A former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, and his former media aide, Bayo Oladeji, have been caught circulating fake news about the ongoing Presidential election in the United States.
In the keenly contested election of November 3, the Democratic ticket of former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris defeated the Republican ticket of incumbent President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
Mr Biden, who will be sworn in as 46th President of the country, won by scoring 279 electoral college votes against Mr Trump’s 214. The results of the election in at least three states were still being computed as of the time of filing this report.
Since Mr Biden currently has 279 electoral votes, this means that Mr Trump’s 214 votes cannot upturn the victory even if he wins all remaining states.
Although Mr Trump has vowed to challenge the results of the poll at the Supreme Court, world leaders including President Muhammadu Buhari, have congratulated Mr Biden and Ms Harris on their victory at the poll.
Fake news mongers
Meanwhile, on Tuesday afternoon, Messrs Fani-Kayode and Oladeji posted via their Facebook accounts about Joe Biden losing the president-elect status because the votes from Pennsylvania have been won by Mr Trump.
“Joe Biden loses President-elect status for losing Pennsylvania votes to Donald Trump. It is not over until it is over. God saves America,” Mr Oladeji wrote on Facebook.
Mr Oladeji, a veteran journalist who has worked with Nigerian Tribune and Leadership newspapers, is currently the special adviser on media to the President of the Christian Association of Nigerian (CAN).
On the other hand, Mr Fani-Kayode shared a video insinuating that Mr Biden has lost Pennsylvania to his Republican counterpart.
Findings by this newspaper, however, revealed that the duo misled their audiences because the content of the video first published on YouTube around 5:00 am on Tuesday, is fake.
The video captioned “UPDATE: BIDEN STILL DOESN’T HAVE PRESIDENT-ELECT STATUS…” was posted by the Next News Network, a YouTube channel produced in Chicago’s western suburbs.
Before now, the channel and its owner, Gary Franchi, have been flagged for showcasing several baseless claims and false information.
One of these is the false claim that the COVID-19 pandemic is a product of a conspiracy theory, a belief also propagated by Mr Fani-Kayode in the past.
In fact, Media Bias/Fact Check, a fact-checking platform, rated Next News Network as an untrusted platform based on its routine publication of right-wing propaganda and conspiracy theories as well as several failed fact checks.
The platform also listed not less than four false claims traced to the YouTube channel.
According to the Associated Press, American independent news agency, Mr Biden flipped Pennsylvania by winning 49.8 per cent of the total votes counted while Mr Trump had 49.1 per cent.
When Mr Oladeji was contacted by PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday, he said his post was based on the video posted by Next News Network.
“I just summarised what was in the video,” he said. “I didn’t verify if it was true.”
He, however, deleted the post after our reporter called his attention to it, notifying him that the video contained false information.
Mr Fani-Kayode also deleted the post. “I have removed it,” he said in response to an inquiry by PREMIUM TIMES.
Nevertheless, he kept mum when our reporter asked if he retracted the post because of the false claims.
As of the time of filing this report, Mr Fani-Kayode has yet to apologise to his social media audience or inform them about the false claims he posted earlier.
But Mr Oladeji made a post apologising to his Facebook friends. “I learnt that the Pennsylvania result stands and the story that it was reversed is fake news. I am very sorry for sharing it. Inconvenience regretted,” he wrote.
Mr Fani-Kayode is a staunch supporter of Mr Trump, and he seems to agree with the American president that the November 3 election was stolen by Democrats.
The scourge of fake news is one of the challenges that has undermined the accountability of the media in recent times.
According to the platform, the increased population on social media and other digital space has created an avenue to create, share and distribute contents of all sorts, many of which populate the misinformation ecosystem in Nigeria.
It further recommended proper verification of information before sharing on social media.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This post was updated to reflect Mr Oladeji’s apology. We became aware of it after our story ran.
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