The three smiling faces that appeared above the testimonials of supporters on the website of the Robert Shuler Smith campaign for governor when it launched were actually stock photos of models, and the identities given are fake.
Shuler Smith, Democrat and current Hinds County District Attorney, sent a link to his campaign website — www.voterobertshulersmith.com — to a Clarion Ledger reporter on Wednesday. He did not respond to requests for comment.
Kathryn Perry, campaign manager, said Thursday the website was a “draft”.
“We’re going to add to it and take from it,” Perry said.
In a press release issued late Thursday afternoon, Perry said the errors “were solely the result of the campaign website being a work in progress and not a completed project.”
Michael Reed works for the campaign and said he designed the website. Reed says he doesn’t build websites for a living, but does them on the side. He said he used a model from AT&T, where the images were from.
The photos have since been deleted.
The campaign will not publish the real names of the alleged supporters
Reed initially claimed that the site “wasn’t filled with any data.” He later said the testimonies were real but the accompanying images were stock photos. He declined to provide the names of the people he said gave the testimonies.
“I don’t think it’s necessary to provide that at this time,” he said. ” Why do you need it ? »
Reed said he would not release the real names or use real images of the three people who gave the testimonials without first getting their permission to do so. He said he saw no need to provide real names.
Under the heading “What our community visionaries are saying” are three images of people with testimonials below each header photo.
Most of the sites where the same three stock images appear – also above the testimonials – are for companies or organizations claiming to offer financial services. In most cases, given phone numbers only return a fast busy signal when called. The sites provide email addresses and a contact form to use.
The testimonials were riddled with errors
Since this story was first published, the website has been updated to remove the photos and correct several errors in the testimonials.
Beneath the photo of a smiling woman wearing glasses, the testimonial originally read: “We pledge to vote for Robert Shuler Smith to help teachers get adequate pay and better funding for education.”
He was signed, “Teacher”, which has now been updated to “Veteran Mississippi Teacher”.
The second testimony, from a smiling man, contained a spelling error. He also misspelled Shuler Smith’s name. It read, “After the first speech I heard from Atty Shuler Smith, I was impressed with the message and insights he brought, I definitely vote Robert Schuler Smith. He goes above and beyond.”
It’s signed “Terry”.
The third file image is of another woman, her head tilted with a closed-lipped smile. “‘Robert Shuler Smith helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel, what a positive experience. He’s a people person for sure. I think it’s very important to be able to understand what the woman or the ordinary man has to go through everyday “Vote for Robert Shuler Smith”, the testimony reads.
It’s signed “Kimberly”.
Shuler Smith ‘supporters’, known by many names, love many bands
Using a reverse image search leads to a wide variety of sites that have used the pattern, some for seemingly suspicious reasons. And the names of the “supporters” are just as varied.
The models in the stock images seem to be given different names on the sites where they appear, but one model is named “Carie Condo” on two different sites.
On the other hand, for a sign company in Michigan, the three models are called “Marianne Stanley”, “Jeremy Moran” and “Ocie Ravetto”.
On another site, one of the women is named “Phil Philanthropist” under her Spanish testimonial for a consulting firm. The image appears twice on this site, but one of the images has been edited to show the red-haired model. On another level, for a financial company, the male model is named “Phil Philanthropist”.
On the Youth Education Corporation website, the three are identified as:
- “Linda Berkley, PhD in Quantum Mechanics, UC Berkley”
- “Joseph Remington, CEO and Founder of Block Logistics LLC, created (sic) from Chain Block Distribution Technology”
- “Nicole Priya, PhD in Astrophysics, University of Germany”
A man returning a message left with the Chicago-based company said he did not know who built the website, who the people were on the site or how the photos got there.
“We are just a local and community education consulting firm,” he said. “We don’t get into all that other stuff.”
There are two different addresses provided for the Youth Education Corporation, both of which belong to different apartment complexes.
The websites where the three images are found are in multiple languages – English, Spanish and even Bulgarian – and with domains from countries like Mexico, Canada and Russia.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story reported that a church in Michigan had been hacked. The church representative was unaware of an ongoing site redesign and the pages were accidentally posted before they were ready.