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A two-year-old viral photo with a disturbing sign about First Lady Melania Trump re-emerged on Facebook on Oct. 8, 2018, garnering more than 11,000 reactions and 8,000 shares. The photo caption said the sign-holder was part of the one-year-old #MeToo movement.
That’s not true.
The person holding the sign was planted to discredit protesters of President Donald Trump following the 2016 election, according to numerous news reports. Jack Posobiec, who is credited with planting the sign, also heavily promoted the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory and helped organize the DeploraBall, an informal inauguration party marked by clashes between Trump’s supporters and protesters.
The photo was posted more recently by Joshua Feuerstein, a former pastor who uses social media to promote his vision of evangelical Christianity. Feuerstein notably made headlines in 2015 for his viral video attacking Starbucks over its holiday cups.
The reposted 2016 photo shows someone in a crowd of people holding a sign that says "Rape Melania."
"This is the tolerant left #MeToo movement ... suggesting a sexual assault against the First Lady!!! Wow!!" the accompanying post read.
This story was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
That photo has made waves on the internet before, originally posted a week after the 2016 election on Twitter by Alan Beck, a Trump supporter whose account has since been suspended.
"DC Trump Protestor (sic) ‘Rape Melania,’" the original tweet said.
People debated the legitimacy of the image and whether it was Photoshopped, but photos of the sign exist from different angles, taken by different people, confirming it was there.
Response and reactions from Twitter users caused "#RapeMelania" to trend on Twitter, which prompted criticism against the social media platform for allowing such a hashtag to trend.
That was all nearly a year before #MeToo took off in October 2017, reigniting a decade-old movement launched by activist Tarana Burk.
We rate this claim Pants on Fire.
Joshua Feuerstein, Facebook post, Oct. 7, 2018
@thereal_beck, tweet, Nov. 16, 2016
The Washington Post, "How one deplorable sign at an anti-Trump protest foreshadows the fight over fake news," Nov. 15, 2016
The Washington Post, "‘Rape Melania’ sign at anti-Trump protest draws strong rebuke, sparking Twitter trend," Nov. 13, 2016
Snopes, "‘Rape Melania’ Sign at Anti-Trump Protest," Nov. 15, 2016
Buzzfeed, "Inside The Alt-Right’s Campaign To Smear Trump Protesters As Anarchists," Jan. 11, 2017
Business Insider, "Trump retweets alt-right conspiracy theorist amid Charlottesville fallout," Aug. 15, 2017
The Atlantic, "The 'Macron Leaks' Rebel in the Briefing Room," May 10, 2017
The Cincinnati Enquirer, "Josh Mandel backs 'pizzagate' promoter, dings anti-hate group," July 23, 2018
PolitiFact, "Evangelical activist focuses on lack of Christmas on new Starbucks cups," Nov. 11, 2015
The Guardian, "Trump's erratic early morning Twitter retweets include one calling him fascist," Aug. 15, 2017
The Washington Post, "Pizzagate: From rumor, to hashtag, to gunfire in D.C.," Dec. 6, 2016
The Washington Post, "Clarendon Ballroom gets harassing calls after declining to host Trump backers’ ‘DeploraBall,’" Dec. 15, 2016
The New Yorker, "From aggressive overtures to sexual assault: Harvey Weinstein’s accusers tell their stories," Oct. 10, 2017
The New Yorker, "One year of #MeToo," Oct. 10, 2018
The New York Times, "Harvey Weinstein paid off sexual harassment accusers for decades," Oct. 5, 2017
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