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Fake news? Activists hand out counterfeit copies of The Washington Post in D.C.

The front of the Washington Post building.

Activists passed out thousands of copies of a newspaper announcing President Donald Trump’s departure from office made to look like The Washington Post in the nation’s capital Wednesday.

Members of a self-described “trickster activist collective” called the Yes Men took credit for the stunt, which they say “offers a blueprint to help us reclaim our democracy.”

“The idea of this in part was to bring joy and hope to people along with actual tools for creating change,” said author L.A. Kauffman, who created the paper together with Onnesha Roychoudhuri and the Yes Men. “Unauthorized, but it’s inspirational. It’s not deception, it’s dreaming.”

The paper, dated May 1, 2019, featured the splashy headline “UNPRESIDENTED: ENDING CRISIS, TRUMP HASTILY DEPARTS WHITE HOUSE.” Stories on the faux-front page told a tall tale of Trump’s flight from the White House following the emergence of a “women-led, multi-racial grassroots resistance.”

Included along with the paper is an “action guide” titled “Bye-Bye 45: A Guide to Bringing Him Down,” which activists say offers strategies for making the paper’s fictional future a reality.

“It’s a sort of road map to the future,” said Andy Bichlbaum, one of the co-founders of the Yes Men. “A way of saying ‘we could have this world if we hold people, if we hold the Democrats feet to the fire.'”

Kauffman said the paper was timed to be released ahead of the Women’s March taking place this weekend as a way to bring “hope and strategy” to the movement.

“I think people still don’t dream as big as they might," she said. "This project is partly designed to encourage the resistance to Trump to dream big."

Bichlbaum said that the stunt was inspired by a similar campaign the Yes Men ran in 2008 to pressure the incoming Obama administration.

The papers cost about $40,000 to produce, more than $36,000 of which was raised through a GoFundMe campaign, according to Bichlbaum. He said the group distributed about 10,000 of the papers.

An online version of the paper was posted at two websites, which appears to have been taken down, and, according to the activists.

Rumors about papers with wild headlines bearing a stark resemblance to the Post started to swirl online this morning. The Post’s PR department put out a statement on Twitter saying, “There are fake print editions of The Washington Post being distributed around downtown DC, and we are aware of a website attempting to mimic The Post’s. They are not Post products, and we are looking into this.”

Other activists groups, including MoveOn and CodePink, took to social media to offer their support of the stunt. 

A video posted to Facebook appeared to show CodePink founder Medea Benjamin handing out some of the fake papers.

Bichlbaum said while the Post's lawyers have sent a letter to Cloudflare concerning the websites, the response overall has been "tremendous."

"People are amused," he said. "Nobody was really fooled. We never intended to fool anybody."

Follow N'dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg