The Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh shared a picture of the conservative publication with its splash headline reading “President Gore,” a reference to former vice-president Al Gore’s race against George W Bush in 2000.
The Democratic presidential nominee, Mr Gore, like his 2016 counterpart Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote but ultimately lost the election after a five-week legal battle with Mr Bush over who had received Florida’s 25 electoral votes.
The political crisis came to a conclusion at the Supreme Court, where the justices decided that the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling requiring a statewide recount of ballots was unconstitutional. Mr Gore conceded the race the next day and later presided over a joint session of Congress that certified Mr Bush as the winner.
But despite the uncertainty at the time, the Washington Times never published a headline in 2000 that declared Mr Gore to be the winner.
However, Mr Murtaugh tweeted two pictures: One, the purported front-page article and second, a room with the doctored front page plastered on the wall. Sharing them, he wrote, “Greeting staff at @TeamTrump HQ this morning, a reminder that the media doesn’t select the President.”
A closer look at the paper shows that the article text itself is about Mr Bush winning the presidency, seemingly proving the headline has been changed. The Washington Times itself responded: “Those photos have been doctored. The Washington Times never ran a ‘President Gore’ headline.”
Those photos have been doctored. The Washington Times never ran a “President Gore” headline.
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) November 8, 2020
The paper also said that it has notified Mr Murtaugh of this via email.
Mr Murtaugh has since deleted the tweet. He later told Axios he didn’t know the newspaper front page was fabricated, and that he immediately deleted his tweet upon discovering it was.
Mr Murtaugh’s tweet was also echoing the sentiments of Mr Trump himself, who has not just refused to concede the election to Mr Biden but has also attacked mainstream media networks for projecting a winner. The Associated Press has previously noted that it has been reliably calling election results since 1848.
“Since when does the Lamestream Media call who our next president will be? We have all learned a lot in the last two weeks!” Mr Trump had tweeted on Sunday.
The fake front page tweet by Mr Murtaugh has since been a subject of mockery on social media.
“Team trump powering their election result misinformation campaign on quite literal fake news is *chef’s kiss*,” wrote a Twitter user.
American historian Kevin M Kruse wrote: “It’s hilarious that you’re using literal ‘fake news’ to try to fool the people working for you, but I suppose if they’re working for you, they might be dumb enough to fall for it.”
It’s hilarious that you’re using literal “fake news” to try to fool the people working for you, but I suppose if they’re working for you, they might be dumb enough to fall for it.https://t.co/DrovDSqb0y
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) November 8, 2020
CNN video producer Donald Judd took a dig at the campaign team saying: “In addition to what appears to be a fake front page from the Washington Times, it seems the Trump campaign has wallpapered their office kitchen with tweets from the President.”