On September 5 2022, a popular post to Reddit’s r/WhitePeopleTwitter purportedly depicted a fundraising email connected to former United States President Donald Trump:
An identical screenshot was shared to Reddit’s r/PoliticalHumor on August 28 2022, but neither Reddit post had a link to the tweet. Another version was published by the unverified account @Jello_Biafra_ on August 27 2022:
That tweet appeared to show a screengrab of an Instagram post by musician Jane Wiedlin, but we found no trace of the post on Wiedlin’s account (suggesting it may have been deleted). On August 26 2022, political humor account @BettyBowers tweeted the original image.
That tweet was the earliest iteration of the purported Trump fundraising email that we could find, and as was the case with every screenshot we found, it was addressed to “Betty.” No date was visible on the original image, and on it, text underneath a “Trump Pence 2020” logo read:
Eric and I were having dinner tonight and Eric asked, “Has Betty given to Dad this month to help fight for America? My father has been asking about Betty.”
I got up from the table to check and we were both disappointed to discover that you have not [donated to former President Trump]. Eric said that you have been one of our father’s biggest supporters and the President will be very upset to hear that you have let him down.
I’m sure this is just an oversight. Please make sure you contribute tonight so that we can tell the President that you are still loyal.
Make America Great Again!
Please contribute ANY AMOUNT by 11:59 PM TONIGHT
Google Trends data indicated searches for “Trump fundraising email” for the seven day period ending September 6 2022 were often accompanied by the words “Eric” and “dinner,” suggesting users attempted to validate its authenticity. However, a Google search for “Eric and I were having dinner tonight and Eric asked” (the purported email’s opening line) returned only three results, all of which pointed back to the @BettyBowers tweet or references to it.
We searched the Archive of Political Emails for emails sent by Trump-linked accounts. No emails containing the words “Eric,” “father,” and “dinner” appeared in the search, despite the archive’s extensive catalog of Trump fundraising emails.
Not long before Bowers’ screenshot began recirculating, news outlets covered other stories involving emails from Trump-linked operations, both authentic and fabricated. On August 10 2022, Yahoo!Entertainment reported that Trump was using the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago earlier that month for fundraising purposes.
On August 12 2022, the Associated Press published a fact check explaining that Trump had not disclosed “nuke codes” via email to his remaining supporters. That fact check indirectly indicated it was becoming more difficult across the board to distinguish fake emails parodying Trump from authentic emails sent by his organizations or surrogates:
The former president has indeed been sending fundraising emails to supporters following the FBI’s raid on his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida [in August 2022].
But Trump did not send an email in which he shared “nuke codes” as part of that fundraising campaign, as social media posts are claiming.
“NEW: Donald is fundraising by giving us ‘nuclear codes,’” read one tweet Friday [August 12 2022], shared by thousands. “This is a f—— joke to him.”
The manipulated image presents an email from [email protected] whose body text reads, “The nuke codes are 15-25-50-80.” It then asks recipients to donate $15, $25, $50 or $80.
A September 5 2022 r/WhitePeopleTwitter posted a purported fundraising email sent on behalf of former U.S. President Donald Trump: “Eric and I were having dinner tonight and Eric asked …” That email was originally shared by the satirical Twitter account @BettyBowers on March 12 2022, and reposted by the account in late August 2022. All variations stemming from those tweets presented the email as authentic; its virality hinted that others would have noticed the email if it were real. A Google search returned three results for the email in total, and the extensive Archive of Political Emails (counting an average of nine emails per day from Trump-related accounts) had no record of any Trump fundraising email containing the words “Eric,” “father,” and “dinner.”