To counterbalance the article I have been updating throughout the year, The Ultimate #MeToo List, I’ve spent some time reading and learning about cases of false allegations that resulted in a material loss for those accused. Recently, we’ve been hearing in the news the phenomenon of Weaponized #MeToo, which isn’t really new at all. It is simply a new label for an age-old political ploy. Most recently, it’s said to have been used against Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.
In March of 2017, a scandal broke in Los Angeles. There was a special election for the 34th congressional district and the leading candidate, Arturo Carmona was accused of misogyny by Masha Mendieta. He was a former Latino Outreach Strategist for the Bernie Sanders for President 2016 campaign and the district was ultimately won by an establishment Democrat, Jimmy Gomez. That being said, the story was primarily pushed by progressives and supporters of the Green Party candidate, Kenneth Mejia. The scandal mattered to me a lot because Carmona was the first candidate for which I had ever donated.
I read the allegations closely and watched the live stream interview of Mendieta with Nomiki Konst. What I found was that the claims appeared flimsy and that it was far more likely to be a hit piece. At best, he appeared to be accused of being a poor manager who was transferred to a different role. The most serious accusations were directed at an unnamed surrogate, not Carmona, and if true, the surrogate is apparently is still being protected.
The story broke six days before the election and was accompanied by an opaque Twitter account called Misogyny Now, which only focused on Carmona’s story. The account stopped tweeting shortly after the election and is no longer on Twitter.
At the time the story broke, I went toe-to-toe with Nomiki on Twitter over her salacious reporting. As a result of speaking my mind on the subject, I experienced extreme online harassment by her followers, those pushing the story, Mendieta, and Nomiki. However, I also received messages of encouragement and support from people who were afraid to speak out. Ultimately, I closed that Twitter account and started a new account.
One of the people who reached out to me during that time was a man by the name of Trevor Fitzgibbon. He was the former PR executive whose clients included the Julian Assange Legal Defense Fund, PR support for Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, the government of Venezuela, and Chelsea Manning, among other high profile clients.
When he was representing Manning, he would visit the Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, VA with Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake and one of Manning’s friends, David House, to document the inhumane conditions of where she was being held and lack of due process (Manning was forced to strip naked at night and held in quasi-solitary confinement). In 2014, after visiting Manning at Ft. Leavenworth Military Prison, he set up an official Twitter account for her, which was one of, if not the only time a whistleblower as high-profile as Manning was Tweeting. He also was starting to gain significant mainstream traction for Assange, placing him on Sunday shows such as “Meet the Press” and “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
In 2011, a document released by Anonymous exposed a step-by-step guide to combat the “WikiLeaks Threat,” written by the mega-firm and Intelligence Community contractor, Palantir. The blueprint showed that not only was Wikileaks a target of disinformation campaigns, but also its employees, consultants, and supportive journalists. Once the information was leaked to the public, the company apologized. However, as recently as January 2018, Palantir was said to be targeting Wikileaks in an investigative report written by Whitney Webb.
When Trevor and I first started chatting over private messenger, he proved his identity to me by sending a picture of his driver’s license. He was going through a much more intense smear campaign than Carmona, which resulted in the loss of his consulting firm, Fitzgibbon Media. Similarly, Assange was plagued for six years by false allegations of rape. The cases for both Trevor and Assange were ultimately dropped. Five months after Trevor was taken out, one of the only other Americans known to work with Wikileaks, Jacob Appelbaum was accused in a separate case using almost identical allegations and tactics, including being blacklisted.
Whether you believe Wikileaks is a bad actor, or a Russian tool, or a defender of truth that exposes corruption is not up for debate in this article. Every company has employees and / or consultants / contractors. Working with or for an organization or company does not mean you have access to information at the top of the organization. This article focuses purely on the smear campaign waged against Trevor, which was more than likely because of his client list.
Last month, I had the unique opportunity to stay with Trevor and a friend of his while I was travelling with Undercovered Magazine Editor and Contributor, Don Ford. Don was in the middle of a ten-week road trip visiting activists, organizers, and candidates throughout the country to build relationships, strengthen the progressive movement, learn about local issues, and share strategy. I joined him for two weeks of the trip and we were able to make this stop.
