lead stories
Lead Stories Alan Duke brought staff from CNN to work at his 1984-style memory hole organization.

EXCLUSIVE: Facebook Fact Checker ‘Lead Stories’ Lies About Donations, Admits Foreign Influence, Claims They ‘Know Where Female Reporter Lives’

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“Lead Stories,” a Democrat-dominated Facebook factchecking partner, has published an excuse-riddled rebuttal filled with half-truths, disinformation, and unsubstantiated claims following a National Pulse investigation into their partisanship.

The organization has also inadvertently revealed its editorial process is controlled in large part by foreigners in Belgium, raising concerns about foreign election interference in the upcoming U.S. Presidential election.

“Say Hello to Natalie Winters.”

The National Pulse can exclusively reveal that the partner for the social media platform which takes down Trump 2020 campaign posts has once again attempted to hide its affiliations with anti-Trump campaigns, politicians, and Democratic Party fundraising.

Evidence of the call from Alan Duke from Lead Stories

The editor-in-chief of the site – a career CNN journalist called Alan Duke – even telephoned The National Pulse’s editor on Thursday, claiming to know where one of its young, female writers lives.

“Say hello to Natalie Winters for me,” Duke creepily told The National Pulse, going on to claim he knew where she lives.

On Wednesday, in a clear conflict of interest, Lead Stories flagged a viral National Pulse investigation into Black Lives Matter, Joe Biden, and ActBlue as “partly false.”

We detailed how Lead Stories counts at least a quarter of its staff, including its Chairman and co-founder, as recurring donors to Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama – via ActBlue. The staff has a collective total of over 100 years experience at left-wing outlet CNN.

In response, Lead Stories published an article entitled “Lead Stories Response to False Accusations of Bias from The National Pulse.” Despite the site’s best efforts to rebut, further investigation in the Lead Stories claims reveals a web of deception by the supposedly independent group.

No evidence.

In an attempt to prove Lead Stories is not biased, it would seem logical for them to link to articles such as those defending conservatives from misleading left-wing narratives to highlight their nonpartisanship.

Instead, Lead Stories peddles claims – without offering any form of documentary evidence – that two staff-members are registered Republicans. Even if these claims were substantiated, Lead Stories is at least a 16-person operation. The outlet appears to be claiming that a 12 percent staff Republican affiliation makes them a fair arbiter deserving of an “independent” moniker.

No evidence – official campaign contribution records or party registrations – is provided by Lead Stories, but the piece contends:

Two of our co-founders have donated to Republicans. Two (including one co-founder) are registered Republicans.

Concerning the company’s co-founder and chairman Perry Sanders, who has donated over $10,000 to Democrats, the article insists that portraying him as a “devout Democrat” is “blatantly false.”

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Sanders, in lieu of evidence, offers a personal statement and a 2015 article in a local newspaper, claiming he once donated to a “Republican.”

Never Trump Donors.

Beyond lacking official record of this donation, mayoral races in Suther’s district of Colorado Springs are all nonpartisan, so Sanders’s donation to Suthers didn’t go to him as a “Republican candidate.”

Ostensibly, Lead Stories would have included all the times its staff members had donated to Republicans to most effectively distance itself from allegations of left-wing partisanship, but this donation is the only example provided.

Lead Stories also fails to further disclose donations in similar races, where staff may have donated to Democrats.

And, ironically, this example actually reinforces Lead Stories’ bias as anti-Trump.

While Suthers was appointed as United States Attorney for the District of Colorado by President George W. Bush in 2001 and has run in some races as a Republican, Suthers is no fan of President Trump. He describes himself as “a big supporter of George W. Bush,” a “free-trade guy,” and opposed strengthening controls against illegal immigration.

He commented: “I did not support Trump in the primary, no question about it. The president and I have a whole different view towards governance let me just put it that way.”

According to Suthers, he turned down jobs from the Trump administration because it didn’t serve his purpose of “becoming a good ancestor.”

Foreign Election Inteference.

Doubling down on the bogus claim that Lead Stories is non-partisan, their own article notes:

The remaining two founders who actually make the editorial decisions (Alan Duke and Maarten Schenk) never donated and are not registered voters.

Schenk is a Belgian national. Lead Stories admitting that Schenk “actually makes the editorial decisions” also raises another point of query: why is a foreign national censoring content relevant to the U.S. election?

Even the first line of the piece contains a glaringly false allegation:

After Lead Stories fact checked a story by The National Pulse[,] they published an article accusing us of bias in favor of the Democrats after first quietly correcting their story.

“Quietly” is a gross mischaracterization of National Pulse Editor-in-Chief Kassam telling his Twitter following of over 211,000 users that he’d changed the headline to see if Lead Stories and Facebook were good faith actors, as this was the critical component of their “fact check” of the Biden-BLM-ActBlue story.

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The National Pulse stands by its original reporting.

Lead Stories also complains that The National Pulse “never contacted us before publishing” the exposé. Lead Stories never contacted The National Pulse before deciding to censor our article – a decision which directly impacted the voting public’s ability to share content on Facebook.

Kassam did in fact contact the outlet’s founder and Editor-in-Chief via telephone to resolve the matter. Duke was reluctant to speak to him and directed him an email “appeals process.”

“White Supremacist”

The outlet also attempted to discredit an unearthed tweet by writer Eric Ferkenhoff.

Retweeting an article from The Hill that says Trump (who was not president yet at the time) first retweeted and then deleted a tweet from a “white nationalist” account is not the same as implying Trump is a “white nationalist”. In fact, it is quite the opposite: if he was one he would presumably not have deleted the tweet. Also, Eric made that retweet years before he worked for Lead Stories.’

Despite Lead Stories incorrectly linking Ferkenhoff’s tweet, it’s evident Ferkenhoff is falsely attacking President Trump for either being a white nationalist or slamming his “decision-making skills.”

Either way, the university professor with experience at the New York Times is clearly making a dig at President Trump. The fact that Ferkenhoff’s bias goes back “years before he worked for Lead Stories” is a testament to how firm his anti-Trump convictions are and that Lead Stories willingly hired the individual despite his track record.

While the article’s accusations against The National Pulse are baseless, lacking proper documentation, and provides an insight to the company’s shady self-image issues, we fully endorse one of co-founder Perry’s comments on Lead Stories: “Are we perfect? Likely not.”


Raheem Kassam and Natalie Winters

Raheem Kassam is the Editor in Chief of the National Pulse. Natalie Winters is a Senior Writing Fellow.