Brian Kolfage has found viral fame for a GoFundMe campaign that has raised $20 million to build a border wall, but former employees of the Iraq War veteran have accused him of pushing fake news in order to get rich and collecting thousands of dollars for wounded veterans that never made it to them.
A new investigative report from BuzzFeed found that the 37-year-old gained a reputation as “vengeful and malicious” in his pursuit of profits for his far-right media site. Lindsay Lowery, a former employee of Kolfage’s Freedom Daily website claims that Kolfage purposely pushed misinformation — including photoshopped pictures of Barack Obama in a fake story claiming he was caught having an affair — until Facebook eventually banned him from the platform.
Lowery shared a series of text messages in which Kolfage encouraged her to push the limits of Facebook, using doctored images and sensational headlines that did not match the content of the articles. He also discussed purchasing affiliated right-wing Facebook pages in order to further push the site’s stories.
“Brian is a genius. He knows how to manipulate people and the system,” a former employee said. “The stories were doing more harm than good. Hillary’s face would be on someone else’s body with handcuffs and the story had nothing to do with that. He would brag about how we would be even bigger and explode in 2018 because of the fake news stuff.”
The GoFundMe campaign to build Trump's wall just hit $20M
The decorated veteran behind the viral effort has crafted his persona as a conservative, altruistic public figure, but people who've worked with him say he can be vengeful and shady with donationshttps://t.co/OSMJD0L3r7
— Brianna Sacks (@bri_sacks) January 11, 2019
Kolfage is no stranger to using GoFundMe to reach conservative audiences. He previously collected $16,246 for a veteran mentorship program he claimed was in conjunction with three military hospitals. Representatives from all three hospitals told Buzzfeed that they had no record of the mentorship program or Kolfage ever working with any patients there. A representative for GoFundMe confirmed to Buzzfeed that all the funds went directly to Kolfage.
Amid the allegations against Kolfage, the border wall GoFundMe continues to attract viral interest and there are others who have taken up the cause. As KAMR reported, an Amarillo man named Randy Burkett even put up billboards encouraging people to donate.
“Well with his background, you know he served and everything he’s lost, a triple amputee, it caught my eye,” said Burkett, owner of Burkett Outdoor Advertising. “I mean if he’s willing to spend his time on this and he’s having some success doing it, I didn’t mind getting behind it at all.”
Brian Kolfage did not respond to BuzzFeed’s article.