Getting started in politics is a difficult thing. You need name recognition and, at least at first, you need effort.
Jonathan Lopez was willing to put in the work. He didn’t have name recognition, however. How could he?
The Hermiston, Oregon, man’s first attempt at breaking into the field involved a run for Umatilla County commissioner. He lost in the primary. Nevertheless, he persisted. He decided to think outside the box.
Authorities said he sent a racist letter to himself in late June. Not the most ethically sound strategy for getting some free publicity — but hey, an alleged hate crime hoax worked for Jussie Smollett, however briefly.
“Don’t waste your time trying to become anything in this county,” the letter said, according to a photo provided to KEPR-TV. “[W]e will make sure you never win and your family suffers along with all the other f—– Mexicans in the area!”
The letter added that Mexicans were “not welcome here” and “America is for the God fearing, pro gun, pro life humans who refuse to be controlled by the government.”
It was signed, “Sincerely, America!”
In a Facebook post that has since been deleted, Lopez expounded on his feelings about the letter — which included campaign-worthy language.
“Many don’t know me or who I am and where I stand,” Lopez wrote. “As an American born man who served in the [United States Coast Guard], fire and rescue services. I’m also proud of where my parents and grandparents were born and raised, Mexico. I have lived a life full of obstacles and challenges Including racism. There is no room or tolerance of that.”
This was, he said, an opportunity to check our rhetoric and hearts.
“We now more than ever must address these issues that are destroying and distancing us from unification,” Lopez wrote. “We must be mature and adults about things and address them properly at a table or meeting in which we can come to an agreement or mutual understanding!”
“I hold no resentment for whom ever wrote this; I’m just simply heart broken for the lack of knowledge, education and respect missing. I pray for you and wish you prosperity in your life. God bless us all!”
Our minor-league Jussie Smollett turned the letter over to the Hermiston Police and worked with the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office. That didn’t end well.
“[W]e will make sure you never win & your family suffers along with all the other f— Mexicans in the area!”
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) July 8, 2020
According to the East Oregonian, police announced Monday that Lopez had admitted to writing the letter.
“From the onset, this alleged incident has been thoroughly investigated,” Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston said in an email.
“Our investigation has shown that Mr. Lopez wrote the letter himself and made false statements to the police and on social media. The end result is a verbal and written admission by Mr. Lopez that the letter was fabricated.”
“This investigation is particularly frustrating as we are in the midst of multiple major investigations while battling a resource shortage due to the current pandemic,” Edmiston added.
“The time spent on this fictitious claim means time lost on other matters, not to mention it needlessly adds to the incredible tension that exists in our nation today. As a lifelong resident of this diverse community, I’m disgusted someone would try to carelessly advance their personal ambitions at the risk of others.”
Lopez swears he never meant to mislead, claiming the letter was supposed to be a composite of the kind of hate he’d experienced.
“I never meant to file a report, it just kind of spiraled out,” he said.
It seems other things have “spiraled out” for Lopez, however. The candidate hadn’t served in the military, police said, which would be a violation of the Stolen Valor Act of 2013.
Police say they’re investigating other documents presented by Lopez during his run for office that might have been fake, according to KOMO-TV. Filing a false police report is a class A misdemeanor in Oregon. He also had what KOMO called “a lengthy criminal history.”
The case has been passed on to the Umatilla County District Attorney’s office for possible charges.
On Wednesday, Lopez apologized to “esteemed Umatilla county commissioners, leaders, representatives, law enforcement, community members and all residents” in another letter, this one somewhat less salacious.
“With the most deepest sincerity of what’s left of my heart and life. I would like to apologize for my wrongful doings,” he wrote. “The letter written by me came from a dark low place. It should have never been written.”
The hate crime hoax arose, Lopez said, from a “moment of weakness and desperation.”
“I know I am only but one man, but one man who can try and hope to come to a place of peace and compassion,” he wrote. “I do with my most sincerity regret that letter and actions. I do encourage the community to work strongly and united to overcome the obstacles that are still ahead of all. To set aside all and any hard differences that are simply opinions and work to make solid solutions for the progression of all!”
Alas, he probably won’t be involved in crafting those solutions, at least as an elected official.
I also don’t think he’s going to get the Smollett treatment from prosecutors, who are less inclined to let admitted hoaxers go with a minor cash fine and some very desultory work with Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition if they haven’t starred in high-profile TV shows.
As for the takeaway from the l’affaire Lopez, Britt Griffith probably said it best:
And people wonder why we can’t “just believe” claims of racism… Dude admitted to write the racist letter to himself…https://t.co/nbbXSrlm44
— Britt Griffith (@britttgriffith) July 8, 2020
And that’s the thing — what Lopez wants you to know is that even though he wrote a fake hate letter directed at him, you shouldn’t think that liberals are blowing up racist acts for political purposes or anything.
For instance, see if you can parse this answer he gave KEPR-TV on the issue of his hoax:
“It cannot be used as something to discredit any other possible form or way or act of racial issues reason being is law enforcement their job is to secure and protect everyone,” he said.
“If they start thinking because of one bad apple, in this case one bad situation the rest are bad then they are not going to do their job properly or correct and you know that’s not what they are here for.”
Right. Whatever that meant.
But that still means incidents like this — particularly when they’re high-profile and make a political point — shouldn’t necessarily be uncritically accepted.
So, alas, the political career of Jonathan Lopez looks to be over. Then again, America loves a comeback.
I wonder what other hoax he might be able to perpetrate. Maybe those brothers Smollett contracted out for his “attack” can cook something up.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.