A Minnesota native notorious for his catalog of hoax news stories during the 2016 election has died at the age of 38.
The Arizona Republic reports that Paul Horner died in his sleep in Phoenix on Sept. 18, with police saying he had a history of prescription drug abuse that suggest a possible accidental overdose.
For the past six years, the newspaper reports, he had been littering the internet with "intentionally false stores designed to inflame readers," which gained traction particularly during the misinformation-heavy 2016 presidential elections.
CBS News reports that among the stories created by Horner successful in hoodwinking thousands of internet users include those claiming former President Barack Obama was gay and a radical muslim.
One fake story that proved particularly successful was the story: "Donald Trump Protester Speaks Out: 'I Was Paid $3,500 To Protest Trump's Rally,'" which ended up being shared on social media by Trump's then campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Trump's son, Eric, was also among those who shared Horner's stories.
While the lead writer of fake news site National Report, which describes itself as "America's S**ttiest Independent News Source," he wrote a widely-spread fake story outing himself as the famous guerrilla artist Banksy.
He told the Washington Post in an interview this past November that President Donald Trump "is in the White House because of me," adding: "His followers don't fact-check anything – they'll post everything, believe anything."
He managed to create a perception of legitimacy by using plausibly official domain names like CNN.co.de and Microsoftsite.com, and told the Post the ad sales on his stories earned him up to $10,000-a-month.
Horner: My stories were satire
His brother, J.J., told the Associated Press that Horner was always interested in news, and would draw editorial cartoons while still in grade school in Minnesota.
JJ Horner posted an emotional tribute to his late brother on Facebook, describing him as a "loving son and brother, an artist, a heroic writer and story teller" as well as a "humanitarian" and a "patriot."
"Above all he was the most loving and generous human I've ever known. He will be greatly missed," he wrote.
Horner, who was also a standup comedian, told CNN's Anderson Cooper in an interview you can watch below that it's "pretty obvious" that most of the stories he wrote were "political satire."