On Thursday morning former Obama White House staffer R. David Edelman woke up to discover he was part of an online hoax. Many Trump allies and supporters had somehow become convinced that he was the whistleblower, whose complaint is the heart of the Democrat’s impeachment inquiry.
His name and image were shared across social media as the whistleblower. Soon after the images were shared the death threats began.
“There were people threatening real physical harm, alluding to the fact that I will not live very long,” Edelman shared. “That was obviously upsetting for my family.”
Edelman is not the whistleblower.
He discovered his role in the social media hoax when a friend sent him a photo being shared on Twitter. His friend thought it was funny, but as Edelman would soon discover there was nothing funny about the situation.
Edelman sat down at his computer and searched “Obama whistleblower photo” on Twitter. He found photos of himself surrounded by circles and arrows had been shared thousands of times. The main image being shared was taken when he was a member of Obama’s White House staff. The image shows staff members reacting to Obama’s first speech after Hillary Clinton conceded the 2016 presidential election. Social media users had mislabeled the image as being Obama staffers reacting to Trump’s first White House visit. Edelman’s unhappy face was being used as “proof” that he was indeed the whistleblower and an anti-Trumper.
“It had my face circled, and it said something to the effect of, ‘Here is your alleged Ukraine whistleblower,’” Edelman said.
Had anyone done their homework a little research would have shown that Edelman could not be the whistleblower.
Edelman left the White House back in January of 2017 which means that he as more than two years removed from Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call to President Zelensky. He was not on staff, at the White House to hear staffers internal concerns about the phone call so he could not have had the Intelligence Community’s inspector general corroborate his account.
Despite the facts clearly proving that Edelman is not the whistleblower Trump’s allies, supporters, media personalities and Twitter users wrongly accused Edelman of being the whistleblower.
To add to the issue Edelman’s face was added to a viral video purporting to show the face and name of the whistleblower. The video quickly went viral on MAGA Twitter.
Edelman would not go into any great detail about the threats that he has received, but he has major concerns about his family’s safety.
“Yes, there were lots of people saying mean and threatening things,” Edelman said. “Yes, it is the internet.”
While Edelman worked to put the false claims to rest some of his friends pitched in and began to trace the first false reference to two accounts on Twitter and Reddit. Edelman believes that those accounts only played a small role in spreading false information.
“That account has so few followers, that it’s unlikely that is the actual origin,” Edelman said.
The image and hoax picked up real speed after it was shared by far right-wing celebrities. “Louis & Clark” actor Dean Cain played a key role in spreading false information.
Cain retweeted a picture that identified Edelman as the whistleblower on Wednesday. “Oh, snap!” Cain added.
Cain has since deleted the tweet.
“Dean Cain’s circulation of it was one of the distribution tipping points,” Edelman said.
Cain has since posted an apology that really didn’t feel like an apology for spreading misinformation. He would later share a GIF of Gordon Ramsey telling his critics to “piss off.”
Apparently I retweeted a photo of some scowling folks from the past administration, which misidentified someone as the “whistleblower.” Sorry for the misidentification.
— Dean Cain (@RealDeanCain) November 8, 2019
Edelman attempted to dispute the hoax by tweeting out posts denying that he was the whistleblower, but so many individuals were already convinced it was him that his posts only stirred the pot.
FAKE NEWS: the 'NERD' circled below is the whistleblower.
TRUE (just not news): the 'NERD' circled below is…this nerd. Me.
Left government in 2017. Sorry to disappoint, y'all. pic.twitter.com/LEGSpgrBGJ
— R. David Edelman (@R_D) November 7, 2019
“There was one person that responded with, ‘ok, boomer,’” Edelman said. “Never once have I ever been called a boomer.”
“This is just another entry into the long logbook of internet falsehoods that we are going to have to contend with, and even more so as we get into an election cycle,” Edelman said. “This is still out there, this is still metastasizing, There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who believe that this is the face of the whistleblower.”