Fact check: Democratic group makes multiple false claims in its dramatic allegations about Lauren Boebert's past
By Daniel Dale, CNN
(CNN) -- A Democratic super PAC has made multiple false claims about Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert while pushing unproven allegations that the right-wing Colorado congresswoman has had abortions and formerly worked as an escort, all of which Boebert vehemently denies.
American Muckrakers PAC co-founder David Wheeler acknowledged to CNN that the super PAC had been "sloppy" and had published "inaccuracies" on its anti-Boebert website, though he said it remains confident in the "main points of the story." His comments came after CNN reporting found that the super PAC had made at least five false statements about Boebert, along with a series of uncorroborated assertions that Boebert says are false and that CNN could neither immediately confirm nor immediately debunk.
In emails this week and in a Thursday interview, Wheeler conceded that the super PAC was wrong when it insisted a photo of another woman posing on a bed is a photo of Boebert, was wrong when it claimed Boebert initially failed to disclose a campaign contribution from Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, was wrong to suggest Cruz had made big contributions to Boebert's campaign immediately after she started running in her first primary, was wrong about the date of a Boebert vehicle accident, and was wrong when it published a claim that Boebert had an abortion "in the fall of 2004" -- at most six months before she gave birth to a son in March 2005.
Wheeler, a former North Carolina state Senate candidate, said in the interview that the super PAC realizes "we need to be better" in vetting details prior to publishing them, since some sources may have "foggy" memories, and that it would be willing to apologize to Boebert for the "inaccuracies" it has published to date. He said, though, that the super PAC stands by "the major thrust of the information" that went viral on Twitter last week.
The "major thrust" Wheeler defended includes the super PAC's allegation that Boebert had met escort clients through her profile on a "sugar daddy" website -- though the site told CNN it has no record of Boebert ever using it. Wheeler also defended the allegation that the anti-abortion congresswoman has had two abortions. The super PAC cited a list of three anonymous "Jane Doe" sources, whose names it has not published, as the basis for these claims.
Boebert spokesman Ben Stout told CNN that Boebert has never had a profile on a "sugar daddy" website, never been an escort, never had an abortion, and that other claims from the super PAC are also false. Boebert, who is running in a Republican primary that ends on Tuesday, has called the allegations "completely baseless and disgusting," the Washington Examiner reported last week.
"Wheeler's baseless and slanderous claims have been proven wrong time and again with facts and evidence," Stout said in a statement to CNN on Thursday. "Congresswoman Boebert has instructed her legal counsel to pursue all legal remedies to stop this outrageous behavior."
The super PAC's allegations, which prompted a lawyer for Boebert to issue a letter to Wheeler vowing to file defamation claims, are especially tricky to investigate because the super PAC has not released the corroborating evidence Wheeler says its anonymous sources have.
Wheeler said the super PAC is "ready and willing" to defend its main claims in a legal fight, though he also said it is "not interested in a lawsuit" and does not believe its errors have been defamatory. The super PAC says all of its anonymous sources have expressed a willingness to come forward to be deposed and testify in court if Boebert does pursue legal action.
The super PAC, which was also co-founded by retired Air Force colonel and former congressional candidate Moe Davis of North Carolina, made a name for itself earlier this year by revealing unflattering information about another right-wing House member, North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who had defeated Davis in the 2020 election.
While the super PAC's case against Cawthorn was bolstered by videos and other evidence, the super PAC has so far not released evidence that would substantiate its claims about Boebert's personal and medical past. And the Boebert material the super PAC has released to date, citing those anonymous sources, has proven far from unassailable.
Here are some inaccuracies CNN has found.
A photo of a woman who isn't Boebert
A photo the super PAC insisted is of Boebert posing on a bed in a tight dress is actually a photo of another woman. That woman, who had posted the photo years ago on her profile on a modeling website, confirmed to CNN this week that it is her in the shot.
After Wheeler argued in an email to CNN on Wednesday that this woman might have been "lying" when she said it is her -- Wheeler wrote that he had confirmed "8 times" with an "absolutely confident" source that the photo is of Boebert -- Wheeler then conceded in an interview on Thursday that the photo is not of Boebert.
"I will concede that. I think somehow our source mixed that up with something else. I don't know how she mixed it up," Wheeler said.
The super PAC had published the photo last week as part of a transcript of a text message conversation in which the source, "Jane Doe 3," claimed it is a photo from Boebert's page on the "sugar daddy" website. The super PAC took the photo off its own website last week after The Daily Beast and others said it isn't a photo of Boebert -- but, until Wheeler's Thursday concession, the super PAC had continued arguing to CNN that it is a photo of Boebert.
Wheeler's claim that the woman in the photo might be "lying" prompted the woman to show CNN additional evidence proving it is indeed her, including an old hard copy of that photo and a second photo of herself in the same distinctive dress.
An error in the abortion allegations
A document the super PAC published on its website on Monday said another anonymous source, "Jane Doe 1," said she had driven Boebert to and from a clinic where Boebert had an abortion "in the fall of 2004." But this supposed timeline was confusing at best: Boebert's office pointed out to CNN that Boebert delivered her son Tyler on March 21, 2005.
