President Donald Trump and his supporters are still desperately trying to come up with some kind of substantive response to the Ukraine scandal revealed by a whistleblower complaint — and they’re failing. As this week drew to a close, it’s come out that pro-Trump fringe internet users had identified the wrong person as that still officially anonymous whistleblower and promptly begun sending them death threats. Their theory that this person — former Obama staffer R. David Edelman — was the whistleblower never even had a shred of logical foundation to start with. Edelman left the White House with Obama, years before the whistleblower complaint.
‘There were people threatening real physical harm, alluding to the fact that I will not live very long. That was obviously upsetting for my family… 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.’
On Twitter, Edelman shares that he discovered posts with images of him and captions asserting he’s the whistleblower that had tens of thousands of retweets and counting, including prominent figures like actor turned conservative commentator Dean Cain, who eventually deleted his own retweet and put up a post mocking those who were outraged that he’d spread a lie.
In a pair of posts including a GIF of reality television star Chef Gordon Ramsay telling someone to “piss off,” Cain wrote:
‘Apparently I retweeted a photo of some scowling folks from the past administration, which misidentified someone as the “whistleblower.” Sorry for the misidentification… Here’s to all the self-righteous virtue-signal warriors out there!’
The damage was already done. Even the asserted context of a main image of Edelman that was circulating was wrong. Captions claimed that it showed Obama-era White House staffers reacting to then-President-elect Donald Trump’s first visit to the White House, but actually, it showed them listening into the speech then-President Barack Obama gave after Hillary Clinton conceded the 2016 election.
Edelman wrote on Twitter alongside one of the circulating posts:
‘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. This photo was on the cover of @washingtonpost, people. Seriously, even conspiracy theories deserve a quick google fact check.’
This photo was on the cover of @washingtonpost, people. Seriously, even conspiracy theories deserve a quick google fact check.
— R. David Edelman (@R_D) November 7, 2019
These days, Edelman leads MIT’s Project on Technology, Economy & National Security.
Republicans have been trying to formally out the actual whistleblower already. Just this weekend, a letter emerged from the House Intelligence Committee’s top Republican Devin Nunes (Calif.) in which he insists that his party gets to call the actual whistleblower for a public hearing as House Dems’ impeachment inquiry proceeds. Not only that — Nunes even wants to have any and all of their sources for public testimony as well. That comes after Trump suggested the whistleblower complaint should be treated as espionage and/or treason and fondly referenced a supposed past precedent of executing spies.