The rightwing blog The Gateway Pundit pushed a single-sourced rumor from an anonymous Twitter account, @Umpire43, claiming that one of Roy Moore’s accusers was offered $1,000 by The Washington Post to go public with her claims.
That rumor quickly made its way to InfoWars and the top of r/The_Donald, the most active pro-Trump community on the web. The pro-Trump cable station One America News Network even aired the news, citing a “report.”
But the source for that viral accusation is a serial fabulist who has been using the identity of a Navy serviceman who died in 2007, records show.
Umpire43, also known as Doug Lewis or DJ Lewis, has repeatedly invented stories in the past—particularly about his own background. Lewis said he was a 22-year veteran of the Navy, a pollster at Ipsos/Reuters, an expert on rigging voting machines, a source who was feet away from Reince Preibus, a man who speaks six languages, a beleaguered soul who needed time off after the 9/11 attacks when he saw Muslims “dancing on rooftops,” the owner of a polling company who claimed Trump had a sustained lead in California, and an actual baseball umpire with 50 years experience. Oh, and he worked at the American consulate in Calgary, where he claimed to obtain proof of a forged birth certificate for Ted Cruz’s father.
The Daily Beast spoke with each of the institutions and companies at which he claimed to be affiliated or employed. None of Umpire43’s employment or service claims are true, these organizations said.
Umpire43’s now-infamous allegation that “A family friend in Alabama just told my wife that a WAPO reporter named Beth offered her 1000$ to accuse Roy Moore,” posted last week, was deleted with the rest of his Twitter account Tuesday morning.
Umpire43 (or Lewis) claimed to be born in two different places—South Bend, Ind. and Plains, Ga.—in separate tweets. It’s hardly his only inconsistent claim. For someone who leaned hard on his security credentials to bolster his credibility, Umpire43 appears to have stolen or invented those credentials.
Umpire43 claimed to have worked at the U.S. consulate in Calgary in the 1970s. But the State Department told The Daily Beast that its human resources department could find no employment record of anyone using his various claimed screennames, Doug Lewis or DJ Lewis. (The State Department does not keep HR records for contractors and the consulate itself did not answer if it hired contract security in the 1970s.)
Umpire43 has also shifted its description of Lewis’ military service. At various points he has claimed to be a Navy SEAL and a sailor with six years’ worth of accumulated combat experience. Yet the Navy emblem shown in Umpire43’s pre-deletion avatar showed a globe circled by an orbiting star and four lightning bolts, which is a mass communication specialist’s insignia.
Umpire43 claims to have enlisted in 1961, served on active duty until suffering an injury in 1969 and then returned to active duty in 1975 before a 1988 retirement, after his alleged stint in Calgary.
The Navy told The Daily Beast it could not find service records for anyone named Doug Lewis born before 1955, as anyone who enlisted in 1961 would had to have been. Due to the archiving of certain Navy records before 1976, and the lack of a date of birth posted by Umpire43, the Navy records search could not be entirely definitive.
But that’s not Umpire43’s only account of his Navy service. In an exchange recorded in a conservative website’s comment thread, discovered by Adam Weinstein of Task and Purpose, Umpire43 claimed to have been on active duty on September 11, 2001, posting a log page for a vehicle at California’s Coronado naval base.
"I promised to prove to Trump supporter where I was on September 11," Umpire43 tweeted. Umpire43 claimed he could prove people were “dancing on rooftops,” which was the false claim then-candidate Trump made about Muslim-Americans in New Jersey on 9/11.
Umpire43's claims found a welcome audience in Trump Tower. Dan Scavino—the social media director for the Trump campaign, now a member of the White House Staff—passed along Umpire43's bogus assertion in November of 2015.
That log, however, recorded the name “Jason D. Lewis”—a SEAL who was killed in Iraq in 2007.
Lewis repeatedly insisted he worked at Ipsos/Reuters polling during the 2016 election cycle. As far back as November of 2015, just months into Trump’s candidacy, Lewis pushed polls under the guise of a rogue Reuters employee who had access to pro-Trump polls.
“I am checking (working for Ipsos) state by state to get to the bottom of this NBC Fake Poll,” Lewis wrote on November 3rd, 2015.
“Would love new law that makes media outlets liable for all lies reported on air or in print regardless of source. Especially NBC and CNN,” he wrote later in the day.
A spokesperson confirmed that no one by the name of Doug Lewis or DJ Lewis worked at Reuters during the election cycle last year.
“We have no record of a person by this name having been employed at Reuters during this time period,” the spokesperson wrote.
Still, that didn’t stop Lewis from achieving viral fame as a fed-up Reuters employee who peddled outlandish and false claims.
“I will likely be fired for this but I do not give a damn. Thomson/Reuters has accepted payment from DNC for false polls taken from 75% Dems,” Lewis wrote in June of last year.
The tweet, which made the rounds on 4chan and Reddit knockoff Voat, received over 2,000 retweets.
After his fabricated stint at Reuters, Lewis pushed made-up poll numbers under the name of a nonexistent polling company, Vets for Honest Polls.
The account frequently posted poll numbers that showed Trump leading by upwards of 6 points in states like California, where he wound up losing by 30 percentage points in the general election.
