Magazine article Newsweek

From Willie Horton to Western Journalism: Floyd Brown's Career in Media Manipulation; Floyd and Patrick Brown's Conservative Tribune and Western Journalism Receive More Combined Views Than Almost Any Adult Entertainment Site in the U.S. Besides PornHub

Magazine article Newsweek

From Willie Horton to Western Journalism: Floyd Brown's Career in Media Manipulation; Floyd and Patrick Brown's Conservative Tribune and Western Journalism Receive More Combined Views Than Almost Any Adult Entertainment Site in the U.S. Besides PornHub

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Krohn

Floyd Brown couldn't believe what he was watching. It was November 11, 1993, and NBC was doing a story about Whitewater, a failed real-estate venture involving Bill and Hillary Clinton. As one of the leaders of Citizens United, a conservative advocacy group, Brown had provided sources to the network, and his colleague, David Bossie, had even guided a producer on a helicopter fly-by of the Whitewater properties in Arkansas. The conservative activist had been confident the story would make the president and first lady look bad. But as he watched the segment, he was shocked and delighted: NBC had linked Whitewater to a larger conspiracy, the death of White House aide Vincent Foster. "It was [Brown and Bossie's] first success on a national news broadcast," writes James Stewart in Blood Sport, his book about the Clinton scandals. "A success even beyond their fondest expectations."

More than two decades have passed since that NBC segment aired. The Clintons were never charged with any crimes regarding Whitewater, and two investigations ruled that Foster's death was a suicide. Brown, meanwhile, has gone on to build a media empire with his son, Patrick. The younger Brown runs the sites, while Floyd Brown helped provide the funding for them, serves as the chairman of the board of their parent company and contributes columns to WesternJournalism.com.

As of December, the Browns' sites, Conservative Tribune and Western Journalism, get approximately 32,986,786 unique visits per month, which means they together receive more monthly unique views in the U.S. than almost any adult entertainment site besides PornHub, according to the analytics site Alexa. During the 2016 election, many of their most popular stories had a pro-Donald Trump or anti-Hillary Clinton spin, and they were shared by prominent conservatives such as Mike Huckabee.

Critics say much of their content is, at best, misleading. While pundits spent 2016 blaming Pepe the Frog-loving trolls for sharing fake news, the Browns' sites were pumping out bogus articles claiming the FBI had proof Hillary Clinton took several trips to Jeffrey Epstein's "orgy island" and saying there was "new evidence " linking the former secretary of state to Foster's death. "Brown's sites," writes Lee Fan of the Intercept, "churn out bombastic headlines with little regard to the truth."

Not all of their stories are completely false, and that's what makes them more "dangerous" than completely fake news sites, says Judy Muller, a professor of journalism at the University of Southern California. "If you hate Hillary Clinton or you hate Barack Obama and someone dangles this kind of red meat in front of you, you're going to want to believe it. They put just enough in there to make it sound like it could have happened."

Via an email to Newsweek, Floyd Brown declined to be interviewed for this story. In a separate email, the younger Brown said his sites post legitimate news and simply offer an anti-establishment point of view.

Response from Patrick Brown by Newsweek on Scribd

The burgeoning success of the Browns' sites come as fake-news outlets have received increased scrutiny in the aftermath of Trump's electoral victory. …

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