Ashley Babbitt Fundraiser Controversy

On May 29 2023, an Imgur account shared a screenshot of a tweet by Ron Filipkowski, claiming that the “guy who set up the Ashli Babbitt fund reportedly stole all the money”:

“Ashli Babbitt” trended on and off on Twitter in late May 2023. Babbitt’s name became widely known and associated with the January 6 2021 U.S. nsurrection when the far right activist was shot and killed inside the Capitol.

Fact Check

Claim: “The guy who set up the Ashli Babbitt fund reportedly stole all the money.”

Description: The claim suggests that the individual who launched the fundraising campaign for Ashli Babbitt, a far-right activist known for her involvement in the January 6 U.S. insurrection, reportedly embezzled all the funds raised.

Rating: Unknown

Rating Explanation: The source of the claim is a tweet from an Imgur user that offers a screenshot from a discredited website, the Gateway Pundit. There is currently insufficient credible evidence to substantiate this claim.

Babbitt’s death during the insurrection was widely witnessed and reported, scattering her story across multiple news articles. A Wikipedia entry (“Killing of Ashli Babbitt”) provided a summary of the incident and immediate aftermath:

On January 6, 2021, Ashli Babbitt was fatally shot during an attack on the United States Capitol. She was part of a crowd of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump who breached the United States Capitol building seeking to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election. Babbitt attempted to climb through a shattered window beside a barricaded door into the Speaker’s Lobby, and was subsequently shot in the left shoulder by a United States Capitol Police (USCP) officer. After a USCP emergency response team administered aid, Babbitt was transported to Washington Hospital Center, where she later died. The USCP deemed the shooting was “lawful and within Department policy” and “potentially saved Members (of Congress) and staff from serious injury and possible death[.”]

A subsection of the page, “Legacy,” mentioned the political activity of Babbitt’s mother, Micki Witthoeft, in the wake of her daughter’s death:

Babbitt’s mother, Micki Witthoeft, became politically active following her daughter’s death. In July 2021, she appeared at a Donald Trump rally where she was introduced by Paul Gosar and received a standing ovation from the crowd. During the rally, Trump expressed condolences to Witthoeft and acknowledged that Babbitt had died trying to salvage his presidency. Witthoeft later said in an interview that she was writing letters of support to January 6 [2021] arrestees and commented that her daughter had “made the ultimate sacrifice to bring attention to a stolen election. Half the country loves her and half the country hates her. It’s weird to have your child belong to the world[.”]

Disinformation about Ashli Babbitt began circulating within minutes of her death. Subsequently, Babbitt was the subject of myriad falsehoods and efforts to smear the United States Capitol Police (or to advance disinformation in general).

Filipkowski’s May 29 2023 tweet about Babbitt’s fundraiser was virally popular, in part because it was novel — we were unable to locate any credible sources making the same claim. In fact, Filipkowski’s tweet featured a screenshot (not a retweet) from a known disinformation purveyor, Gateway Pundit.

Media analysis reference source Media Bias Fact Check maintained an entry on Gateway Pundit, indicating that it should be considered “questionable,” “based on extreme right-wing bias, promotion of conspiracies, and numerous instances of publishing false (fake) news,” adding:

In review, The Gateway Pundit demonstrates extreme right-wing bias in story selection that always favors the right and denigrates the left. There is significant use of loaded emotional language in headlines such as this: President Trump RIPS INTO Peter Strzok After He’s Fired – Calls For Hillary ‘Sham Investigation’ to be ‘Properly Redone.’ The Gateway Pundit is also fiercely dedicated to the promotion of Donald Trump. TGP always sources their information but sometimes utilizes questionable sources such as Breitbart and Mike Cernovich, who have terrible track records with fact-checkers.

The Gateway Pundit has published numerous false or conspiracy stories such as Hillary Clinton having a seizure, identifying an innocent person in the Las Vegas mass shooting, and identifying the wrong person after the motor vehicle homicide at the White Supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Further, TGP claimed the “FBI received tips well in advance of the Florida school shooting and decided, for whatever reason, not to act.” Finally, based on publishing false information, TGP has faced lawsuits for defamation and damages to innocent individuals. In general, The Gateway Pundit holds extreme right viewpoints and publishes false or misleading information on a near-daily basis.

On May 29 2023, the Gateway Pundit published “Ashli Babbitt’s Grieving Mother Micki Witthoeft Was Swindled by a Grifter – Micki Needs Help to Continue Her Selfless Activism in Washington DC.” The item was attributed to a “Guest Contributor,” and claimed that a man named Randy Ireland was “unable and/or unwilling to account for all or even part of the money” raised via the website

Micki started [a nightly] vigil with the help of Randy Ireland, who had offered to help Micki with all aspects of the venture. That included finding travel and lodging accommodations, supplies for the vigil, etc. Randy offered to take care of everything and at first that was OK with Micki, she was relieved she could focus on the nightly vigil and use her energy in other ways to spread her message. She always hoped that Congress would open investigations into the murder of Ashli and the human and civil rights abuses of American citizens involved in the events of January 6th [2021].

After a few months, it became apparent that, after many exhaustive and combative conversations between Randy Ireland and Micki (and other witnesses) that Randy was unable and/or unwilling to account for all or even part of the money he had raised under the nonprofit C.A.P.P. formed with Cara Castronuova previously to meeting Micki.

Randy and also had another website that he set up for Micki to take in donations for the vigil. Up to this day Randy Ireland has yet to account for nearly $30,000 or more raised from donations though

The page was verbose and difficult to follow, and it primarily sought to encourage further donations to Witthoeft. We were unable to find any other claims (credible or otherwise) about the fate of any money attached to any Ashli Babbitt fundraiser.

On May 29 2023, Twitter user Ron Filipkowski shared a screenshot of a Gateway Pundit tweet about an Ashli Babbitt fundraiser. Earlier that day, Gateway Pundit published a barely coherent blog post, and tweeted that Babbitt’s mother Micki Witthoeft had been “swindled by a grifter.” The veracity of the claim is currently Unknown.