The far-right site Breitbart has come under fire from law enforcement for claiming that a small fire at a German church was started by Muslims when, in reality, the fire began due to an accident with fireworks.
According to the Guardian, law enforcement in Dortmund, Germany said that no such attack took place. The local newspaper, Ruhr Nachrichten went a step further claiming that Breitbart had distorted paper’s own story into a thing of “fake news, hate, and propaganda.”
The article in question was written by Virginal Hale and was entitled, “1,000-Man Mob Attack Police, Set Germany’s Oldest Church Alight on New Year’s Eve.” The article’s opening paragraph claims the following about the night’s events:
“At New Year’s Eve celebrations in Dortmund a mob of more than 1,000 men chanted ‘Allahu Akhbar’, launched fireworks at police, and set fire to a historic church.”
The story also claimed that the men allegedly responsible for this fire flew the flags of al-Qaeda and Islamic State collaborators, the ‘Free Syrian Army.’
To be clear, none of this happened. During a New Year’s celebration, a few stray fireworks did hit the church causing a small fire. However, it was accidental and put out within less than half an hour.
The justice minister of Hesse state, Eva Kühne-Hörmann, slammed Breitbart for its report warning that fake news stories such as this one can spread very fast and can often take on a life of their own.
‘The danger is that these stories spread with incredible speed and take on lives of their own”
Another local newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, claims that Breitbart combined several isolated incidents and exaggerated the story of the church fire to try and sell the idea that Muslim immigrants and Syrian refugees are terrorists. It’s completely untrue, but the truth doesn’t seem to be a problem for Breitbart.
German officials also noted that Breitbart News is owned by Donald Trump’s chief advisor, Steve Bannon. As disturbing as this news story is, the real danger is the fact that the president-elect seems to trust Bannon more than the U.S. intelligence community.
Featured image via Getty Images.