Social media was awash with claims this week that Australian billionaire Clive Palmer had purchased Adolf Hitler’s 1939 Mercedes-Bens 770 Grosser Offener Tourenwagen from a Russian billionaire.
Given that many wealthy Russians are liquidating their assets before they are seized by foreign governments as part of international action against Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the story seemed plausible – even if presented without sources or facts.
Clive Palmer is the lead Senate candidate for Queensland for the United Australia Party, which is one of several minor conservative parties causing a headache for both Labor and Liberal as they draw ‘freedom’ voters toward them.
It was said originally that the purchase had been made alongside the acquisition of King Edward VIII’s 1929 Rolls-Royce.
The news story from Perth Now and The Courier Mail resulted in the Federal Labor Member for Perth, Patrick Gorman, issuing a formal request to the government to prevent Clive Palmer from importing the car into Australia – allegedly to feature in a rare car museum.
“On Monday [February 28], I asked the government to stop Clive Palmer importing Hitler’s car using the Customs Act. Today [March 2] the Government has acted on my request,” announced Gorman via Tweet. “There is not reason for the importation of these obscene objects into Australia, billionaire or not. Read my full letter below.”
“The government absolutely condemns any glorification of Nazi history and neo-Naxi extremist activity in Australia.” Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews answered Gorman’s complaint, addressing the situation saying that Clive Palmer would have to obey import and customs laws if the allegations were true.
Clive Palmer, having recently recovered from Covid, took to Twitter to rubbish the fakenews story.
“I did not buy Hitler’s car. Its [sic] more Fake News.”
He further went on to say that he is commencing legal action against the claims in a series of tweets on Friday afternoon, saying that 'career politicians have all been sucked in by incompetent journalists reporting fake news'.
Despite never buying the car, various publications speculated on the size of the purchase and reported that it had been shipped from London to Queensland.
Gorman has not issued a correction since his error came to light. Most publications have printed Clive Palmer’s denial, but not a correction.
The story was allowed to run, unsubstantiated, for days causing significant reputational harm to the United Australia Party and its leader, with social media awash with speculation that the purchase (which didn’t happen) tied him to Nazism – a common accusation bizarrely thrown at Freedom protesters who object to Covid vaccine mandates.
Karen Andrews issuing a condemnation and caution to Clive Palmer over something that did not happen, and had not been confirmed, only added weight to the fake news.