Joshua Jered Rodriguez is running for a city council seat in Arvada, Colorado. Local resident Katie Winner does not agree with Rodriguez’s stance on many issues in the community and has no plans to vote for him.
So imagine Winner’s shock when she saw Rodriguez’s campaign page on Facebook and found a glowing endorsement for the candidate, supposedly written by her.
“It’s vital that we vote our values, so I’ll be voting for Joshua Jered Rodriguez for Arvada City Council,” the post reads. “Joshua is an effective advocate for social justice, voting rights, acceptance, economic opportunity and gender and racial equity. He also devotes a significant amount of time and effort working in the community. I especially appreciate Joshua’s thoughtful leadership. He sees out new ideas and different perspectives, weights the alternatives, considers possible outcomes and develops reasonable positions. Please join me in voting for Joshua Jered Rodriguez for Arvada.”
Winner told Denver’s KUSA-TV that she could not believe what she was reading.
Winner told the TV station that she looked through her activity log on Facebook and did not see any evidence of her account being compromised. And she hasn’t found a duplicate account made to look like hers.
“My account was not spoofed,” she said. “I’ve done some digging myself and I can’t find a mirror page about me.”
Winner believes the post was a product of Photoshop, with someone putting her name and image over someone else’s words. She complained to Facebook and the post has since been removed.
“I do not endorse this candidate for Arvada City Council District Four. I never would,” Winner said. “In fact, I never wrote those words about any candidate, and there are a lot of candidates in the race on the ballot this November 2018 that I would endorse.”
After contacting Facebook, Winner said she also filed a complaint with local law enforcement.
For his part, Rodriguez said no tampering of the post was done on his end.
“It was not fabricated on my end,” Rodriguez told the Lakewood Sentinel. “I believed it was a real post.”
Rodriguez, for his part, has told somewhat different stories about how the post came about.
On NextDoor.com, Rodriguez claimed that Winner had been cyber bullying him and thought the post was simply a gesture of good faith. He claimed a person he believed to be Winner contacted him with an offer — they would stop the online “harassment” and, instead, post an endorsement on Facebook in exchange for $500.
“Under bad judgment, I agreed and paid that amount and received an endorsement that I posted on Facebook,” Rodriguez wrote. He also claimed Winner’s account had been “catfished,” with someone else posing as Winner.
When asked by KUSA to provide screenshots of the offer, Rodriguez did not do so, saying he wanted to speak with an attorney before doing so.
But Rodriguez later told the Sentinel he did not pay the $500, but the person he believed to be Winner had posted the endorsement as an act of good faith.
“The person that contacted me was catfished, had a lot of information or it was Katie Winner,” Rodriguez said. “I have to assume it was her.”
Meanwhile, Arvada has stepped up his allegations of cyber bullying against Winner. In a Facebook post Wednesday evening, Arvada said he had contacted local law enforcement about Winner’s actions.
The Sentinel says the police reports from both parties are being investigated as criminal complaints.
Interestingly, Winner says she saw the post featuring her alleged endorsement by using a recently launched tool by Facebook in which users can search all political ads that appear on Facebook and find out who paid for them. Any ads that appeared on or after May 7 appear in the archive of political ads with content.
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