News and Commentary

Social Media Claims Man In Photo With TPUSA Founder Charlie Kirk Was Part Of Michigan Governor Kidnap Plot. He Wasn’t.
Pictured in this screen grab: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during an interview on May 18, 2020
NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

On October 8, six men were arrested for allegedly plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI).

As is often the case with high-profile crimes, misinformation spreads faster than the truth. Shortly after news of the arrests broke, social media users began sharing a photo of Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk and another man with the caption that this other man was one of the five arrested in the plot to kidnap Whitmer. The suggestion was absolutely false, but as Buzzfeed News reported, tens of thousands of people saw the incorrect information by the end of the day.

The misinformation was helped along by an unverified Twitter user with more than 100,000 followers who says in his profile that he’s “never seen someone spread so much hate and ignorance as [President Donald] Trump.” In a now deleted tweet, the user, John Oberlin, claimed the photo showed “a speaker who opened the republican national convention for Trump” and one who “just got arrested for ploting [sic] terrorism and to kidnap the governor of Michigan.”

An unnamed Washington Post reporter even retweeted the false tweet to his 500,000 followers, Buzzfeed reported.

“But a web search shows that the man pictured is Alex Kuzmenko, also known as Alex Kyzik, a pro-Trump activist who lives in Idaho and was in no way related to the alleged Whitmer plot,” Buzzfeed reported.

The outlet added that Kuzmenko did look like the men who were arrested because they were “all white and have similar features.”

Kuzmenko was not one of the men involved in the plot to kidnap Whitmer.

His only previous political involvement was as an organizer of several events where Trump supporters would slowly drive through liberal cities as part of a caravan, waving flags and displaying Trump campaign signs.

The Washington Post was quick to point out that one of these caravans “turned deadly” before saying in the third paragraph that one participant was shot dead. It would take another few paragraphs before the Post would turn its focus away from Kuzmenko to report what happened:

The shooting of Aaron “Jay” Danielson, 39, a supporter of the far-right group Patriot Prayer and a participant in the cruise rally, became a bloody bookend to an anguished summer in Portland and other communities. The alleged assailant, a self-described adherent of antifascism, or antifa, was later killed in an encounter with police.

Whitmer has tried to blame Trump for the plot against her, even though so far evidence of Trump support among the arrested men isn’t obvious. Whitmer claimed comments Trump made at the first presidential debate — when he told the right-wing group Proud Boys to “stand down and stand by” — amounted to a “rallying cry,” The Daily Wire previously reported.

Trump responded by saying Whitmer was ungrateful for the help provided to Michigan by the Trump administration.

“Governor Whitmer of Michigan has done a terrible job. She locked down her state for everyone, except her husband’s boating activities. The Federal Government provided tremendous help to the Great People of Michigan. My Justice Department and Federal Law Enforcement announced today that they foiled a dangerous plot against the Governor of Michigan,” Trump said.

“Rather than say thank you, she calls me a White Supremacist—while Biden and Democrats refuse to condemn Antifa, Anarchists, Looters and Mobs that burn down Democrat run cities … I do not tolerate ANY extreme violence. Defending ALL Americans, even those who oppose and attack me, is what I will always do as your President! Governor Whitmer—open up your state, open up your schools, and open up your churches,” Trump added.

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