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Fake-news impresario who credibly claimed influence in 2016 election found dead at home

Paul Horner, a self-proclaimed satirist who said that his fake news articles probably unwittingly helped elect President Trump, was found dead at his mother's house outside Phoenix on Sept. 18, the Maricopa County Sheriff's department said Tuesday. Horner, 38, was discovered dead in his bed, sheriff's department spokesman Mark Casey said, but an autopsy found no signs of foul play and "evidence at the scene suggested this could be an accidental overdose." The case will remain open until toxicology reports come back.

Horner's brother, J.J. Horner, told The Associated Press that his brother was always interested in the news, drawing editorial cartoons while still in grade school in Minnesota. "I think he just wanted people to just think for themselves and be credible for their actions," he said. "Read more; get more involved instead of just blindly sharing things." In a November interview with The Washington Post, Paul Horner made clear that he wasn't a Trump supporter and he'd hoped his fake articles would make Trump fans "look like idiots" when they discovered they were taken in. But "they never fact-check anything!" he said. "Now he's in the White House. Looking back, instead of hurting the campaign, I think I helped it."

PolitiFact remembered Horner with a list of some of his fake news stories they debunked, including one cited by Trump and shared by campaign chairman Corey Lewandowski about protesters being paid $3,500 to disrupt Trump rallies, posted to the real-sounding site abcnews.com.co. He earned thousands of dollars a month from his articles. In December 2016, Horner tried to explain why he wrote what he called "satire" to CNN's Anderson Cooper. You can watch that below. Peter Weber