The Schumer sexual harassment screw-up, and how not to avoid jail

They’re at it again.

White supremacist cheerleaders Charles C. Johnson and Mike Cernovich can’t help but exemplify failure in every sense of the word. (And because anyone who’s encountered him should know Cernovich loves hate-reading any mention of his name that shows up in a Google Alert, I’ll clarify: yes, his wife isn’t white; no, that doesn’t negate his enthusiastic support for white supremacists in the United States and abroad.)

On this week’s episode of Cautionary Tales: How Not to Avoid Jail, Cernovich and Johnson take part in threats to reveal damaging information against a sitting U.S. Senator. The information to be unveiled concerns a court case involving sexual harassment charges—which, objectively, is in the public interest to be made visible. Where the toenail fungi named above made a mistake is the beginning of our tale.

December 11th, 2017; this is the date when Charles C. Johnson—a man who has filed three unsuccessful lawsuits against Gawker Media, at least one regarding allegations he defecated on a floor in college—began publicly discussing information he believed would “end the career of a U.S. Senator.”

The damaging information? Documents concerning a settlement over sexual harassment involving a Democratic senator. 

Around the same time, Mike Cernovich—best known for telling his followers to rape women—took to Twitter with claims he possessed the same information. 

One reply to the tweet above, sent ten minutes later, includes a screenshot showing Cernovich had tweeted that he was working with Johnson, but quickly removed it. Currently, the screenshot can’t be independently verified. 

Cernovich deleting information which casts him in a bad light isn’t out of the ordinary, however; sometime during the following morning, he directly threatened Senator Kirsten Gillbrand, D-NY, that he was “in possession of a sexual harassment complained filed against one of” her colleagues, and questioned if she would read it. 

Performing a search on Twitter for any tweets from @Cernovich containing Kirsten’s handle @SenGillibrand will return a single result insinuating she is somehow involved with Harvey Weinstein. The threatening tweet above? Nowhere to be found. Except, that is, for Charles C. Johnson’s public Facebook page.

At some point, though, it seems Johnson deleted this post; whether that is due to a request from Cernovich or a standard case of covering their mutual derrieres is unknown. What we do know is some enterprising archiver had the foresight to recognize this threat could come back to bite those derrieres with a vengeance, and saved the tweet where the internet will never forget.

After Cernovich’s threat started getting some attention on social media, he upped the ante by bragging about being—in his mind—the sole source people come to for speaking truth to power. Again, he deleted the tweet, but again, we’ve got the receipts.

Why all the deletions? Possibly because police are now involved.

Axios broke the news on the evening of December 12th that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, had contacted Capitol Police due to forged documents being sent to journalists. Various newspapers had received court documents regarding sexual harassment charges against Schumer, supposedly indicating he had paid money to keep his accuser quiet. What tipped the newsrooms off to the forgery were a series of errors by the fabricators:

  • The documents didn’t list a lawyer for the supposed accuser
  • Charges referred to “House Rule 23” despite Schumer being part of the Senate
  • When the accuser listed in the documents was contacted, she stated her signature was forged, details about her were incorrect, and she had never been involved in any complaints against Schumer
  • Several locations and dates listed didn’t match up with publicly verifiable information regarding Schumer’s whereabouts at the time
  • A large part of the document seemed to be copied verbatim from previously released court documents involving Representative John Conyers, D-Mich.

(Important note: While Cernovich previously offered $10,000 for similar documents he later turned over to BuzzFeed, the ones used for the forgery were publicly available and unrelated to this transfer.)

After the story from Axios was published, Johnson took to Facebook and declared he was a victim targeted by the forger, then offered $10,000 for their identity. 

As for Cernovich, he authored a post on Medium, in response to a Daily Beast article mocking the pair’s latest exercise in being terrible at everything. His main contention concerned the Daily Beast’s assertion he had backtracked after the Axios report, and he cited a livestream he had held on Periscope at least an hour prior to when Axios had published, where he stated uncertainty regarding the authenticity of the document (but maintained interest in an investigation of Schumer). 

Which, ultimately, is true: the timestamp for his stream is 12:04am GMT, which translates to 4:04pm Pacific—the timezone in which Cernovich lives; Axios’ report, while lacking an exact timestamp, was released between 6 and 8pm Pacific the same day. By sheer luck, Cernovich had managed to question the same document he’d spent almost 24 hours parading to the public, just before most people became aware of police involvement.

But there are some dots still waiting to be drawn, and neither of the imploding manure spreaders are off the hook. 

Who tipped Cernovich off to the forgery? If we take him at his word, Cernovich began questioning it when he compared it to the public court documents BuzzFeed had released about Conyers. Yet, according to his since-deleted tweets, he was certain he was holding gold just a few hours prior to his Periscope stream; after all, his threats to Gillibrand happened in the late morning hours of December 12th, and his bragging of being a sole source for damaging information came even later. Johnson himself didn’t publicly admit the documents were false until the following day—the same as Cernovich’s Medium post. 

It’s entirely possible the two realized their error independently of an outside source. But if so, it only serves to emphasize their lack of incredulity in service of being largely toothless political attack dogs. At the very least, Cernovich—having supposedly been a successful lawyer—should’ve noticed at least one of the massively glaring errors contained in the documents he’d claimed to have been looking through for around 24 hours. His assessment of the documents gave him enough steam to publicly threaten a sitting U.S. Senator, yet it took him at least two more hours to realize something didn’t add up?

Equally confusing, neither child of unbridled disappointment mentioned comparing the documents to the ones about Conyers, instead making statements that their uncertainty was due to a source going silent. In comments given to Snopes, Cernovich claims the source who provided him with the information gave a false identity which led him to believe the documents were authentic. 

A second Medium post from Cernovich has screenshots allegedly containing text message and email conversations with the source. These screenshots can’t be independently verified by myself, nor (realistically) by anyone but police: text messages are easy to fake through online services or simply texting your own number, and green bubbles in iOS Messages are easily obtained by simply disabling iMessage in Settings; dates and content of emails can be altered for a screenshot with a simple image editor or using Inspect Element in any browser; the emails themselves could be fraudulently created by either party. 

Let’s say we take Cernovich at his word, though: why did his first indication that something wasn’t up to snuff come from a source going dark or freaking out? 

The messages which drew Cernovich into the story include the claim that the source had met a coworker’s husband and forged a friendship so quickly that the husband provided them his laptop with a request to destroy all the information it stored. Then, the source tells Cernovich the laptop contained “a lot of gay porn,” which intrigued the source to the point they used software to recover recently deleted documents. One of these documents, the source says, contains Chuck Schumer’s name, and is apparently the forged court documents Cernovich and Johnson helped spread. The source gets drunk with the husband, mentions Schumer, and the husband informs the source that his wife would be suing Schumer for sexual harassment.

In his screenshots, Cernovich cuts off part of the conversation where the supposed source explains why the court documents had been deleted. The remainder of the conversation, the source explains he is sending these documents to Cernovich because he’s the only trustworthy journalist not on the “democrat’s payroll.” 

Re-read the source’s story, and then ask yourself at which point you would’ve realized this is an obvious lie. Was it the over-explanation of everything? The inclusion of “a lot of gay porn” to a story which has nothing to do with it? A person being entrusted with the laptop of someone they’ve only just met, who is the husband of their coworker, and discovering a deleted court document involving a sexual harassment suit against one of the most well-known politicians in the United States? 

Again, we are assuming Cernovich isn’t fabricating any of these screenshots. If that’s the case, how could anyone trust anything this man says ever again? A lawyer, who heard this story, read documents with giant red flags all over, and had no reason to mention the ordeal to anyone but police, decided the best option available to him was making pointed threats to a sitting senator about dirt he confidently felt would destroy another sitting senator.

The screenshots of emails are more fodder for semi-serious comments regarding the potential damage Cernovich has caused to himself through his use and abuse of shady male supplements over the years. At around the same time Cernovich was threatening Gillibrand and bragging himself up, he supposedly received an email from the source, expressing frustration over their telephone number being given to the Washington Post by someone. Another email has Johnson threatening to turn the source over to the FBI if they don’t contact him, in response to the source being upset about their identity getting potentially compromised. 

Both of these emails, Cernovich says, “The email threw in some memes from the alt-right and alt-left. The source was way too versed in these subject matters to be a respected professional at a prestigious job.” Beyond the hilarious self-own of Cernovich explaining memes before stating no respectable person would know about these memes, there’s no satisfactory reason this instance of nonsense should’ve been the tipping point rather than any of the prior contacts with this alleged source. 

All of the emails are, of course, convenient for Cernovich; the time-stamp of the final screenshot would place his source going dark and raising suspicion exactly 17 minutes before he donned a suit, set up his lighting, and started his Periscope stream. And, for all we know, Lyin’ Mike might just be telling the embarrassing truth that he got duped for almost 24 hours by someone who put in a maximum of five minutes’ work to forge court documents. 

(A smaller dot covers Cernovich providing the document to Snopes, who stated it was password-protected. If he received the PDF from the source with password protection already enabled, did he think to question where the password came from? Was it added by the source? If not, how did the source obtain the password for a deleted document obtained via the computer of a coworker’s husband who didn’t know this person had snooped through their deleted files without telling them?)

There’s one final dot to lay out: the sending of the documents.

Axios’ report, and various tweets from reporters at other news outlets, confirms multiple news outlets received the forgeries. These outlets include BuzzFeed, The New Yorker, CNN, Washington Post, and more. Cernovich has so far claimed he didn’t spread the documents at all, but Johnson? Remember, his Facebook post the day after Axios broke the news stated he had forwarded the documents to journalists, lawyers, and members of congress. The timeframe he gives is after the source went dark, yes?

But Cernovich’s screenshot where the source confronts them about being contacted by Washington Post happened almost two hours before Johnson issues an ultimatum to call him immediately—and contains partial text of a previous reply from the source, different from the first email. In this timeline, the source was actively in contact with both men until at least 17 minutes before Cernovich took to Periscope.

So was this mysterious source the one who sent the forgeries to other journalists? Or did Johnson go on an emailing spree at the same time Cernovich was bragging on Twitter that he was the only person people trusted when they leak damaging information to journalists?

The former would rightly give the pair of overly giddy codswallop salesmen an out to say they were merely victims in the same way as BuzzFeed, while the latter means either reputable journalists were already investigating the source of the forgeries before receiving an email from Johnson containing an exact copy, or Johnson was the sole leaker of the forgeries to all of these other news organizations just hours before Capitol Police became involved.

And, well, the latter also means Johnson and Cernovich are both idiots.

With hope and due diligence, I’m sure the Capitol Police will unravel the mysteries left in the wake of this catastrophic failboat captained by an alleged floor pooper and his rape-condoning first mate. Whether these two are found to be easily duped or guilty of something far larger, we can draw three solid conclusions in the end. 

Firstly, the two men who have spent years building a name by accusing all other news outlets of being untrustworthy fakes ended up relying on those same outlets to do in seemingly a couple hours the basic investigation and verification processes neither man could accomplish in almost twenty-four. As I’ve reported previously, “fake news” criers would be nothing without having a robust, steady mainstream media from whom they can steal scoops to claim their own, and rely on to fix their failures.

Secondly, both men are a complete and total masterclass in idiocy, who’ve only stumbled into name recognition through sheer luck. Cernovich’s only solid breaks—a total of two stories in three years of being a “media mogul”—have come from being a useful tool who believes himself the carpenter, seemingly receiving selective leaks from the Trump administration because he’s nothing if not an obedient bootlicker. When it comes to Johnson, his only success has been in destroying his public perception so thoroughly, people can’t help but want to watch which rake he’ll step on next. 

Finally, and most importantly, these two are the antithesis to journalism. Do you know what nonsense Johnson was breaking just before his potentially illegal participation in the Schumer screw-up? A claim that Senator Cory Booker, D-NJ, had admitted to sexually assaulting a woman. What was his source? A 1992 column Booker wrote for his college paper, in which he described making out with a drunk friend on New Year’s Eve when he was 15, and how young men are taught harmful expectations about sex. To create this career-destroying piece of breaking news, Johnson (or his staff, as the article is unattributed) had to rearrange the events Booker described, and then…nothing. That’s it. That’s all the article is

As for Cernovich, his website is so overflowing with integrity, a search for his name brings up groundbreaking articles in which his staff praises him for using Twitter.

We surely haven’t heard the last from these two, but we can at least be confident they’ll fail their way to either jail or obscurity sometime soon.

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