A headline buzzing on social media falsely said one of President Donald Trump’s supporters was charged with attempting to murder U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the same day Trump targeted her on Twitter.
"A Trump fan was just charged with trying to murder Maxine Waters on same day Trump threatened her," said a June 26, 2018, headline from The Washington Press, an online news website.
Facebook flagged this story as part of its efforts to combat false news and misinformation on Facebook's News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
This story is false.
According to the inaccurate report, Trump’s attack on Waters was a "barely veiled threat" based on a misunderstanding of Waters’ comments about the public’s treatment of officials in the Trump administration. The tweet came in response to video footage that showed Waters, at a rally outside a federal office building in Los Angeles, encouraging Trump opponents to boo or harass Trump administrators in public spaces.
"Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an extraordinarily low IQ person, has become, together with Nancy Pelosi, the Face of the Democrat Party. She has just called for harm to supporters, of which there are many, of the Make America Great Again movement. Be careful what you wish for Max!," Trump wrote.
The false story said Trump’s tweet coincided with a California man’s guilty plea in relation to a murder threat delivered to Waters. The plea — entered by Anthony Scott Lloyd, 45, of San Pedro, California — proved that "the president’s hate-mongering towards Waters has real-life consequences," the story said.
The story erred in getting details and timing of real incidents wrong.
A man by the name of Anthony Scott Lloyd did, in fact, plead guilty to threatening a United States official. Lloyd phoned Waters’ office on Oct. 22, 2017, and left a voicemail riddled with derogatory language, including racial epithets and expletives. The message used the words "dead" and "kill" a total of four times, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.
"If you continue to make threats towards the president, you’re going to wind up dead, Maxine, ’cause we’ll kill you," Lloyd said, according to court documents. "If you do it again, you’re dead." (We obtained a digital copy of the plea agreement, which included a full transcript of the voicemail, from Thom Mrozek, spokesperson for the United States Attorney’s Office Central District of California.)
But Lloyd plead guilty on April 16, 2018, and Trump tweeted at Waters more than two months later on June 25, 2018. So it is not true that the two events occurred on the same day, as the false headline suggested.
The headline is likely not the result of confusion, either, because no reports related to Lloyd’s case were released on the day of Trump’s tweet. Lloyd’s sentencing date is set for July 16, 2018, and Mrozek said there have not been any new developments in the case since the guilty plea.
Plus, Lloyd only plead guilty to threatening Waters. He was not charged with "trying to murder" the congresswoman. Mrozek said prosecutors have not made any allegations related to an actual attempt at murder.
The Washington Press did not respond to a request for comment.
We rate this statement False.