Julia Ioffe, a correspondent for GQ Magazine, chose to delete a conspiratorial post Wednesday evening, after the Internet ultimately convinced her that a “Russian quotation mark” on a 200-year-old Arkansas newspaper’s viral tweet did not prove that international trolls co-opted its scoop about a paternity test involving Hunter Biden.
Ioffe expressed skepticism at a story from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette — that a DNA test proved Biden, the son of former vice president Joe Biden, fathered a child out of wedlock with 28-year-old plaintiff Lunden Alexis Roberts, according to court filings from Roberts’ counsel. The Democrat-Gazette is a local paper of record with roots going back to a publication founded in 1819, but Ioffe, responding on social media to the viral newsbreak from the paper’s verified account, suggested the story might be illegitimately boosted by Russian bots or hackers. “Note the Russian quotation mark,” she wrote.
After receiving a wave of pushback, Ioffe initially dug in, challenging Daily Wire contributor Ryan Saavedra, “Please tell me how to recreate that symbol without spending more than 3 seconds on a standard QWERTY keyboard.”
“Deleted a couple tweets after being correctly corrected,” Ioffe wrote, sharing screenshots of both deleted posts. “Turns out the paper had used that symbol before. It had jumped out to me, a Russian speaker (and keyboard user) as a quotation mark and looked like other, sloppy attempts by Russian trolls to push stories.”
This is not Ioffe’s first humiliation caused by a heedless hot take. In 2016, she lost her job as a reporter for Politico after quipping “Trump is f**king his daughter” Ivanka, commenting on an unsubstantiated rumor about the president-elect’s plans for office space. In October 2018, she apologized on CNN for saying “this president has radicalized so many more people than ISIS ever did” in a panel discussion moderated by Jake Tapper. “This has been a very emotional, and personally painful time for me. I think I exaggerated and I apologize for that,” she said, though she had first argued that Trump has “far more supporters” than her (likely wrong) estimate of 10,000 total members of the Islamic State.
The quickly-debunked conspiracy theory earned Ioffe a round of bipartisan mockery from commentators and even the Democrat-Gazette‘s staff.
Yeah hi I am not a Russian troll, I just work at a paper in lil ole Arkansas
— Maggie McNeary (@maggiemcneary) November 21, 2019
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) November 21, 2019
Modest suggestion. If your immediate reaction upon seeing this tweet was that the Kremlin had infiltrated the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette… you might be just a bit paranoid https://t.co/rerWQn6g1n
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) November 20, 2019
— Saagar Enjeti (@esaagar) November 20, 2019
Be careful: there are Russian quotation marks floating around.
They can be very dangerous if caution isn't exercised.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 20, 2019
I wonder how those “sloppy attempts by Russian trolls to push stories” compare to sloppy attempts by paranoid American trolls to push stories about things like a “Russian quotation mark.” https://t.co/fpF0aRf9FW
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) November 20, 2019
Ms. Roberts filed suit in late May, claiming she gave birth to Biden’s love child in August 2018. Biden’s lawyers agreed to a paternity test in late October, according to court documents. Months before, he told The New Yorker he had not had sexual relations with Roberts. After this week’s explosive revelation of his purported affair — while he was dating his brother Beau’s widow Hallie, according to Page Six — the case will find renewed attention heading toward its first hearing, scheduled for December 2.