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The fakest of fake news: A photo circulates of Ilhan Omar in ‘jihad training’

Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar pictured here at a jihadist training camp -- four years before she was born.

Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar pictured here at a jihadist training camp -- four years before she was born. Associated Press

Though conservatives like to bray about “fake news,” numerous studies have found they’re the most likely to traffic in it.

The latest comes from researchers at Northeastern and Harvard universities, which studied 16,000 Twitter accounts that matched voter registration records. It found that while only 1 percent of users were responsible for peddling 80 percent of fake news, they tended to be concentrated among older conservatives.

But the bigger problem is that they don’t even seem to be trying anymore. When your definition of “fake news” is little more than “things I don’t agree with,” the standards become exceedingly low.

Take the latest smear against Minneapolis Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. It shows a black and white photo of a woman in military garb inspecting her rifle. The woman looks only vaguely like Omar, and the photo appears clearly dated.

But this hasn’t stopped conservatives from propagating the image as proof that she received training as a Somali terrorist. More than 4,000 people have shared it on Facebook, including one Kathy Gates, who wrote:

"Here is your precious Muslim congresswoman at a Al’ Qaida training camp in Somalia. She is trying to get this picture blocked and me banned for posting it. Facebook has banned me twice because the pic is considered offensive? Please retweet pic…"

Then there’s Harry James -- @Harry James61 – who professes to be all about “GOD, Family & Country.” He posted the photo on Twitter under the caption, “Looks like Ilhan Omar graduated Jihad School !!!!”

Harry’s followers weren’t concerned by Harry’s absence of evidence. Curiosity and critical thinking aren’t their forte. They are, however, very much into volume punctuation.

“Vipers in our bosom??” one woman asked.

“Does this really SURPRISE ANYONE????” asked another.

“She sure likes her guns, but doesn't want us to have ours... Hmmm… It's much easier to commit jihad if we have no guns. GTFO.”

But as you may guessed from the briefest glance, this is not Ilhan Omar. The photo was actually shot in 1978 – four years before she was born. The scene was captured by the Associated Press during the Somali-Ethiopia conflict.

Nor did the image have anything to do with jihad. The unnamed woman pictured was a new recruit in the Somali army.

So while the photo isn’t Omar, it doesn’t picture jihad training, and was shot 41 years ago, it does present an image of a dark-skinned woman holding a rifle. Among the real purveyors of fake news, that’s proof enough that our congresswoman is a terrorist.