Man Creates Outrageous Story To Prove Right-Wing Will Believe Anything – And They Bought It

You may have noticed recently that some of your conservative Facebook friends have been sharing a crazy conspiracy theory involving Harry Reid being beat up by his own brother and staging an exercise accident to cover it up. If you took one look at the tale and burst out laughing, congratulations, you are 100 percent more discerning than the right-wing media.

This story begins on New Year’s Day, when Harry Reid was injured in what he described as an exercise mishap. By his account:

A piece of equipment Senator Reid was using to exercise broke, causing him to fall and break a number of ribs and bones in his face.

Senator Reid will return to Washington this weekend and be in the office Tuesday as the Senate prepares to reconvene. His doctors expect a full recovery.

Since then, Reid has appeared in public with a deeply bruised face and wearing a protective eyepatch (and later sunglasses) to help his injured eye heal.

The story probably should have ended there, but the right-wing blogosphere had other ideas.

Led by serial-misinformation blog Powerline, and boosted by serial-misinformation blowhard Rush Limbaugh, an alternate theory took hold in the minds of conservatives: Harry Reid was hiding something.

First, they latched onto the premise that Reid had been assaulted by the mafia “enforcer.” Powerline and Breitbart News published stories claiming to have uncovered “facts” that suggested Reid was in too deep with Las Vegas mobsters and consequently took a beating straight out of the movie Casino. Their evidence rested on such bedrock foundation as the max stretch of an exercise band and the estimated size of Reid’s bathroom.

A Breitbart News investigation of Reid’s home exercise accident has uncovered facts that appear to discredit Reid’s version of the home exercise accident for three very specific reasons:

1. The shower door in his master bathroom, as well as two of the other three sides of the shower itself, consists of a glass panel that extends from floor to ceiling and is not sturdy enough to be used as the anchor for an exercise band.

2. The distance from the shower door to the cabinets in the bathroom is at best a mere 3 feet, an insufficient width to conduct the type of resistance band exercises Reid says he was performing when one of the bands broke and he hit his head on the cabinet.

3. Even if Reid had attempted to conduct his exercises in this very narrow 3 feet passage, the force of the exercise would not have been sufficient to “spin him around” and crash him into the cabinets of the master bathroom, as he claims.

The premise was so ludicrous that Reid’s staff couldn’t help but mock it:

“The main problem with the mobster theory is that it completely overlooks the critical role played by the Yeti,” Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said in an email.

Perhaps frustrated by this “bombshell” story not getting any traction with anyone outside the conservative echo chamber, right-wing bloggers tried to hunt down more proof. They thought they may have found it in the form of a mysterious man purporting to have seen a wasted Larry Reid (the Senator’s brother) bragging about having beaten up his brother.

In a group discussion that was heard by a number of people, Larry said that he had just had a fight with a family member. Larry said he had been at a family get-together, and he didn’t remember much about the fight because he had blacked out. When he came to, he was rolling on the ground, fighting with a family member, and his clothes were bloody. Now, he said, he was frightened that the Secret Service would come after him.

Once again, the conservative media ran with the story, gleefully suggesting with various degrees of certainty, that Larry had beaten up his brother and therefore Reid had lied.

What these reporters didn’t know was that they were all participating in a social experiment designed to make them look like gullible idiots. The “mysterious man” at the center of the story was not who he said he was, and his story was a complete fabrication.

According to an interview with the Las Vegas Sun, the man’s real name is Larry Pfeifer, a “former consultant in the nightclub and entertainment industry.” He started the lie to simply test whether the right-wing blogs like Powerline would be dumb enough to publish it.

“It was just so outrageous,” he said. “The fact that someone can say something completely false that can destroy somebody’s life, it’s just wrong. Where’s the moral compass?”

Pfeifer, who describes himself as a motivational speaker who is involved in addiction counseling, said he completely concocted the story that Reid’s brother, Larry, showed up intoxicated at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on New Year’s Eve in Henderson and claimed to have beaten up a relative.

Pfeifer said the media figures who published and broadcast the rumor did so without corroboration and without knowing his true identity. He revealed to them that he was using a pseudonym, he said, yet none demanded proof of his true identity.

It’s doubtful that the writers even cared whether the facts were true or not. Notably, none of the major right-wing websites or blogs who ran with the story vouched for the story outright. While this will give them deniability, it also goes to show that they aren’t even principled enough to stand by the shaky information they passed along to their readers. They were “just asking questions.” And in this case it pays to get things wrong. They accomplished their goal either way: drag Harry Reid through the mud to rile up gullible conservatives and never look back.

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