The continuing effort to smear non-white U.S. lawmakers as unintelligent took aim again at Democratic Party Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee in December 2017, thanks to websites allowing anyone to fake posts on Twitter as “pranks.”
In this instance, someone used the “fake tweet generator” website tweeterino.com to compose a post while posing as the Texas lawmaker, saying:
As if Trump’s tax cuts aren’t bad enough he seems determined to get us into a war with North Japan. I wouldn’t put it past him to try to bomb Tokyo the way Nixon bombed the Germans at Pearl Harbor, if you know your history that’s how the Spanish American War started.
The post generates a photograph of a fake screengrab of the “tweet,” bearing a watermark in the bottom right-hand corner identifying the source site:
But the watermark is easy to crop from the photograph, allowing anyone to circulate it without admitting it was a “prank”:
As Media Matters would report in March 2018, the photograph circulated enough that a radio news station in North Dakota, KHND-AM, reported it as an actual post on Twitter (which would later be rebranded as X.com) and called the lawmaker “dumb as a box of rocks.”
The news site spotted the station’s error as part of a review of how radio stations aided in the spread of disinformation online between December 2016 and February 2018, and further reported:
Radio stations shared fake stories 63 times on the air and 49 times on social media pages. Of the 49 fake story shares on social media, more than 90 percent were shared by social media pages of music stations; of the 63 times fake stories were aired, more than 75 percent were shared by news/talk stations.
This as far from the only attack against Lee. As we have previously reported, fake photographs portraying her legislative district as a “third-world country” have circulated online for years; and her call for the World Meteorological Organization to use a more inclusive system when identifying hurricanes was twisted into a fake statement that “Black Hurricanes Matter”:
Another online “prank” that same month involved a separate fake post blaming an “American Airlines derailment” on then-President Donald Trump:
The online attacks are another iteration of what a 2003 study found was a pattern of “silencing, excluding, marginalizing, segregating, discrediting, dismissing, discounting, insulting, stereotyping, and patronizing” directed of women in color serving in Congress.
“Much of the uproar about the ideas of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (the Green New Deal) or Ilhan Omar (the power of special interests) replicates long-standing racializing tactics to undermine their authority and silence their voices, to paint them as ‘radicals’ and out of touch with the ‘real America,'” Rutgers University researcher Mary Hawkesworth, who published the study, said in 2019, further demonstrating how these types of attacks can be regurgitated.
Jackson Lee was again targeted for criticism in early 2023, after introducing HR 61 — the Leading Against White Supremacy Act of 2023, which would expand the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice to include “prevent and prosecute white supremacy inspired hate crime and conspiracy to commit white supremacy inspired hate crime.” The bill reads in part:
A person commits a white supremacy inspired hate crime when white supremacist ideology has motivated the planning, development, preparation, or perpetration of actions that constituted a crime or were undertaken in furtherance of activity that, if effectuated, would have constituted a crime.
According to KTRK-TV, disgraced right-wing broadcaster Tucker Carlson claimed that the congresswoman had “devoted her entire political career – indeed her entire life – to a single cause: Shrieking about white racism.”
For her part, right-wing Rep. Lauren Boebert called the bill “a mockery of the First Amendment,” prompting Jackson Lee to rebuke her online.
“Lauren, you would think now that you’re in the majority, you would actually consider reading the bills you tweet about,” Jackson Lee wrote in response. “Or, maybe even hire someone who could help you. This tweet is inflammatory and fact-less and you know it.”
Update 9/20/2023, 11:04 p.m. PST: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here. – ag