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Sensationalistic ‘news’ site creator seeks Nevada Assembly seat

Updated May 16, 2018 - 12:59 pm

A man who made national headlines for operating a sensationalist right-wing “news” website he credits with helping elect President Donald Trump is running for the Nevada Assembly — a move he said was inspired by Facebook shutting down his page.

“I started my business in my living room with my best friend,” said Paris Wade, 28. “I was lucky to be able to talk to millions of people across this country. I want to make sure what happened to me, where I was shut down by essentially a giant bureaucracy, doesn’t happen to anybody else.”

To accomplish that, the Tennessee native, who spent years traveling across California and living in Airbnb rentals before settling in Nevada, is aiming to unseat Democrat Sandra Jauregui in the Las Vegas-based District 41 seat.

Created during the frenzy of the 2016 presidential election, Wade’s website, Liberty Writers, featured splashy headlines like “BREAKING: Hillary Clinton’s Nomination is a LIE and WE HAVE PROOF!!!!” and “Obama just BACKSTABBED Hillary Clinton!” The posts, usually fewer than 300 words, ended by urging readers to “keep fighting, patriots” and to share posts criticizing “crooked Hillary,” the “enemy” mainstream media and videos “they don’t want you to see.”

Wade, who uses the byline “Paris Swade,” was the subject of a November 2016 Washington Post story that highlighted how fake news websites were tapping into Trump’s surging ideology to influence millions of Americans and earn tens of thousands of dollars for their creators. Wade told the newspaper he earned $10,000 to $40,000 from ads on the website, which was called LibertyWritersNews at the time.

Uphill battle ahead

Wade, a Republican who has an advertising degree from the University of Tennessee, faces an uphill battle winning District 41. It has 14,592 registered Democrats and 11,566 Republicans, according to the secretary of state’s office.

But Paul Selberg, executive director of the Nevada Assembly Democratic Caucus, says Wade’s history as a peddler of “fake news” could be a bigger obstacle for the candidate.

“Whether you call it fake news, alternative truths or just outright lies, Liberty Writers is nothing more than a clickbait blog designed to misinform rather than inform,” he said. “If this the best the Republican Party can do in a state and district that voted against Donald Trump, then there’s nothing to be concerned about.”

Wade, who grew up a liberal Democrat but switched to the GOP six years ago, rejects the “fake news” label.

“We did not publish any fake news,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Friday. “Is the same question asked of ‘The Daily Show’? We are doing the same thing. We were entertaining people about the news.”

And while some have dubbed him an opportunist, Wade calls himself a savvy businessman, a digital entrepreneur, a job creator and an entertainer.

On the website, Wade boldly announces that he’s the “best writer on the Internet and helped get Donald Trump elected president in November 2016.”

Studies have shown that fake news websites — including those that use sensationalist headlines for clicks — have damaged trust in the media in the United States, undermining one of the basic pillars of democracy. Wade does not agree.

“Almost everybody is educated enough to read multiple news sources and make their own opinions,” he said.

After Facebook deleted Liberty Writers’ page in November 2017 for violating its terms, Wade said his website was “dead in the water.” He lost 3.2 million followers, and his attorneys are fighting the social media giant to overturn the decision. Though Wade’s website is still active, he terminated 12 contract writers and hasn’t posted new content since December.

But Wade says the days of Liberty Writers are behind him anyway. He said he has shifted his focus to running a robust political campaign and is investing in other “digital projects,” though he declined to elaborate.

“As a private business owner, I don’t feel at liberty to discuss those,” Wade said.

If elected to the Assembly, Wade said he’d focus on easing regulations on businesses, ensuring police and fire officials have adequate resources and improving Nevada’s education system. He did not provide specifics on how he would improve schools, but he said he’s talking to educators and administrators and “investigating what I can do.”

Wade did not take a position on gun control measures such as banning bump stocks and assault weapons, but he said the topic is a hot one among his prospective constituents.

“I’ve talked to a lot of gun owners in my district, and the biggest fear is legislation like that will infringe on their Second Amendment rights,” Wade said.

Nevada Press Association Executive Director Barry Smith said “people have to make up their own minds” about Wade.

“That’s the great thing about democracy. Anybody can run for office,” Smith said. “We operate on the premise that voters will elect the people who best represent them.”

Contact Ramona Giwargis at rgiwargis@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4538. Follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.

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