When CNN then brought Tyler's date of birth to Wheeler's attention, Wheeler claimed in an email that there had been a "typo by our social media guy" and had the document quickly changed to say the abortion happened "in the fall of 2005."
The "in the fall of 2004" claim, however, had been made in a document on the super PAC's website -- in a section the super PAC claimed had been "reviewed" by its source prior to publication.
That is not the only date-related factual problem the super PAC has had. Wheeler also acknowledged that a vehicle crash it initially claimed Boebert had in 2020 actually occurred in 2019. (He said the super PAC stands by the rest of its account of the incident; Boebert denies that account.) And when CNN asked Wheeler on Thursday what he makes of the fact that Boebert gave birth to another son in 2009, the same year the super PAC claims she had another abortion, Wheeler said what he thinks is this: "That maybe our source had the date wrong."
He said the "underlying fact" of Boebert having had abortions is nonetheless accurate. Again, Boebert says she has not had any abortions.
Cruz's big contributions weren't made during Boebert's primary
The super PAC claimed on its website last week that Boebert was introduced to Cruz by a wealthy and politically connected escort client before she began her run for Congress in 2019 -- and the super PAC then claimed, "When Boebert announced her campaign for Congress in December 2019, Senator Cruz donated at least $136,250.00 to the Boebert Campaign."
Boebert spokesman Stout said Boebert has never had an escort client and that she never spoke to Cruz or met Cruz until after she won the 2020 primary. Cruz's office declined to comment for this article.
Regardless of when Cruz and Boebert first spoke or met, the super PAC's claim about the timing of the donation was misleading at best. Cruz's 20 for 20 Victory Fund, which backed more than 20 Republican House candidates in 2020, made its contributions to Boebert's campaign in September 2020, more than two months after she won the Republican nomination in a district where the Democratic candidate was competitive. The super PAC's wording -- "When Boebert announced her campaign for Congress in December 2019" -- at least left open the impression that Cruz's donation had come when she was an obscure candidate in a party primary.
Wheeler said in the Thursday interview: "I agree that that was not an accurate way to put it. It should've said 'subsequently' or 'in September' or 'the summer of 2020' instead of -- yes, it does sound like it was immediate, but it wasn't until, as you pointed out, 'til the fall of 2020."
Boebert did not fail to report Cruz's contribution
Though the super PAC claimed on its website last week that Boebert had initially failed to report a $70,500 campaign contribution from Cruz, her campaign had, in fact, promptly reported this September 12, 2020 contribution from the Cruz fund. The Boebert campaign listed the contribution in its quarterly finance report in October 2020, the month after the contribution was made.
The Federal Election Commission did send the Boebert campaign a November 2020 letter noting that the campaign had not disclosed, on another form, that the Cruz fund was a "joint fundraising" partner of the Boebert campaign; the Boebert campaign then added that piece of information to the other form. But even the FEC letter noted that the Boebert campaign had already disclosed the contributions it had received from the Cruz fund.
When CNN explained these facts to Wheeler on Thursday, he admitted that the super PAC's claim that Boebert had initially failed to report the Cruz contribution was not true. "I'll concede that point as well," he said.
He said that what the super PAC, "very haphazardly or sloppily," was "trying to intimate was that it's very odd for a freshman, or for a first-time candidate in a congressional election, to get $136,000 from a sitting member, or sitting senator."
But Boebert wasn't a unique case. The Cruz fund also gave more than $136,000, the very same month, to first-time congressional candidate Burgess Owens of Utah, plus more than $132,000 that month to first-timer Troy Nehls of Texas and more than $117,000 that month to first-timer Wesley Hunt of Texas, public filings show.
'Sugar daddy' site says it has no record of Boebert
A representative of the "sugar daddy" website on which the super PAC claims Boebert had a profile, SugarDaddyMeet.com, supported Boebert's claim that she had never used the site -- saying in an email to CNN that a search of its internal records found "no record of Congresswoman Boebert using this website."
That statement is not case-closed evidence that Boebert was never on that site or some other such site. (The representative of the site, which connects "successful" men with "young and aspiring" women, would identify themselves only as "Alice" and would not respond to follow-up questions.) But the super PAC has so far released no evidence to contradict the statement.
Wheeler said the evidence does exist. He said "Jane Doe 3" possesses images of Boebert's old SugarDaddyMeet profile and that he has seen these images -- but that he does not possess them himself and so could not provide them to CNN.
Wheeler also acknowledged that Jane Doe 3 is the same source who made the error in identifying the photo of the woman on the bed as Boebert.
CNN asked Wheeler if there is absolutely no doubt that the woman pictured in the purported SugarDaddyMeet page is Boebert. Wheeler paused for five seconds and said, "Well, it's a picture that I've seen before, but I didn't verify that that was her picture." Wheeler said he relied on the veracity of his sources, whom he said had also seen Boebert's SugarDaddyMeet profile in years past.
Boebert spokesman Stout told CNN repeatedly that Boebert has never had a profile on the site.
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