Paul Horner, a prolific purveyor of fake news whose articles went viral during the 2016 presidential election, was found dead in his home outside of Phoenix, Arizona, last week. He was 38.
Prolific fake news writer Paul Horner is suspected to have died from an accidental prescription pill overdose, authorities in Phoenix, Arizona, revealed on Wednesday.
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office spokesman Mark Casey said that a coroner's report showed no signs of foul play, although he revealed that Horner had a history of prescription drug abuse and that "evidence at the scene suggested this could be an accidental overdose."
However, the case would remain open until the results from toxicology tests were known, Casey said.
Horner was discovered by authorities lifeless in his bed on September 18. His brother, JJ, posted on Facebook that he had died in his sleep.
Horner was known for writing fake news — or, as he often labelled them, "internet hoaxes" — that went viral on social media during last year's US presidential election. One of his fake reports was even shared by officials on President Donald Trump's campaign team last year.
His most widely shared fictional news story reported that anti-Trump protestors were being paid thousands of dollars to protest outside of the Republican candidate's rallies. That story was shared thousands times across social media, including by two of Trump's campaign managers, Corey Lewandowski and Kellyanne Conway, as well as his son Eric.
Horner said in an interview with the Washington Post newspaper that he thought he was largely responsible for Trump's election victory. However, he repeatedly stated that he was not a supporter of Trump or the Republican Party, and that his articles were for comedy purposes. He would even lambast those who believed and shared his stories with serious intention.
JJ said that his brother had always considered his work to be satire, and that his propensity to think up hoaxes and point out hypocrisy from a young age translated into writing viral articles on the internet.
JJ Horner said: "I think that was a lot of the genius behind a lot of his work was pushing ideas that either people wanted to believe or thought was possible."