At 7:30 a.m., a 63-year old Ohioan named Portia A. Boulger was getting ready to leave her Chillicothe home, when a friend let her know that a post about her was going viral.
Bolger, "a teacher by profession and union carpenter by trade," says she was in Ohio when Donald Trump's Chicago rally was waylaid by protests Friday night. And she says she definitely wasn't the woman who raised her arm in what looked like a Nazi salute, whose photo, captured by the Chicago Tribune, was defining coverage of the canceled rally.
But people on the Internet thought she was.
— Scott Kleinberg (@scottkleinberg) March 12, 2016
Despite the Tribune's reporting, which identified the saluter as Birgitt Peterson, Boulger spent a chunk of her Saturday denying that she was some kind of Illinois Nazi.
"There's an awful lot of nasty on the Internet right now," she said in a phone interview. "If you go on my Twitter feed, you'll see that it's blowing up. And it's going on my Facebook page, too. They're calling me a c--t, a Nazi, a b---h -- you know the typical hate language."
— Portia A. Boulger (@PortiaABoulger) March 12, 2016
On Facebook and Twitter, Boulger quickly debunked the story, stating where she'd been and noting that her hair had been cut since the "dead ringer" photo that Trump supporters were pointing to. At the same time Michael Garza, the man pictured looking dazzled at Peterson's salute, wrote a Facebook post confirming that she was a Trump supporter.
"I walk right up to her and say... 'we understand this is all a little wild but we have cleared a path for you to leave,'" wrote Garza. "She goes, and I quote 'Go? Back in my day, you know what we did.' Bam. Hails Hitler."
But that image was disturbing and off-message for Trump supporters, including the candidate's son, Donald Trump Jr. He retweeted actor James Woods and author Vox Day, both of whom were suggesting that Boulger was the saluter.
Big surprise. However, the media will never run with this. https://t.co/3LsHvP5II3
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) March 12, 2016
Reached over Twitter and shown Boulger's tweets, Trump was unmoved. "Wow, she got a haircut," he wrote.
Boulger, who had told followers that her husband was an attorney, did not make any further suggestion of legal action when reached by the Post. She had supported Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary. Now, she was focused on winning Ohio for Sanders. "I think it is very sad when people choose hate over love and understanding," she said. "I will not be moved. I support Bernie Sanders, and will not get off message. I'm busy getting out the vote to make sure he wins in Ohio."