Fake Biden Campaign Website Being Run Secretly By Trump Campaign Operative: Report

A fake Joe Biden campaign website is being run by an operative on President Donald Trump's 2020 re-election campaign, according to a new report Saturday.

The New York Times tracked down the owner of a site with the URL JoeBiden.info, a "parody" campaign website featuring out-of-context quotes from the former vice president and leading 2020 Democratic candidate. The site also includes GIFs of him touching women in ways that others alleged made them uncomfortable.

Patrick Mauldin is a digital media specialist who worked on messaging for Trump's 2016 campaign and, according to the Times, has been working on the president's re-election campaign. Along with his brother, Mauldin runs Vici Media Group, a Republican consulting firm based in Austin, Texas. Mauldin acknowledged to the paper his role in creating the website, which he has used to spread disparaging and sometimes misleading content about Biden.

Visitors to the fake campaign site are greeted with a warm, grinning portrait of Biden with his arms crossed, standing in front of the American flag. Adjacent to the image is a block of text headed by a "Biden2020" logo, though one that does not resemble the Biden campaign's official design. Those unfamiliar with the Biden campaign might not know, for instance, that Biden's actual campaign logo consists of the word "Biden" stacked on top of the word "President."

Fake Biden Website Mauldin

"Uncle Joe is back and ready to take a hands-on approach to America's problems," the site's header reads, an allusion to allegations related to the former vice president's inappropriate touching of numerous women. "Joe Biden has a good feel for the American people and knows exactly what they really want deep down."

Indeed, the inappropriate touching scandal that cast a pall over the early days of the Biden campaign is a main theme of Mauldin's fake website. Multiple women came forward earlier this year to allege that Biden displayed excessive closeness when interacting with them, including touching their shoulders or kissing them platonically when they did not feel that level of intimacy was appropriate. None of the allegations involved sexual abuse or misconduct.

The Mauldin website displays a handful of GIFs that show Biden interacting with women over the years in ways that reflect the nature of these allegations. However, the women featured in the GIFs are not necessarily the same women who complained about Biden's behavior, and blurring this line between real allegations and implied allegations is a way the site has capitalized on the de-contextualized approach to its political messaging.

Another section of the fake website highlights unfavorable policy positions — referred to facetiously as "legislative accomplishments" in the banner — that Biden has taken over the years. Some of the positions singled out by the alleged Trump campaign operative resemble the current policy stances of President Trump.

Joe Biden Fake Website Mauldin

One item recalls Biden's opposition in the 1990s to gay marriage through his vote for the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage nationwide as between a man and a woman. While correct, Biden was outspoken during his tenure as vice president in calling for federal recognition of gay marriage rights, ahead of President Barack Obama's stance on gay marriage at the time.

Another example singled out by Mauldin was Biden's 1982 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of a constitutional amendment that would have allowed individual states to overrule Roe v. Wade. While this record is correct, what the site leaves out is that Biden voted against the same amendment the following year.

According to the Times, the Trump campaign would not directly address whether it knew of Mauldin's extracurricular activities, though a spokesperson did express appreciation of pro-Trump messaging pushed out by supporters "in their own time."

Only a small disclaimer at the bottom of the site reveals its purpose as a form of "entertainment and political commentary."

"It is not paid for by any candidate, committee, organization, or PAC," the disclaimer reads. "It is a project BY AN American citizen FOR American citizens. Self-Funded."

Despite its unintended status as a campaign hub, Mauldin's site has performed remarkably well. The Times reported that his parody site garnered nearly 400,000 unique visitors over a two-and-a-half month period this year, compared with just over 300,000 for Biden's official campaign site.

Joe Biden Fake Website Mauldin

According to the web analytics website SEMrush, the keyword "biden 2020" returns JoeBiden.info as its second-ranking web search result. Biden's campaign ad at the top of a Google search appears to be the only way the fake site has been outflanked, at least as it concerns certain search terms.

When reached for comment, Mauldin told Newsweek via email that he took issue with the way the Times characterized his project.

"It's very telling that The New York Times calls quoting Joe Biden 'disinformation,'" he said. "All quotes, policy positions, and GIFs in the site are 100 percent real and are sourced from reputable sources."

Mauldin believes that many items in the paper's story were presented "out of context."

He claimed that the motivation behind creating the website was to "create something humorous that showed Biden's eccentricities and hypocrisy in his own words and actions."

Since the Times published its story on the site, the homepage for Mauldin's Vici Media site — which already included an endorsement from Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale — has been updated with a pull quote from the Times story that simply reads "A rising star." However, the actual line from the article is not an actual endorsement from the paper. Rather, it reads in full: "Inside the campaign, Mr. Mauldin, 30, is seen as a rising star, prized for his mischievous sense of humor and digital know-how, according to two people familiar with the operation."

Donald Trump Announces His Candidacy For Second Presidential Term
U. S. President Donald Trump announces his candidacy for a second presidential term at the Amway Center on June 18, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty