Who is behind the forged letter targeting Maxine Waters?

Yet another example of fake news spreading through social media.

A forged "letter" has taken aim at Maxine Waters  - and has been shared by her opponent. (CREDIT: GETTY / ALEX WONG)
A forged "letter" has taken aim at Maxine Waters - and has been shared by her opponent. (CREDIT: GETTY / ALEX WONG)

In December, Omar Navarro, the Republican candidate for California’s 43rd district, unveiled what he thought could be a bombshell. Taking to Twitter, Navarro revealed that his opponent, Democrat Maxine Waters, “wants more terrorists, like the one who bombed NYC, in California’s 43rd District.” As proof, Navarro shared a “letter” he’d obtained from his campaign manager:

According to the “letter,” addressed to the chief operating officer at OneUnited Bank, Waters wanted some 41,000 Somali refugees “housed in the district’s new condominium and apartment units funded and underwritten by OneUnited.” Moreover, per the “letter” pushed by Navarro, Waters “felt it would be best to announce plans” for the program “after the November elections” – and “perhaps even once I have secured the Speaker of the House position.”

The claims, as contained in the “letter,” were explosive. One problem, though: The “letter” is a forgery.

As the Los Angeles Times wrote, the “fake letter” contained “several inaccuracies. It references multiple committees and subcommittees Waters does not serve on, and lists an address for a district office that has been closed for nearly a decade.”

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Navarro – whose campaign adviser is Roger Stone, and who was recently forced to resign as local traffic commissioner following accusations of pepper-spraying a child –  has still not taken down his tweet. “I wanted to know if it was real,” Navarro told ThinkProgress. “We wanted to verify the truth of this.”

The source of the “letter” remains unclear; Navarro told ThinkProgress that his campaign manager obtained the “letter” from an unknown source. However, while Navarro’s tweet remains up, other accounts – some verified, some anonymous – have begun pushing the forgery for their own, far more wide-reaching audiences.

One comedian, Terrence Williams, has pushed the “letter” to his 142,000 followers, already accruing over 22,000 retweets.

Another anonymous account, going only by “Saving America,” has also garnered over 14,000 retweets — and thanked Williams for “back-up.”

As it is – and considering that misusing a federal seal remains a federal crime – Waters has already pointed the FBI toward the letter:

While the forgeries circulating appear identical, the one pushed by “Saving America” may hint at the source of the fake “letter.” Lining the bottom of the screenshot, a URL points to one of the primary far-right conspiracy sites extant: 8chan.

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It remains unclear how these tweets have generated so many retweets, and so much reach — especially since Navarro’s original tweet has only seen a fraction of the retweets as those pushed by anonymous accounts. Added Navarro, talking about the spread of the forgery, “Everybody is putting it out now.”