The claim was far-fetched: that the Philly crowd cast thousands of votes for Joe Biden. Even less credible was the person claiming it: a known merchant of disinformation.
A Buffalo blog notorious for peddling election misinformation caught the attention of key Trump supporters with a bizarre story of the Philly crowd swinging the election for Biden.
Matthew Ricchiazzi runs the Buffalo Chronicle, a fake news site masquerading as a real newspaper since 2014. He has hit what counts as the big moment for crank sites with a handful of questionable and debunked election stories. Canadian. Now, thanks to gullible amplification by hip Trumpsters, he’s set to repeat himself in an American election with a whimsical conspiracy tale about a Philadelphia mob boss who threw thousands of ballots for Biden.
Ricchiazzi’s story is as complex as it is obviously empty. It spins a convoluted story of former Philly Mafia boss “Skinny” Joey Merlino through the generous use of the passive voice and generic anonymous sources whose proximity to the alleged Ricchiazzi conspiracy does not explain never.
Ricchiazzi and his anonymous sources claim that Merlino, a former Philadelphia Mafia boss, conspired with pro-Biden Philadelphia election officials who provided him with “crates of raw ballots hours before the polls closed. on Election Night ”that he and anonymous associates reportedly completed for Biden at a rate of up to 6,000 per hour.
Merlino, according to Ricchiazzi’s anonymous sources, is said to be willing to “flip” on Biden in exchange for being struck off his criminal record from Trump and, for whatever reason, a job with the National Park Service.
The reason Merlino, who now lives in Florida after being freed on federal racketeering charges, is said to be in Philadelphia and prone or able to conspire with local election officials and the Biden campaign over electoral fraud. Ricchiazzi also fails to explain why election officials in allegedly crooked cities with thousands of blank ballots should outsource filling them out.
“As a historian, yes anything is possible, but the idea that Joey Merlino or any mafia group would get involved in this particular election seems ludicrous on many levels,” said Christian Cipollini, organized crime historian and author at Gangland Legends. The beast.
Merlino, who was released from jail at his home in Florida, is still on probation by federal authorities.
The idea that an obscure blog without a trace of organized crime reporting could suddenly come into contact with close associates of Merlino also seems exaggerated to Cipollini, who has reported extensively on organized crime for years.
“You can’t just call up and say ‘Hey Frank, tell me what Joey is doing,’ he told The Daily Beast. “It is highly unlikely that a legitimate inside person close to Joey Merlino or the Philly mob would disclose this kind of major information, even if it was at an exact distance.”
Merlino’s attorney has also denied the allegations made on Ricchiazzi’s blog. In a statement to the New York Daily News, attorney John Meringolo said his client “categorically denies all the allegations and that Joey would rather die than ever be a snitch.”
There are many reasons to doubt the story, besides its fragile, paper-thin supply.
The Buffalo Chronicle is renowned for spreading false news about elections in Canada. In 2019, Buzzfeed and the Toronto Star partnered with an investigation that found Ricchiazzi offered his website as a PR mercenary willing to hype politicians or smear their opponents in exchange for pay. .
As Buzzfeed and the Toronto Star noted, the site has drawn a larger audience with a flow of equally fantastic (and unannotated) stories about Canadian politics, including a fake story about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. trying to delete a story on a fictitious case. with one of her former students, who went viral shortly before the 2019 Canadian federal election.
Ricchiazzi did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.
Despite the dubious pedigree and unfounded claims of the gangsters-for-Biden story, the story is gaining popularity in the outer orbits of Trumpworld.
Jordan Sekulow, the son of President Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow and executive director of his father’s American Center for Law and Justice, tweeted the story approvingly with the “Follow all leads” warning.
Sekulow’s amplification of the story resulted in the story on The Gateway Pundit, the oft-bogus and oft-sued official journal for the far-right MAGA fever swamp. From The Gateway Pundit and with the help of organic pickup, the story spread to Facebook where local Republican Party pages, pro-Trump groups and conspiracy theorists like former Democrat MP Cynthia McKinney all have. shared the story with approval.
During an appearance on Fox Business, Rudy Giuliani alluded to the Merlino conspiracy theory but seemed more skeptical about it. While referring to the possibility of Democratic cities buying thousands of ballots from the crowds, the former New York mayor told Maria Bartoromo he was joking “although there is an allegation of a gangster involved, but I think that’s a far-fetched question. “
Giuliani’s shy approach to the story represents the divide between loyal MAGA enthusiasts and the success of Ricchiazzi’s Philly gangster story, it doesn’t seem to help the Trump campaign. While Trump supporters have embraced the gangster plot, it is nowhere to be found in roles where Trump’s campaign lawyers attempt to block certification of Pennysvania’s election results.
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