Once an outlet for conspiracies, GotNews.com now shuttered without explanation
A website run by a notorious “Trump Troll” that served as an outlet for racist false news and conspiracy theories has shut down.
GotNews.com went offline sometime Monday, pulling down all of its content and posting only “So Long, Farewell auf Wiedersehen, Good Bye On to other pursuits” over a picture of snow-covered mountains.
The site was one of three run by Charles “Chuck” Johnson, a figure in the racist “alt-right” who reportedly acted as an adviser to Donald Trump’s White House transition team, to shutter this year.
It isn’t clear why GotNews.com ceased operations. The website had been active as recently as Sunday, when it posted a full complement of headlines and stories and solicited tips and fundraising for the site and the legal defense of Johnson.
The group’s Facebook page was still online as of Tuesday but had not been updated since January.
Johnson’s activities have been controversial in the past. The website and Johnson had a history of making false allegations, including one that led to a lawsuit.
Johnson and GotNews agreed to a settlement with Joel Vangheluwe and his father, Jerome Vangheluwe, in a federal lawsuit against Johnson and nearly two dozen other people and businesses over a false allegation that Joel Vangheluwe was the owner of a car that killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. Vangheluwe did at one point own the car but sold it years earlier. It had been resold several more times before 21-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., of Maumee, Ohio, took possession of it.
Fields faces first-degree murder charges in Virginia and is scheduled for trial in late November. He also faces three dozen federal hate crime charges.
The story caught fire on right-wing media, resulting in the Vangheluwes getting death threats. They later sued GotNews.com, Johnson and others in federal court in Michigan over the false allegation.
In July, the sides agreed to a settlement in which Johnson would pay $4,990 each to Joel and Jerome Vangheluwe. GotNews will also pay Jerome Vangheluwe $19,990.
Attorneys for the Vangheluwes were waiting for U.S. District Judge Laurie J. Michelson to issue judgments as of Tuesday.
Johnson also ran the crowdfunding site Wesearchr.com, which offered the opportunity to raise “bounties” for various right-wing conspiracies and stopped taking donations in January.
WeSearchr raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for alt-right leaders, such as Andrew Auernheimer’s bounty to raise money for the Daily Stormer’s legal defense fund and Defend Europa’s bounty to raise money to charter and staff a ship led by European white nationalists seeking to disrupt humanitarian vessels in the Mediterranean Sea that the group falsely claimed were smuggling migrants into Europe.
WeSearchr also promoted campaigns launched by white supremacists on its official Facebook page. The Daily Stormer Legal Defense fund was promoted via postings 13 separate times, in addition to other campaigns like a legal defense fund for Jason Kessler, organizer of the deadly “Unite the Right” demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Johnson also ran Freestartr, which stopped raising funds this summer after Stripe and PayPal stopped processing his funding requests.
Freestartr raised money for alt-right golden boy Richard Spencer and far-right activist Tommy Robinson as well as Johnson himself.
Johnson rose to right-wing prominence in 2014 as an alt-right troll who led social-media harassment campaigns against people who were involved in mainstream news stories, including journalists, publishing their home and private information online and leading to threats at their residences. He also was notorious for using overtly racist language on his Twitter account, though he was permanently exiled from Twitter in 2015 for using threatening language.
In July 2016, Johnson, a one-time Breitbart writer, was a guest on the racist radio show “Fash the Nation,” in which he claimed that he got interested in “race realism” — a phrase white nationalists use to refer to their racist ideology — at a young age. On the show, he maintained that ethnic and racial stereotypes are “largely true” and he admitted to factoring them into hiring practices, predicated on the principle that blacks are dumber than whites.
While GotNews.com is gone, Johnson’s history suggests he won’t be offline for long.