Bots and right-wing conspiracy theorists smeared Beto O’Rourke after Odessa shooting

by | Sep 5, 2019 | 2020 Elections, Politics

A network of bots, far-right figures, and conspiracy theorists helped spread a lie about the Odessa shooter’s support of presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke, a report by Media Matters and a separate investigation by the Washington Post reveal.

Following the Odessa shooting that saw seven victims, a tweet appeared Sunday that falsely claimed that the shooter was “a Democrat Socialist who had a Beto sticker on his truck.”

An intelligence company that tracks misinformation told the Post it had been amplified mainly by bot accounts. 

From there, the tweet was shared and mainstreamed with the help of far-right figures– including former White House official Sebastian Gorka– and followers of QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory that believes the president is under attack by the “deep state.”

“As a campaign, we’re almost entirely powerless to stop misinformation,” wrote O’Rourke’s campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon reacting to news. “We can tweet corrections, but only a fragment of the people exposed will see it. This rests on Twitter, Facebook, and Google who let this go completely unchecked.”

Photo Credit: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at

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