Nicole Leonardi thought she had received a new newspaper. The story at the "Arizona Catholic Tribune" was different.

It had all the qualities of a traditional print newspaper, but it had a different slogan. It's real value. The pledge didn't match the information.

Leonardi, a Democrat who is not Catholic, realized the paper was fake and was critical of local Democrats. The paper is not associated with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.

Leonardi pulled out the paper he thought was real. When you realize that it is pushing right-wing talking points, you dig in.

The Phoenix area was not the only place where newspapers with the slogan "real news" recently appeared. In Iowa and Illinois, similar publications were delivered in mailboxes.

According to a senior research fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, the Arizona Catholic Tribune is part of a multi-state network of websites posing as local media outlets.

They have been here before. This was done in Wisconsin before the election. Bengani said that they did this in Kansas before the referendum. The number of physical papers we have seen is more than what we saw in the 2020 cycle.

The networks were traced back to Brian Timpone, who claims on his profile that he is a media executive. Several companies that are part of the extended network of publications did not respond to requests for comment.

More than 1200 news sites are part of the Tow Center's network.

Bengani claims the websites emerged ahead of the 2020 election and that the outlets use the appearance of journalistic neutrality to amplify partisan messaging.

It is a complex network. There are many different entities in different states. The Grand Canyon Times has been showing up in Arizona for a couple of months now.

There is a front page story in the Arizona Catholic Tribune that states that Tom O'Halleran and Greg Stanton voted to keep school gender services secret from parents. The content is in line with Republicans efforts to use anti-trans gender rhetoric as a wedge issue. One section of the paper gave Arizona elected officials grades based on their photos, with the Republicans as well as the Democrats getting Fs.

There is a story on the different page about the false claim that the Democratic candidate for Arizona governor voted to ban the pledge of patriotism.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix does not support the publication of the Arizona Catholic Tribune, according to an email from a spokesman.

The Catholic organization and ministries in the Diocese of Phoenix do not engage in partisan politics and do not endorse candidates or parties in elections.

The paper suggests otherwise, according to experts.

Matthew Jensen is an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma who studies online misinformation. It seems like they are meant to signal an authoritative source.

Paul Bentz said he found a copy of the Arizona Catholic Tribune in his mail. Bentz said political mailers are not new in Arizona and that the fake paper is "rhetorically over the top" He said the publication was intended to keep moderates away from voting for Democrats.

He said that it was drawn the ire of the catholic church because it was too blatant in their appeal to conservative voters. This does not appear to be about increasing turnout but solidifying the base and negating anyone who may be tempted to vote for their opponents.

That's right.

Sophia Tulp is from New York.