When we arrived at the location where we would spend the night with Trevor and his friend, we were greeted in the driveway by the two eager souls who were happy to have the company. It was the first time I met Trevor in person. He was clearly apprehensive after two years of the incessant campaign against him and was reluctant to greet me with a hug. But he immediately grabbed my luggage and helped me get settled inside.
The mood was excited and happy for the four of us as we conversed through the evening, with undertones of stress and anxiety for Trevor as he has long struggled to move forward with his life. We learned more about the accusations against him. There were three accusers with varying levels of complaints, represented by Gloria Allred. Everything from a woman who met him for consensual sex and then claimed she was raped, to another woman who asserted he hugged her without permission, to another who claimed he groped her bottom.
When the allegations were made, Trevor was investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for more than a year – all of which he was constantly smeared in the press and online by a cyber army, which included bots. At this time, while under investigation, he was unable to defend himself in the press. However, after more than a year, the U.S. Attorney closed the investigation and cleared Trevor of the complaints.
One of the accusers claimed that Trevor repeatedly called her during a holiday office party. His name kept appearing on her phone, however phone records show that Trevor did not call her. She most likely had someone else repeatedly call and she must have programmed the number into her phone under Trevor’s name. Which means this wasn’t a singular person waging an accusation, it appeared to truly be a conspiracy.
There were several firms who benefitted from the destruction of Fitzgibbon Media, who received Trevor’s client lists and assets, some with direct connections to David Brock. Among the recipients, was Brad Bauman who had a newly formed firm, the Pastorum Group, which received some of Trevor’s clients. The name may sound familiar to you, as Bauman was later hired to represent the family of Seth Rich in a PR capacity. It’s a small world after all. Incredibly, Bauman credited the demise of Fitzgibbon Media in the press release announcing his own firm.
Don and I stayed up late talking about what we had learned. It was a mind-blowing experience that went by so quickly. We slept with one eye open knowing that any number of foes could be surveilling Trevor to stage their next move. Before we left the next morning, we spoke with Trevor about ways he could rebuild his life and have the opportunity to recover. As we parted, there were hugs all around this time.
Over the last year and a half, Trevor and I have remained in touch over the phone and over social media. He’s shared with me various public news items relating to his situation and we’ve shared the general chatter of friends, such as concerts we’ve seen, bands we like, people we’ve met, etc. He was also a supportive friend when I came forward with the abuse I endured while volunteering for a local organizer. He’s shared with me the challenges he faced in trying to rebuild his life, the struggle of just getting enough money to visit his wife and children, and the shame of not being able to support them.
Trevor was blacklisted by 72 national organizations after the charges were dropped. He hasn’t been able to find gainful employment and has been struggling just to live. Though he has a stellar resume, the smear campaign against him was fierce and had a lasting impact on his life and the lives of his family.
For those of you who would like more details, all of the documents relating to Trevor’s malicious prosecution and defamation case against his accuser are publicly available online.
If there’s anything we should learn from the power of the #MeToo movement, it’s that if the allegations are false, we must let the accused move forward with life. Trevor is supportive of the #MeToo movement and wants to make sure that we still #BelieveSurvivors. He has spent significant time reading women’s blogs and trying to learn and understand more about how difficult it is for women. But this wasn’t a #MeToo moment. False allegations have been weaponized for years by operatives to take out opponents. From the FBI’s attempts to smear Martin Luther King to the intelligence community’s COINTELPRO tactics used to destroy the Black Panthers, false allegations and ritual smear campaigns are a tried and true tactic that destroys lives.
It’s truly unacceptable and diabolical to ruin a person without cause. All three allegations against Trevor were dropped, the U.S. attorney closed the investigation, he was cleared.
Let’s stop feeding the beast and call out the injustices happening for political gain. What happened to Carmona, Assange, Appelbaum, and Fitzgibbon hurts the #MeToo movement as a whole. It places doubt on all victims. But it doesn’t have to. Analyze these stories with an eager eye. Look for the details and don’t let a tool meant to empower survivors be allowed to make survivors of its own.
It’s up to us to evaluate news stories with all aspects considered.
We must be smarter consumers of news.