Unfounded Tweet Hyped by Taiwanese Politician and Media

Unfounded Tweet Hyped by Taiwanese Politician and Media

A Taiwanese former legislator on February 11 shared on Facebook a tweet screenshot, in which “a renowned U.S. radio host” tweeted and quoted President Biden as saying that he has a “plan for the destruction of Taiwan.” The Facebook post was soon reported by various Taiwanese media outlets without fact-checking and has incited heated debate in Taiwan.

The tweet in question was from a man called Garland Nixon, whom the Taiwanese politician introduced as a “renowned radio host based in Washington, D.C.” Nixon in the tweet wrote “breaking news” in capital letters and claimed the information was a “leak” from the “White House insiders.”

Image: Self-claimed News Analyst Garland Nixon’s tweet screenshot

Search for Credibility in Garland Nixon’s Past Tweets

The Taiwan FactCheck Center searched on Twitter and the Internet for news stories or news programs about the so-called destruction plan and found nothing, not even from Garland Nixon himself. 

The TFC reporters then looked through Nixon’s past tweets and found that the man has often tweeted with “BREAKING NEWS: White House Insiders leak that” as his starting phrase. 

A tweet posted on February 22 was one example: “BREAKING NEWS: White House insiders leak that, when asked how he intended to help the people of East Palestine, Ohio President Biden respond [sic], ‘are you kidding me, that sh#thole town ain’t in Ukraine…C’mon man!’” 

Another one on February 4 began with the same phrase and claimed that when President Biden was asked about the complaints about inflation, he allegedly responded, “hopefully they’ll be distracted by that weather balloon over Raccoon Rape, Montana or wherever the hell it is.”

A tweet on February 23 was said to be “breaking news” from “Taiwan government insiders,” who leaked that “they have betrayed their citizens so dramatically that they may have to pay royalty rights to the government of Norway for the use of the term ‘quisling.’”

His tweets of “breaking news” and “leaks” were, as shown, apparently nonsensical (if not outright disinformation) or satirical and not newsworthy.

Fact-checking the Self-claimed News Analyst

The TFC inquired Angie Drobnic Holan, the editor-in-chief of PolitiFact, an established fact-checking organization based in the U.S., about Garland Nixon via email. Holan said she had never heard of the person before the TFC asked about him.

She also helped the TFC examine Garland Nixon’s account and tweets, which were found to be mostly groundless. 

Voice of America (Chinese) White House correspondent Paris Huang told the TFC that he had never heard of Garland Nixon before, who Huang said is not a member of the White House Correspondents’ Association.

The TFC found Garland Nixon on the website of Sputnik, a Russian state-owned news agency, where he is described as a broadcast journalist at Radio Sputnik based in Washington DC and has “a predominant focus on anti-imperialist movements worldwide.”

Fact-checking with Experts on International Politics

Bonnie Glaser, managing director of the Indo-Pacific Program at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, said outright that she could be “hundred-percent sure” that the tweet (about Biden considering a destruction plan of Taiwan) is false information.

Arthur Ding, professor emeritus in National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of East Asia Studies, said as issues about the US-China-Taiwan relations guaranteed exposure, many in the U.S. are prone to using exaggerated false statements as click baits.

Readers who failed to notice Garland Nixon’s other tweets would probably be influenced by that one tweet about the destruction plan, but his credibility could soon be put into question once his other tweets were also taken into consideration, Ding said.

Ding added that some Taiwanese politicians and media outlets would use this kind of unfounded information to strengthen their own stance.

Bypassed by International Media but Reported and Hyped in Taiwan

None of the major international news agencies, such as the Associated Press, Reuters, and AFP, or the major U.S. news outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, CNN, and FOX, reported Garland Nixon’s tweet about the destruction plan, neither did other notable English-language outlets such as the BBC, the Times, and the Guardian.

Given Washington is where major international news agencies station and report from, changes made by President Biden to his Taiwan policy could not have been omitted if the information was credible.

The Taiwanese media outlets, on the other hand, raced to report the story based on a Facebook post by a politician.

Image: Screenshot of a search result for the local news stories about the unfounded tweet.

The TFC also noticed that the Chinese state media had capitalized on this trumped-up incident and discussed it with other issues in early March to prolong the controversy. The TFC has also published a fact-check report on it.



Header image: Two soldiers fold the national flag during the daily flag ceremony in Liberty Square of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan, Saturday, July 30, 2022. A delegation of U.S. lawmakers met with Taiwan's President Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, as part of an ongoing visit that comes at a tense moment between the U.S. and China, who have spent weeks trading accusations over a spy balloon. (Top image)