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An Oregon man gunning for a seat at the political table has joined the ranks of now notorious hate crime ‘hoaxers’ Jussie Smollett and Bubba Wallace.
A Hispanic candidate for an Oregon county commission seat has admitted he faked a ‘racist’ letter to himself, though he now says he never meant to “mislead” anyone.
Jonathan Lopez, who ran an unsuccessful primary campaign for a seat on the Umatilla County commission in May, had initially claimed that a racially-tinged letter had been left in his mailbox.
But in an email to the press on Monday, Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston said Lopez admitted to law enforcement that he wrote the letter.
The chief added that the case would be turned over to the district attorney’s office to decide whether to prosecute Lopez for filing a false police report, which is a Class A misdemeanor in the state.
“From the onset, this alleged incident has been thoroughly investigated,” Edmiston wrote in an email to the Lagrand Observer. “Our investigation has shown that Mr. Lopez wrote the letter himself and made false statements to the police and on social media. The end result is a verbal and written admission by Mr. Lopez that the letter was fabricated.”
Lopez, one of five candidates who ran for a nonpartisan seat being vacated by Umatilla County Commissioner Bill Elfering after eight years, posted a picture of the letter, which contained racist, misogynistic, and homophobic slurs on Facebook. In the post, which has since been deleted, Lopez wrote that he had received the letter but harbored “no resentment for whomever wrote this.”
As seen in the photo, the letter said that Lopez and other “Mexicans” were “not welcome here.”
“America is for the God-fearing, pro-gun, pro-life humans who refuse to be controlled by the government,” the letter said.
After being contacted by the East Oregonian newspaper, Lopez said that the incident was simply a big misunderstanding, and that he only wanted to talk to Edmonton about alleged racism in Umatilla County. He claimed that he only sought to use the letter as an example of the kind of racism some people experience but don’t talk about in public very often.
“I never meant to file a report, it just kind of spiraled out,” Lopez said, adding he “never meant to mislead” anyone.
When he was asked about the statements he made on Facebook and his comments to an East Oregonian reporter June 24 that he discovered the letter in his mailbox at home, Lopez confessed he had told police the same thing.
Edmiston said his department will also be forwarding information to the district attorney regarding potentially fraudulent statements Lopez made in his May 2020 voters guide regarding his background and education.
Lopez, who is also a member of the city of Hermiston’s Hispanic Advisory Committee, placed fourth in the May primary.
The police chief said Hermiston officers had learned that Lopez never served in the U.S. Coast Guard as he claimed in election materials, which — if true — is a violation of the Stolen Valor Act of 2013.
So far, the Observer reported, Lopez, 29, has not provided authorities with any proof of his claimed service.
“This investigation is particularly frustrating as we are in the midst of multiple major investigations while battling a resource shortage due to the current pandemic,” Edmiston said, the Observer reported.
“The time spent on this fictitious claim means time lost on other matters, not to mention it needlessly adds to the incredible tension that exists in our nation today. As a lifelong resident of this diverse community, I’m disgusted someone would try to carelessly advance their personal ambitions at the risk of others.”
The Hermiston Herald published a bio of the five county commission candidates May 5. It says he is an “associate pastor at Hermiston’s Living Springs Apostolic Church and the chief executive officer of the Einstein Learning Center.”
“I have no political background or involvement in my past history, but I am a person who always cares and is concerned for his community,” he is quoted as saying. “If I’m being prosperous, if I’m being successful, then I shouldn’t be content with other people’s misery.
“I want to work for all the residents of Umatilla County. I want to reestablish our place in the world so that they can see our potential and what we have here as a county in the state of Oregon,” he added.
Lopez’s hate hoax is the latest in a series of other higher-profile instances involving minorities who falsely claimed they were targeted or attacked because of their race.
Most recently, NASCAR No. 43 driver Bubba Wallace initially claimed that a garage door rope fashioned into a noose by someone was directed at him, but an FBI investigation determined the noose had been in the Talladega Superspeedway stall for months.
And in early 2019, “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett faked an attack on himself and blamed in on white Trump-supporting males.
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