The fact-checking website that more recently set its sights on determining if “fake news” was indeed fake has found itself in a financial collapse after it was discovered that the owner and his new wife were living an outlandish lifestyle. There are also reports of embezzling and hiring prostitutes on the company’s dime according to a new report by the Daily Mail and a lawsuit filed by shareholders of the website.
The situation has gotten the company in such dire straits that the owner, David Mikkelson, created a GoFundMe #SaveSnopes which subsequently raised $500,000 in its first day accepting donations. Mikkelson said in the GoFundMe that his company was being held “hostage” by Proper Media, who does advertisement for the website.
“Our legal team is fighting hard for us, but, having been cut off from all revenue, we are facing the prospect of having no financial means to continue operating the site and paying our staff (not to mention covering our legal fees) in the meanwhile,” Mikkelson said.
Snopes was created in 1994 as a way to check if myths and urban legends were real. Coming into the 21st century, the website slowly began transitioning into fact checking other websites and news. Ironically, Mikkelson claims the reports of his website going under is “fake news.”
Recently, Snopes was a part of a Facebook panel determining what constitutes “fake news” on Facebook. Allegations of fake news plagued the website during the 2016 election.
In a bitter divorce, Mikkelson’s ex-wife and the co-founder of Snopes, Barbara, made allegations that David had been embezzling money and asked the court to freeze his access to his account to stop further damage from being done, according to NPR.
In the end, Barbara was awarded 50 percent of the company which she ended up selling to Proper Media. Proper Media said that David is solely responsible for the company’s money woes and states that if nothing is done to stop David’s lavish lifestyle and illegal activity, the company will be drained in the near future, per reports from the Daily Mail.
Proper Media’s attorney in the matter, Karl S. Kronenberger, disputes the outlandish allegation that funds have been withheld. According to the Washington Post, Proper gave Snopes $100,000 last week. “The statement that advertising money is being withheld is just false,” Kronenberger said in an interview.
Court document state that David spent “tens of thousands of dollars” on personal trips with his new wife, including a honeymoon to Tokyo Disneyland. David’s current wife, Elyssa Young, was a Las Vegas escort who charged $500 per hour until 2015.
Young was given the position of administrative assistant at Snopes after marrying David last year. Young was also an adult film actress who went by the stage name Eryn O’Bryn.