Earlier in the week, we picked up a story from The Hollywood Reporter that reported a teenage girl’s cat website had been threatened with legal action by Donald Trump’s legal team. The site in question was KittenFeed, a.k.a. Trumpscratch, which had supposedly earned the president’s ire by allowing people to swipe at pictures of his face with digital kitten paws. The site’s founder, known only as Lucy, told The Hollywood Reporter that she’d received a cease-and-desist letter when her site had “Trump” in its name, so she changed it to KittenFeed, where the swiping could continue—and to the mellow sounds of Rick Astley, no less.
Well, something about those domain names and their registration dates didn’t sit well with our affiliate site Gizmodo, which had also picked up the story. And Gizmodo later found that “Lucy’s” timeline was off: She claimed to have received the legal letter on March 1, but Trumpscratch.com wasn’t registered until March 22. Trump’s lawyers told Gizmodo in an email they’d never sent any such letter, and that the allegations were false.
Lucy’s tale originated with this article in The New York Observer, which posted it as an exclusive. But said exclusive didn’t include the actual cease-and-desist letters, so THR took it upon itself to track them down. When the publication did, it posted them with a caveat about their authenticity. But now, it’s become pretty clear that “Lucy” trolled (or Rickrolled) everyone; THR and the Observer have corrected their posts, and so have The A.V. Club and Gizmodo.
Reason’s Jacob Sullum notes that the story was disseminated as widely as it was because it jibes with what we know about the president: that he’s thin-skinned enough to allude to his genitals while campaigning and to literally lose sleep obsessing over the latest episode of Saturday Night Live. Even so, in this particular instance, it turned out to be a prankster playing publications like ours for fools.