Lewis consistently tweeted polls showing Trump with a narrow lead in Michigan, often citing the state first, especially in August.
“We Vets for honest polls will work like hell on Mi ,PA and NH (sic). We will tweet our poll results about 3:30-4:00 pm today,” he wrote on August 4th, one of several tweets about fake polling in Michigan that day.
“Besides other polls today showing Trump leading he has closed within MOE (margin of error) in MI,WI and ILL TIE MI, -1WI, and -2 ILL,” the account wrote two weeks before the election.
Most poll averages showed Clinton with a 7-point advantage in Michigan at the time.
Lewis’ account was created in 2011 and began tweeting in January of 2012.
In its first incarnation, Lewis appeared to have tweeted exclusively about the intricacies of baseball, responding to beat reporters about MLB trade rumors and armchair umpiring on-field calls.
The account appears to have gone dormant for nine months in August of 2014.
It sprung back up nine months later, in May of 2015, and rarely tweeted about baseball.
Lewis’ style of using the site also changed drastically after his absence. Instead of only pushing a few baseball tweets on a select day once or twice a month, Lewis now ranted for days or weeks on end, according to an analysis of the account’s tweets. (Before Lewis could delete all of his tweets, The Daily Beast managed to create an offline archive.)
En lieu of tweeting game tips from Fox baseball reporter Ken Rosenthal, Lewis now barked at WSB Radio host Erick Erickson about Trump. He started posting his made-up poll numbers.
“The GOP congress has done nothing since taking over majority. Mr Trump calls them Incompetent leaders and so do I,” one of Lewis’ sharp pivot into political tweets reads.
At the start of 2016, Lewis only had a couple thousand followers. By the time The Gateway Pundit picked up his claim against the Washington Post and Moore’s accusers, he had catapulted to around 18,000.
Lewis’ knowledge of baseball appears to have depreciated considerably after the account’s suspicious Twitter break.
“Killer speech by Trump.He (sic) hit this one over the roof of Yankee Stadium,” he wrote on June 28 of 2016.
Yankee Stadium, as most baseball fans know, does not have a roof.
This is not the only time The Gateway Pundit, a heavily influential website in the pro-Trump infosphere, sourced an article entirely from a false claim by @Umpire43.
Jim Hoft, Gateway Pundit’s owner, wrote an article in February of 2016 solely citing Umpire43, who claimed he “just got a robocall from a Nazi group and they made a mistake.”
Lewis claimed he was “able to track (the call) to ‘Conservative Solutions Pac’ THAT IS A RUBIO PAC.”
Hoft is a notorious disinformation peddler on the far-right. The Gateway Pundit has framed three separate people for terror attacks in 2017 alone, frequently citing a single tweet by deleted Twitter accounts to blame uninvolved far-left groups.
Hoft claimed the Charlottesville car attack on a Michigan man who was attending a wedding thousands of miles away, and labeled him an “anti-Trump protester.”
In January, Hoft posted a photo of an entirely different person with the name Esteban Santiago after someone with the same name shot 13 people and left five dead Ft. Lauderdale’s airport.
He also claimed CNN aired a lightened photo of the man Hoft and InfoWars host Paul Joseph Watson misidentified as the Ft. Lauderdale shooter, citing a single tweet by a deleted Twitter account. CNN did not air a photo of the misidentified man, let alone lighten his skin tone.
Hoft also misidentified the Las Vegas shooter hours after the terror attack, citing an anonymous 4chan post. Gateway Pundit identified the man as a Democrat, then deleted the post entirely.
Hoft did not respond to a request for comment at press time.
In this way, Hoft and Umpire43 are alike. Even amongst far-right websites and forums, @Umpire43 was a known pusher of fabricated information.
On r/The_Donald—Reddit’s popular forum for Trump fans—Umpire43’s account was listed as “an account you should avoid at all costs.”
Umpire43 frequently claimed to be close to various pivotal figures and moments in the 2016 campaign.
“I hope you are aware of this. I was 5 feet from Priebus when he said ‘Use the diebold program in NY to keep Trump under 50%,” the account claimed.
Lewis repeatedly claimed he had inside info about Diebold voting machines throughout the campaign, claiming he knew people who could cheat voting results and that Trump would be set to lose.
“ES&S, Aldo Tesi Is supplying Diebold(smartmatic) machines for NY. Tom Burt wrote the cheat program. In NY it will be set to 47%,” he wrote in April of last year, before the New York primary.
Trump won the New York primary by 35 percentage points.
Minutes after Guccifer 2.0 released a new blog post, Lewis tweeted his support of the hacking collective, which U.S. intelligence officials believe was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee that was distributed by Wikileaks last year.
“This is REAL. Only a pro hacker like Guccifer2 would know that the DNC software is NGP VAN,” said Lewis. “This tweet from him is the real deal.”
Just days before the election, Lewis achieved viral fame once again for what he claimed was the imminent indictment of Clinton campaign aide Huma Abedin.
“I am privy to information from old work friends that HRC will be indicted early 2017,” he wrote on October 29.
“Scoop! At 10.00AM EST a letter sent to SD by FBI to revoke Passport of Huma Abedin,” he wrote a day later. “Do not ask for link!! I have never given you wrong info.”
That post received over 1,000 retweets and pickup from several fake news content farms. It was untrue.