A forged document accusing the top Democrat in the Senate of sexual harassment copied language verbatim from a real sexual-harassment complaint filed against Rep. John Conyers.
On Tuesday afternoon, right-wing social media personalities Charles Johnson and Mike Cernovich boasted of obtaining a document that would put a senator out of a job.
“Michael Cernovich & I are going to end the career of a U.S. Senator,” Johnson posted on Facebook on Monday.
The senator was Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York, Axios first reported.
But the document was fake. A copy of the document, obtained by The Daily Beast, purports to be draft lawsuit complaint against Schumer by a former staffer. It accuses him of sexual harassment. Schumer’s office told The Daily Beast the document and her signature are forgeries. Schumer’s office said the senator was not in Washington, D.C. or the United States during several dates in the document when he is said to have harassed the staffer.
“The document is a forged document and every allegation is false,” Schumer spokesperson Matt House told The Daily Beast. “We have turned it over to the Capitol Police and asked them to investigate and pursue criminal charges because it is clear the law has been broken. We believe the individual responsible for forging the document should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law to prevent other malicious actors from doing the same.”
The former staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the document was a forgery.
“The claims in this document are completely false, my signature is forged, and even basic facts about me are wrong,” the former staffer said in a statement. “I have contacted law enforcement to determine who is responsible. I parted with Senator Schumer’s office on good terms and have nothing but the fondest memories of my time there.”
Indeed, elements of the fake complaint against Schumer appear to have been lifted verbatim from a real sexual harassment lawsuit against Conyers. That complaint was unearthed by BuzzFeed—after Cernovich, a right-wing media personality, provided them with documents from a second, similar complaint against Conyers.
The Conyers complaint references “House Rule 23” and a “mediation” process between Conyers and his accuser. The fake Schumer complaint also describes allegations as falling under “House Rule 23,” which of course does not exist in the Senate. The “mediation” process in the Schumer document was never mentioned again.
After Cernovich claimed credit for bringing down Conyers, the longest-serving member of the House, he predicted bringing down an even bigger Democrat.
On Monday, Cernovich tweeted a screenshot of Johnson’s statement on Facebook (“Currently reading the sexual harassment settlement documents of a major Democratic US Senator”) and added: “Spoke with Chuck Johnson on the phone, he told me he as the whole case file.”
When a journalist criticized Cernovich’s sourcing on Twitter, Cernovich replied that the media was “already doing damage control! It doesn’t matter. I already have legal documents, exact dates, same as with Conyers.”
Cernovich quickly backtracked once it was reported Schumer’s office had gone to police on Tuesday. (Under D.C. law, forging a document filed in a public office is punishable by up to 10 years in jail or a $25,000 fine.)
“There’s language that looks like it came from some of the Conyers stuff, like it might have been copied from there,” Cernovich said during a Tuesday evening broadcast on Periscope. Cernovich now said he thought the document was a hoax, but it “still could be confirmed.”
Reached by The Daily Beast on Wednesday, Cernovich said he was the victim of a “sophisticated forgery” and provided the supposed “number of the hoaxer,” which was disconnected.
Johnson, for his part, wouldn't directly answer questions about the forgery.
“There are no reporters at The Daily Beast but I will give you a quote,” Johnson told The Daily Beast over email Wednesday. “‘I enthusiastically look forward to an investigation.’”
Johnson referred The Daily Beast to a Facebook post he recently wrote, which read:
“I was sent a very sophisticated complaint that claimed Senator Chuck Schumer had sexually harassed a subordinate and paid her off. After communicating with the source through encrypted email and texts the source went dark. I sent the document to multiple journalists, lawyers, and members of Congress, all of whom agreed it should be investigated. I am offering $10k for the identity of the persons responsible and would be happy to cooperate with any investigators.”
Cernovich claims he is trying to find the hoaxer.
“This is the journalist process CNN doesn’t go through,” Cernovich said on Periscope on Tuesday. “CNN, they go ‘oh shit, Don Jr. got an email about Wikileaks before anybody else? Boom boom boom front page news.’ But me, I go oh, wait, hold on a minute, let’s chill.”
In fact, Schumer’s office said, CNN and other outlets including the Washington Post, BuzzFeed, The New Yorker, and ABC News all received the document on Tuesday, around the same time as Cernovich and Johnson. None of those outlets posted in advance about being in possession of documents that would “end the career of a U.S. Senator” though.
“Whoever did this -- I don’t know if it was a deep state operation, a Soros thing, or if it was just a prankster,” Cernovich said on Periscope, “but somebody’s in a lot of trouble for forging documents.”
Cernovich and Johnson both have dubious records as journalists. Johnson infamously misidentified a college student as a woman who falsely accused University of Virginia students of rape. He also falsely accused then-congressional candidate Cory Booker of lying about his address, and falsely accused a New York Times reporter of posing for Playgirl. Cernovich fanned the flames of the Pizzagate hoax, a conspiracy theory that accused high-level Democrats of running a child sex-trafficking ring through a pizzeria.