Fact check: Letter on riots from Nancy Pelosi to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is fake

Devon Link, USA TODAY

The claim: Speaker Pelosi sent Portland Mayor Wheeler a letter urging him to follow the 'Democratic Play book' and blame Trump for riots

A fake letter circulating on social media purports to show House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urging Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler to “stick to the proven Democratic Play book” when responding to protests.

The letter urges Wheeler to follow several steps, including denying there is a problem, showing support on camera for anyone breaking the law, blaming President Donald Trump if order cannot be restored and condemning the president.

The letter, complete with Wheeler’s official mailing address and Pelosi’s signature and seal, concludes, “We CANNOT give TRUMP any victory before the election!”

The letter is dated Aug. 27, the day Pelosi controversially advised then-presidential candidate Joe Biden not to debate Trump during the 2020 presidential campaign.

A protester screams at police during a standoff at a precinct in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 15, 2020.
A protester screams at police during a standoff at a precinct in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 15, 2020.

“Georgia Attorney Lin Wood also has this document posted,” Trump Train News Media told its followers Sunday in a Facebook post, which it later removed. “Read document carefully and notice who it's from.”

Some of the conservative media group’s followers expressed belief that the document was authentic; others questioned whether it was altered.

Fact check: Claims of electoral fraud in Rome, dubbed 'ItalyGate,' are baseless

Close inspection reveals choppy discoloring in parts of the document, which indicate the letter’s body, Pelosi’s seal and her signature seem to have been edited together.

When USA TODAY contacted Trump Train News Media for comment, the page did not respond and deleted the post.

The letter is still visible in a Reddit thread called r/ParlerWatch.

Facebook user Joseph J Wilson Jr posted the letter's text Sunday.

"The letter was sent to me via a message," Wilson told USA TODAY. "I examined it closely before posting it and it does not appear to have been altered and I found no evidence it was from a Pelosi laptop or sent in an email attachment."

Pelosi and Wheeler’s offices confirm letter is fabricated

Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, told USA TODAY via email that the letter is fake.

Timothy Becker, a spokesperson for Wheeler’s office, confirmed in an email to USA TODAY that the mayor never received the letter.

Protesters march past a mural of George Floyd's last words on their way to the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 20, 2020, in Portland, Ore. George Floyd died in Minneapolis in police custody.
Protesters march past a mural of George Floyd's last words on their way to the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 20, 2020, in Portland, Ore. George Floyd died in Minneapolis in police custody.

Portland has been center of political conflict for Trump

This fabricated letter comes after months of fervent protest in Portland, which many conservatives blame on radical liberal actors. Portland's anti-racism protests centered around police brutality after the death of George Floyd on May 25 at the hands of Minneapolis police and the shootings of Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake.

Portland's protests reached several boiling points, where protesters, counterprotesters and police clashed.

Wheeler received criticism from both sides of the aisle for the police's treatment of protesters.

Fact check: Rush Limbaugh deactivated his Twitter account; he wasn't suspended

Trump sent federal officers

On June 26, Trump signed an executive order to send federal officers to Portland to prevent damage to government property and monuments. Homeland Security agents soon followed. When violence broke out between protesters and the growing law enforcement presence, Wheeler said he did not invite federal officers to aid the Portland Police Bureau.

People march on the night of the election, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Portland, Ore.
People march on the night of the election, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Portland, Ore.

“Over the past week, President Trump has used our city as a staging ground to further his political agenda, igniting his base to cause further divisiveness,” Wheeler said July 17 at a news conference. “Mr. President, federal agencies should never be used as your own personal army.”

The next day, Pelosi condemned the Trump administration's use of force and “violent tactics used against protestors in Portland” in a joint statement with Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.

The Trump administration and state officials negotiated federal officers' exit from Portland in late July.

Oregon law enforcement officers wearing anti-riot gear march toward protesters through tear gas smoke on the 100th night of protests against racism and brutality in Portland, on Sept. 5.
Oregon law enforcement officers wearing anti-riot gear march toward protesters through tear gas smoke on the 100th night of protests against racism and brutality in Portland, on Sept. 5.

Accusations that left-wing radicals were to blame for the turmoil gained traction after a self-described antifa supporter shot and killed a conservative counterprotester in August. Members of a federal task force fatally shot the shooter a few days later soon after.

In response to the protests and shooting, Trump called Wheeler a “fool for a Mayor” and “weak and pathetic” in several tweets Aug. 30 that urged Portland leaders to call in the National Guard to quell protests.

"I'm going to do the work that I need to do here in my local community with my local officials to take accountability for what's happening on our streets, and I'd appreciate that either the president support us or he stay the hell out of the way," Wheeler responded.

Fact check: Gen. David Petraeus did not write viral essay on serving in the military

Portland protesters and several civil rights groups called on Wheeler to resign, arguing he did not do enough to prevent violence.

Hundreds of Black Lives Matter protesters hold their lighted phones aloft in Portland, Ore., on July 20, 2020.
Hundreds of Black Lives Matter protesters hold their lighted phones aloft in Portland, Ore., on July 20, 2020.

Our rating: False

A letter purporting to show Nancy Pelosi encouraging Ted Wheeler to follow the "Democratic Play book" and blame Trump for protests was fabricated. Pelosi's and Wheeler's offices confirmed that the House speaker didn't send the letter and Portland's mayor didn't receive it. . We rate this claim FALSE because it is not supported by our research.

Our fact-check sources:

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.

Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Letter from Nancy Pelosi to Portland mayor is fake