A group of Democratic political operatives and journalists circulated a fake email on Twitter on Sunday that the Iowa Farm Bureau retracted its endorsement of Sen. Joni Ernst, a move which would have been a heavy blow to the Republican’s re-election bid.
The fabricated email asserted that the farm bureau was retracting its support for Ernst because of her debate performance earlier this week against challenger Theresa Greenfield.
The document posted online listed the recipient email address as “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Matt Whitlock, a senior adviser for the National Republicans Senatorial Committee, documented several Democrats and journalists who fell for the fake email.
Rachel Irwin, the communications director for the Senate Majority PAC, a group aligned with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, linked to another tweet of the email, adding the commentary: “Wow.”
Irwin said she deleted her tweet after learning it was false.
David Axelrod, the former Obama strategist, retweeted a copy of the email. Journalist Jeff Greenfield posted the email and said it was as consequential as the AFL-CIO labor union pulling an endorsement from a Democrat. Huffington Post’s S.V. Date and Vox’s Matt Yglesias also circulated the email.
They deleted their tweets after the Farm Bureau issued its statement saying the email was fake.
“Recently, a fake email has been circulating through social media that Senator Ernst no longer has the support of Iowa Farm Bureau or our members,” the bureau said in a statement.
“This email is fake, and any news reports that speak to its validity are false.”
“She continues to have our full support.”
Ernst trails Greenfield in most polls by several points, according to the website FiveThirtyEight.
It is unclear where the email came from. The earliest reference to it is from a Twitter user with the handle “@DevonMLewis.”
The user, whose profile says they are a retiree from Iowa, posted a copy of the email Saturday night. The same account, which has around 100 followers, published a tweet on Friday night saying that “rumor has it” that the bureau had retracted its endorsement.
An account with the handle “@writersiowa” circulated the email to its 2,300 followers on Saturday. It began to gain traction on Sunday until the farm bureau issued its statement.
The Devon M. Lewis account claimed on Sunday to have received the email from a friend with the Farm Bureau.
“A Farm Bureau member friend of mine received this email update and forwarded it to me. I have given a media source the entire email unredacted,” they wrote.
The account has numerous endorsements for Joe Biden and Greenfield, the Democrat running against Ernst.