Fake news awakens in a galaxy far, far away

Is Trump Vader?
Is Trump Vader?
Image: Lucasfilm/Youtube screenshot
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Donald Trump supporters are calling for a boycott of the upcoming Star Wars film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. 

The film, slated for US release on Dec. 16, has come under fire from Trump supporters, some of whom, it seems, have been suckered in by the unstoppable spread of fake news. Jack Posobiec, of the group Citizens for Trump, who describes himself as a “recovering Star Wars fan,” tweeted yesterday that the movie was reshot to include anti-Trump scenes, setting off a Twitterstorm among critics and fans of the franchise.

The film did undergo extensive reshoots but that was in the summer—before Trump’s election. Writer Chris Weitz, for his part, tweeted that this was “completely fake” and called Posobiec a liar. But #DumpStarWars began trending on Twitter. The BBC reported that it had been tweeted more than 120,000 times in the last 24 hours.

Posobiec, who said he had not seen any of the ads or trailers for Rogue One, expanded on his claim in a Periscope video. He said the film’s screenwriters–originally, Gary Whitta and now Weitz—had made Rogue One as an anti-Trump film and that they started the campaign #TrumpisVader on social media. (We could find no tweets or evidence to support that claim.)

“That’s what they said,” Posobiec said. “They’re trying to make the point of using this movie to push the false narrative, push this lie, push the fake news, that Trump is a racist.”

What Posobiec may be referring to is that one of the film’s writers had seemed to—very gently—protest the president-elect on Twitter after his victory. Three days after Trump won the presidency, Weitz reportedly tweeted, “Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization,” according to the Hollywood Reporter. Whitta responded with: “Opposed by a multi-cultural group led by brave women.”

Weitz, who said in another tweet that his political views were his own, appears to have deleted the anti-Trump post and shared the following apology:

Posobiec added in the video that Disney was a “huge, huge supporter of Hillary Clinton,” suggesting that the movie studio let the screenwriters take the film in an anti-Trump direction. While it is true that Disney CEO Bob Iger attended a Clinton fundraiser last year, and that people at the company donated money to the candidate, Trump also appointed Iger to his newly created Strategic and Policy Forum this year.

It’s unclear how this boycott will affect the box-office totals for Rogue One–Disney’s winter blockbuster. Ticket pre-sales for the movie were reportedly strong. And the media conglomerate’s film division has already had a stellar year.

But as the first standalone film in the Star Wars saga, there’s still a lot of pressure for the Rogue One to perform well at the box office. Disney did not return Quartz’s request for comment.