TEL AVIV – Despite being debunked by Breitbart Jerusalem and others, Iran’s state-affiliated Press TV has not corrected a false report claiming that Saudi King Salman financed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election campaign in 2015 to the tune of $80 million.
The report, titled, “Leaked: Saudi King financed Netanyahu’s 2015 election bid,” cites fabricated quotes purportedly from Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog alleging that the Saudi financing was documented in the “Panama Papers.”
Contacted by Breitbart Jerusalem on Monday night, Herzog’s office denied the report, saying the quotes were entirely fabricated.
The false report has since been parroted by several obscure English language Middle East sites whose incorrect articles have been getting some social media traction, including Siasit Daily and Shehernama.com. The websites Boing Boing and the Center for Research on Globalization each have removed their versions of the story.
Still, the fake report spread like wildfire on social media. Craig Silverman reported Wednesday at BuzzFeed Canada “As of today the original fake story has generated over 25,000 Facebook interactions. There have only been a few efforts to debunk the hoax.”
Silverman notes the fake story was re-tweeted by former British lawmaker George Galloway, a fierce Israel critic, to his 250,000 followers, and by author Dee Lestari her nearly 1.5 million followers on Twitter.
Press TV ran with the following report and quotes, falsely attributing them to Herzog:
Citing a massive leak of confidential documents dubbed the “Panama Papers,” Isaac Herzog, who is the chairman of the Israeli Labor party said, “In March 2015, King Salman has deposited eighty million dollars to support Netanyahu’s campaign via a Syrian-Spanish person named Mohamed Eyad Kayali.”
“In March 2015, King Salman has deposited eighty million dollars to support Netanyahu’s campaign via a Syrian-Spanish person named Mohamed Eyad Kayali.”
“The money was deposited to a company’s account in British Virgin Islands owned by Teddy Sagi, an Israeli billionaire and businessman, who has allocated the money to fund the campaign [of] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” the lawmaker said.
It was not immediately clear where Press TV got the quotes from although they may have originated with The Middle East Observer website. No link to an original source was provided by Press TV. The name Mohamed Eyad Kayali does not appear in the searchable database of the so-called Panama Papers.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.