Sheriff Scott Israel, of Parkland, Florida, has found himself at the center of a hoax perpetuated by the far right, POLITICO reported. Israel came into the national spotlight after the shooting, which left 17 people dead. Israel’s police department has been accused of ignoring the warning signs that the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was a threat.
The hoax centers around three videos from 2012. In the videos, a woman accuses Israel of impregnating her when she was 17 and then forcing her to get an abortion. In the wake of the shooting, the videos quickly made the rounds on far right social media sites, racking up more than 13,000 views. The videos were also shared by the conspiracy theory blog the Gateway Pundit.
But the videos are fake — they were made during a particularly bruising 2012 sheriff campaign, in which Israel defeated the Republican incumbent Al Lamberti. The woman, reached by POLITICO, said she had been paid $25 for each video through the freelancing site Fiverr, where she made thousands of video testimonials for all kinds of products. It’s not clear who paid the woman to make the videos.
“Oh my God,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous. “How do I get this off YouTube?”
Google, the parent company of YouTube, declined to take the videos down, despite the fact that they were completely false. Israel’s campaign staff tried and failed in 2012 and again in 2016 to have the videos removed.