A San Francisco TV station inadvertently helped the Republican party build an e-mail list to be used for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.
KGO-TV (Channel 7) was one of several ABC owned-and-operated stations that reported on a so-called “digital birthday card” created by the Republican Party in honor of Trump’s 73rd birthday.
Web articles posted by the ABC stations said viewers could wish Trump a happy birthday by clicking on a link that sent readers to a copy of the digital card. Readers who clicked on the link were eventually asked to leave their name and contact information so they could be mass-mailed about party related initiatives, including Trump’s re-election campaign.
Trump formally announced his bid for a second term on Tuesday. He raised a record $24.8 million, more than any of his Democratic challengers, according to initial reports.
The web stories filed by the ABC stations was first noted by @TrumpEmail, a Twitter account that monitors fundraising efforts by the Trump campaign and other Republican Party candidates. The account spotted similar postings by WABC-TV (Channel 7, New York City), KABC-TV (Channel 7, Los Angeles), WTVD (Channel 11, Raleigh-Durham) and KTRK (Channel 13, Houston).
Last Friday, the Daily Beast said an ABC spokesperson claimed an overnight producer who did not follow the network’s editorial standards was responsible for writing the article. The post was syndicated to numerous owned-and-operated stations and at least one non-owned ABC affiliate in Ohio before it was eventually pulled, the network said.
It is not the first time a news organization has linked to an e-mail harvesting campaign: In 2010, a post on TIME Magazine’s website linked to a similar digital birthday card for then-President Barack Obama. In that instance, the author of the post said it was likely a birthday card signer would have their name placed on a campaign e-mail list.