As early voters in Florida started casting votes, conservative websites buzzed about new evidence of crooked campaign tactics by Hillary Clinton to secure the crucial battleground state.
The alleged scheme centered on left-leaning Broward County, already in the news for distributing some mail-in ballots without Amendment 2, a proposal to legalize medical marijuana.
The claims originated from Roger Stone, a Donald Trump supporter and former campaign operative who spoke of a “secret” meeting in an interview to conspiracy theorist and radio show host Alex Jones on Oct. 26.
“Yesterday Hillary Clinton shows up in Broward County — slips into a private meeting with the woman who runs the board of elections,” said Stone, who lives in Fort Lauderdale.
It’s common for election supervisors to meet with party officials if they have questions about election procedures. But a meeting directly with a presidential candidate would be unusual. Broward has about 600,000 Democratic voters — the highest number in Florida — so it is a key county for Clinton.
We found no evidence that such a meeting took place — because it didn’t.
Within days, Stone retracted his claim. (A retraction doesn’t allow a political figure to avoid the Truth-O-Meter, but we will explain what he initially said and then his latest explanation.)
When we first heard the claim about a Snipes-Clinton meeting we were skeptical. Although Snipes is a Democrat, the former school administrator is not known for partisan or political involvement. In fact, a long list of politicians endorsed her opponent in the primary, although Snipes then won in a landslide. Snipes was first appointed to the position in 2003 by Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.
In an Oct. 27 interview, Snipes told us she hadn’t met with Clinton.
“She has not requested a meeting from me,” Snipes said. “I haven’t met with anybody and neither has my staff. I don’t even know who the members of her staff are. Neither I nor my staff met with Hillary Clinton.”
Snipes told the Sun Sentinel that it was a “big fat lie” that she met with Clinton. A spokeswoman for the Clinton campaign in Florida also denied that such a meeting took place.
Stone said he would post photos of the Clinton-Snipes meeting on Jones’ website Infowars “shortly” but never did.
When we spoke to Stone on Oct. 28, he explained how he heard the allegation — third-hand. He lacked even the most basic details, such as where this alleged meeting took place.
He said information came from a coordinator for Citizens for Trump, a grassroots group. Stone said that the coordinator told him he spoke with two women from Citizens for Trump. The women said that they saw Clinton enter a meeting with Snipes.
“They claim they were inadvertently in a secured area of a presidential candidate visit,” when they spotted Clinton enter a meeting with Snipes. “Both admit they ran, they left the place in a hurry because they were shooed off by security.”
The women tried to take photos and video while they were dashing away, Stone said. The photos didn’t show anything, and Stone said he is waiting for video.
“If Snipes denies it and there is no evidence to the contrary, I can say this is an incorrect report, but I’m not ready to conclude that yet,” Stone said.
After giving Stone a few more days to track down information, we circled back with him Oct. 31. That’s when he retracted his story — or rather moved his story to a different county.
Stone told PolitiFact Florida that he went back on Jones’ show Oct. 30 to say he was wrong about Snipes meeting with Clinton in Broward.
“I was incorrect about that,” he said on the radio show. “In fact, I was off by a county. The Clinton entourage pulled up behind the West Palm Beach office of the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections. Hillary Clinton was physically seen by at least three witnesses meeting with officials from the building. These observers were shooed away. ... Palm Beach is of course ground zero of the Democrats’ vote stealing operation.”
(We sought contact information from Stone for these alleged witnesses but Stone said they were too scared to talk.)
Again, the Clinton campaign said no meeting took place — and Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher also said she didn’t meet with Clinton.
During his interview with Jones, Stone tried to portray Snipes as incompetent and pointed to ballots missing the medical marijuana amendment. Stone said that Snipes announced that the amendment “isn’t going to be on the ballot in Broward County because of some kind of a screwup.”
That’s an exaggeration. The amendment is on the ballot in Broward, but four absentee ballots so far have turned up missing the amendment.
A group supporting marijuana legalization sued Snipes over the ballots omitting Amendment 2. On Oct. 28, a Broward judge ruled in Snipes’ favor and concluded that she had taken appropriate steps to remedy the errors including providing replacement ballots.
Stone said Clinton showed up in Broward County and slipped into a private meeting with elections supervisor Brenda Snipes.
Stone was wrong. He heard it third-hand from Trump supporters who claim they stumbled across such a meeting. Snipes and a spokeswoman for the Clinton campaign in Florida denied such a meeting took place and we found no evidence that it did.
Days later, Stone admitted he was wrong but then claimed that Clinton met with elections officials in Palm Beach County. He lacks evidence for that claim, too — and both the elections supervisor and the Clinton campaign deny it.
We rate this claim Pants on Fire!
The statement: Says Hillary Clinton “shows up in Broward County” and had a private meeting with elections supervisor Brenda Snipes.
The ruling: Stone was wrong. He heard it third-hand from Trump supporters who claim they stumbled across such a meeting. Snipes and a spokeswoman for the Clinton campaign in Florida denied such a meeting took place and we found no evidence that it did. Days later, Stone admitted he was wrong but then claimed that Clinton met with elections officials in Palm Beach County. He lacks evidence for that claim, too — and both the elections supervisor and the Clinton campaign deny it.
We rate this claim: Pants on Fire.
Politifact Florida is a partnership between The Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald to check out truth in politics.