Fake TMZ site set up by far-right conspiracy theorist tries to smear Conor Lamb

In addition to setting up a fake TMZ account with a fake story, flyers were also posted throughout Washington, D.C. on Aug. 12.

By: - August 17, 2021 6:30 am

Conor Lamb announcing his run for U.S. Senate in Pittsburgh on Fri., Aug. 6. (Pittsburgh City Paper photo by Kaycee Orwig).

By Ryan Deto

A serial far-right fraudster recently set up a fake gossip website in an attempt to smear U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-17th District, claiming, with no evidence, that Lamb’s wife was having an affair with another member of congress, U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., according to a report by the Daily Beast. The smear attempt was apparently organized by Jack Burkman, who has attempted several times to smear Democrats and liberal groups with similar tactics over the years. According to the Daily Beast, Burkman set up an account mimicking the well-known gossip site TMZ to smear Lamb and Swalwell, and has since been sent a cease and desist letter by TMZ.

Both Lamb and Swalwell have denied the allegations, which are completely unsubstantiated. Swalwell told the Daily Beast that allegations were “pathetic” and “baseless.”

Lamb campaign manager Abby Nassif Murphy sent a statement to Pittsburgh City Paper also calling out the smear attempt, saying it’s an example of how scared Republicans are to see Lamb enter Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race.

“Trump’s Republicans are terrified to run against Conor Lamb for Senate. It’s that simple,” said Nassif Murphy. “These are sad, silly people who are desperate to run against anyone but Conor. Conor will keep calling out their lies — like he did on January 6th and in his Senate announcement speech on Friday — and their Big Lies will keep getting bigger. This is nothing new for us. We’ve beaten them three times in three years, and we’ll beat them again in 2022.”

In addition to setting up a fake TMZ account with a fake story, flyers were also posted throughout Washington, D.C. on Aug. 12, requesting a $10,000 reward for information on the alleged affair, with claims that it has been happening for the last 18 months. Notorious far-right prognosticator and conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec tweeted out a photo of the flyer on Aug. 12.

Lamb is married to Hayley Haldeman, who in addition to being pregnant much of last year with the couple’s first child, also spends a bulk of her time in the Pittsburgh area as executive director of the Mattress Factory, a museum on the North Side. Lamb has often been the target of far-right attacks, including political attack ads from America First Action, which received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from indicted businessmen with foreign ties.

The flyer advertises a “TMZ-DC dot com,” and that site features the logo of the real TMZ website. TMZ officials told the Daily Beast that the site is not related to TMZ and is not authorized to use the TMZ name or logo. The fake TMZ account was created on Aug. 10 and metadata pulled from the homepage by the Daily Beast shows direct links to Burkman.

Over the last few years, Burkman has worked with far-right conspiracy theorist and fraudster Jacob Wohl on a series of smear attempts of Democratic politicians and liberal groups, including involvement in the pizzagate conspiracy theory. In May, Burkman and Wohl were sued by the New York Attorney General for robocalls the pair allegedly made to suppress the Black vote of the 2020 election.

Ryan Deto is a reporter for Pittsburgh City Paper, where this story first appeared. 

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