A recent Davidson College graduate at the center of a fake news storm involving the presidential election has been fired from his job as a Maryland legislative aide and apologized for his actions late Wednesday.
“I apologize to those disappointed by my actions, and my wish is that I will be allowed to contribute my informed experience to a larger dialogue about how Americans approach the media, tough issues, and the manner in which we, collectively, will inform our decisions going forward,” Cam Harris said on Twitter.
Maryland lawmaker David Vogt III, R-Frederick, told The Washington Post he terminated Harris “on the spot” after learning he was the mastermind behind the fake news.
“I was shocked to hear that he could do such a thing,” Vogt told the newspaper on Wednesday night. “He seemed like a bright young man that was interested in getting involved in politics.”
Harris, who graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina in May, had worked for the Republican delegate since June. He did not return a call for comment, but he apologized in a Twitter post to “those disappointed by my actions” and called for a “larger dialogue about how Americans approach the media” and other issues.
With Donald Trump behind in the polls in early fall, Harris sat down at the kitchen table in his apartment and created a fake story that was eventually shared with 6 million people, The New York Times reported.
Harris started by crafting the headline: “BREAKING: ‘Tens of thousands’ of fraudulent Clinton votes found in Ohio warehouse,” according to The New York Times, which broke the story on Wednesday about what Harris had done.
It made sense, Harris told The Times, to locate this shocking discovery in the very city and state where Trump had highlighted his “rigged” meme.
“I had a theory when I sat down to write it,” Harris told The Times. “Given the severe distrust of the media among Trump supporters, anything that parroted Trump’s talking points people would click. Trump was saying ‘rigged election, rigged election.’ People were predisposed to believe Hillary Clinton could not win except by cheating.”
Harris is a 23-year-old former college quarterback and fraternity leader, who graduated from Davidson College in May, according to The New York Times.
A Facebook page for Harris shows he’s from Kings Mountain and went to Kings Mountain High School, in Cleveland County. A Davidson Wildcats football roster corroborates that.
In a statement, a Davidson college spokesman said the school “works hard to create a culture of trust in which honesty and personal integrity are foundational.”
“We hope that these values are instilled for life and we are disappointed when any alumnus falls short,” said Mark Johnson.
Harris responded to The New York Times story on Twitter Wednesday night.
“While the initial motivation behind launching a fake news site was financially-based, the lesson I learned from the experience is far more important – and it’s one that can’t be covered in a tweet or even a NYT article,” Harris wrote.
“There are large-scale changes occurring in America, from where we live and where we work to the people with whom we interact and the lens through which we see the world. America has responded to these changes poorly. Instead of engaging with one another we have withdrawn into the ideological and cultural circles that support the belief systems to which we subscribe.
“Fake news flourished during this election cycle because it served the purpose of reinforcing these biases, and it occurred on both sides,” Harris continued. “It catered to predispositions that Americans already held, and while fake news has been widely discussed, the dynamics behind it have largely been ignored. Whether fake news remains prevalent or not (and I hope that it doesn’t), our nation cannot move forward from such a divisive election cycle if we continue to seek comfort in our own beliefs and refuse to challenge our personal world views.”
Staff Writer Ely Portillo contributed.