Now this Twitter person pointed a more direct finger: Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe.
I was intrigued. This wouldn't constitute proof of coordination from Cruz's team with the PAC that ran the ad, of course, but it was weird that I hadn't heard that this happened.
So I Googled it. I didn't get any news articles in response, which I found odd, since the implication of possible illegal collusion between a presidential campaign and a super PAC is a much bigger story than some racy photos of a potential first lady. What I got instead were a number of conservative discussion boards raising the idea. "GQ sales department confirmed Jeff Roe ordered the ad (Melania Trump)," the thread at Free Republic was titled. And for sourcing, the original poster linked to this tweet.
That tweet -- claiming that previous iterations had been deleted by "Twitter" three times* -- pointed back to a Twitter user named @DebAlwaysTrump, who seems to have spent much of the past 24 hours tweeting Photoshopped images bashing Cruz. The user grabbed an apparent screenshot from the private Facebook group Donald Trump Will Prevail, including it in the mix of other memes she was tweeting at people.
The Facebook post is a link to an article at Prntly.com, a site I hadn't heard of. The user who posted it to the Facebook group summarized it as "GQ sales dept confirmed Jeff Roe ordered the ad Shame on Cruz."
But that's not what the article says. Its headline is "Breaking: Jeff Roe, Cruz adviser: may have greenlit 'Melania' Ad to PAC, admits driving man to suicide," and the story itself is stolen from the site Mediaite.
There is no mention of GQ.
That's the sourcing.
I reached out to GQ to see if there was any actual licensing arrangement and was directed to the magazine's British iteration, which was where the photos originally ran. As of writing, I haven't heard anything back.
I did hear, though, from a public relations team for the man who took the photos, Antoine Verglas. In a statement, his attorney, Leonard Budow criticized the PAC that released the Melania Trump ad, writing that it "violated U.S. copyright law by reproducing and modifying the images without Verglas’ consent or authorization."
He continued: "The photographs in question are the sole property of Verglas as they were not part of a work for hire or subject to any creative common license. All rights pertaining to the photographs are held exclusively by Verglas."
The emphasis is added, because it's the important part. GQ couldn't have licensed the photos to Roe if they wanted to. The rights weren't theirs to give.
So who cares, right? A bunch of Twitter users played the world's least-accurate game of telephone and someone sent me a question about it. But it's important to note that these rumors all pre-date Trump's comments on ABC News. In other words, this may very well be another case of Trump seizing upon politically convenient Internet nonsense to bolster his arguments. Remember the last time he did so, when a man in Ohio charged his stage and Trump suggested that the man had ties to the Islamic State? When the ridiculous claim was debunked, Trump's response was, "All I know is what’s on the Internet."
We reached out to the Trump campaign to see if there was any additional evidence that prompted Trump's claim on Sunday's television program. If there is any, it's likely not terribly concrete, since it seems like the sort of thing that would have come up when I went searching, too. It's very possible instead that a ripped-off news article posted to a pro-Trump Facebook group with an erroneous summary that then got tweeted by two random people on Twitter and made its way onto conservative discussion boards then ended up prompting the likely presidential nominee for the Republican Party to accuse his main opponent of violating federal law.
If that's what happened, we are far more than through the looking glass on matters of reality in this endlessly weird campaign cycle. We are now full-time residents of Wonderland, and we have all been invited to play croquet with the Queen.
* When asked by The Post, Twitter had no comment on the claims of deletion, in accordance with their policy.