When we hear news beginning to break that the Internet’s most prolific hoaxer (by far) has died, the natural response is to approach the news with more than just a pinch of salt.
Understandably so. Over the last 5 or so years, Paul’s almost constant barrage of fake news stories have been read by millions. They’ve fooled celebrities, media outlets and politicians, and many even claim that his fake articles could have even swayed the result of the 2016 US presidential election (but also take that with a pinch of salt.)
Using a myriad of fake news websites including NationalReport.net and NewsExaminer.net, Paul has penned hundreds of fake news articles, many of which feature himself as the main protagonist or one of his popular characters, such as Fappy the Anti-Masturbation Dolphin. It’s no secret that Paul’s preferred “prey” included fundamentalist Christians and Trump supporters – two demographics that Paul claimed would rarely fact check. His notoriety led to a plethora of interviews with mainstream media, including interviews with CNN, The Washington Post and the UK’s Channel 4 News. Paul had even reached out to us and answered some of our questions.
So when we hear that Paul died in his sleep, we were initially sceptical. Yet according to The Arizona Republic, he really has passed away. The local news outlet claim to have spoken to Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Calbert Gillett, who was reported as saying Horner’s very real death was still under investigation. Along with a number of Facebook and Instagram condolences from his friends and family, it really does appear that the Internet has lost its most prolific hoaxer.
Here are some of Paul’s “greatest hits”.
In October 2013, Paul penned an article claiming that President Obama had offered to personally fund “The Museum of Muslim Culture” during a government shutdown amidst reports that war memorials had to close their doors. That fake article was then picked up by Fox News and mentioned live during a broadcast.
In 2014, one of Paul’s most widely shared articles claimed that Bristol-made graffiti artist Banksy had been arrested and identified as one Paul Horner. So popular was the hoax that Banksy’s agent Jo Brooks had to dispel the rumour on her Twitter feed. The viral rumour was also debunked by mainstream media including The Independent. This rumour would go viral again in 2014 and again in 2017.
Again in 2014, Horner’s article about a 15 year old gamer being sentenced to 25 years for terrorism for “swatting” (prank calls to police with the intention of getting SWAT to turn up to someone’s house) even managed to fool several tech blogs, including BoingBoing.net.
In October 2015, Horner’s NBC lookalike website – NBC.com.co – falsely claimed that Breaking Bad was returning for a sixth season. The story went viral, garnering hundreds of thousands of social media interactions.
Also in 2015, Paul Horner managed to persuade thousands of Internet users that Yelp were suing South Park over an episode that mocked the Internet website. So popular were the rumours that Yelp themselves dismissed them.
Again in 2015, Horner persuaded thousands of Internet users that he would be appearing in a sequel to Big Lebowski (In reality, there was no sequel.)
In March 2016, as the presidential election was in full swing, Paul Horner’s penned a fake article on his ABC News-lookalike website claiming that a man had admitted to authorities that he had been paid by the Clinton campaign to protest at a Trump rally. So popular was the fake article that then-campaign manager for Trump, Corey Lewandowski, shared a tweet linking to the story (before promptly deleting it.)
September 2016, and another Paul Horner story is going mega viral, this one claiming President Obama signed an executive order banning the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools and federal agencies.
In March 2017, Horner was involved in what is perhaps one of the most bizarre interviews we’ve seen on RT, as reported on here by Buzzfeed.
In June 2017, political fact checking website Politifact.com dubbed Paul one of the “Internet’s most prolific hoax authors”.
Locally, Paul is likely to be remembered for hosting a comedy show called “The Mystery Show” in downtown Pheonix and his charity SockItForward that gave socks to homeless people. On the Internet, Paul will be remembered as the Internet’s most notorious hoaxer. Assuming of course that the news of his death is indeed real.
After all, with Paul, you never really know.