A video of anti-racism protesters in Portland appearing to intentionally burn a stack of bibles quickly went viral among conservatives, shared by Donald Trump, Jr., Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and the New York Post among others. But, the New York Times reports that it was a misleading video deliberately spread by Russia as part of the country’s campaign to interfere in the upcoming U.S. election. Just one bible (possibly a free bible being given out that night by an evangelical group) was used as kindling—alongside other notepads, books, and twigs—to start a fire that was far away from the main part of the protests. The Moms United For Black Lives Matter later tried to put it out. However, Ruptly, a Kremlin-financed video news agency, made the bible clip the focus of its video report on the night and posted several tweets and articles that swiftly went viral.
Russian meddling in the 2020 election is well underway, U.S. intelligence agencies say, and Russia’s new tactic is to publish exaggerated and misleading stories on Russian-backed news sites that will go viral and be picked up by U.S. news sites, thereby appearing legitimate.