

"You can't be gay anymore," he told a GOP group. "It's like the whole alphabet soup now — lesbian, transgender, bisexual, questioning. There's something called pansexual." Noting that a Democratic colleague in the state House so identified, he said, "I don't even know what that is. Suffice to say, secure your cookware."

According to a Dallas-based magazine, he previously had trouble separating what is fact from what is not.

In 2015, D Magazine named him as one of "The 3 Worst North Texas Legislators," noting that he has "a lawyerlike relationship with the truth." It cited his frequent overstatements of his minor role on the 1988 Notre Dame football team, his misleading statements about his place of residence, and his attributing an old joke about the Bible to his own five-year-old son.

Fallon is not the first person to be fooled by Duffel Blog satire.

In 2013, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was caught citing its "Guantanamo Prisoners To Receive GI Bill Benefits" story in an angry letter to the Pentagon requesting an investigation.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.