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In the recall election facing Gov. Scott Walker, parties and activists from all sides are tweeting a steady stream of commentary, tips and insults.
One of the most prolific tweeters is Graeme Zielinski, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Zielinski tweets several times a day, and has more than 1,000 followers. His personal account lists his position with the state party.
Most of the time, Zielinski offers his own opinions about politics and stories of the day. Occasionally, he "retweets" things posted by others -- the Twitter way to share those views with your own readers, sometimes with a little extra commentary.
This appeared to be what was going on in one of Zielinski’s messages on March 8, 2012. We often get suggestions from readers, including political figures and campaigns. The original message was pointed out to us by Ciara Matthews, campaign spokeswoman for Walker.
Here’s what Zielineski tweeted:
RT @WisGOP: Happy International Women's Day! You ladies should get paid less and not be able to make health care decisions.
For those unfamiliar with Twitter, here’s what is behind the lingo: The tweet made it appear as if Zielinski was "re-tweeting" (RT) a message put out by the Wisconsin Republican Party (@WisGOP).
While Zielinski is often sarcastic in his posts, this one appeared to be a straightforward retweet.
One little problem: The state GOP never tweeted it.
We asked Zielinski where the message came from.
His response: "It was me ‘Tweeting’ as them, since they voted to cut equal pay protections and put new roadblocks in between women and their doctors."
Ok. That’s pretty simple.The tweet was fabricated to try and make a point.
It's unclear what measures Zielinski was referring to.
We previously examined a claim regarding a bill on the equal pay issue awaiting action by Walker. State Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) claimed legislation approved by state Republicans would repeal a law that ensures "that women cannot get paid less than a man for doing the same job." We rated that statement False because the bill in question does not ensure pay equity, but relates to the rights of workers to sue in state court over discrimination-related damages.
Walker has also drawn criticism for canceling a state contract with Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, which provides services related to the cancer screenings in four counties. The actual screenings, however, didn’t end but were taken over by Winnebago County (Indeed, the contract in question related not to providing the screenings, but a program to help sign people up to get them). We rated Pants on Fire a statement by U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee) that claimed Waker "eliminated ‘cancer screenings for uninsured women’ and offered ‘no alternatives.’"
We asked the state GOP for its response to the fake tweet under its name.
"As a former reporter for The Onion, Graeme clearly has the experience to completely fabricate content for his frivolous attacks, and it highlights the utter lack of integrity of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, given they employ his false attacks as the official message of their organization," wrote party spokesman Ben Sparks.
It also appears the faked message violates the Twitter rules known as the "terms of service."
"By accessing or using the Services you agree to be bound by these Terms," Twitter says.
Here’s a key rule, listed first under "Content Boundaries and Use of Twitter":
Impersonation: You may not impersonate others through the Twitter service in a manner that does or is intended to mislead, confuse, or deceive others.
And here’s another:
Twitter users are not allowed to "in any way use the Services to send altered, deceptive or false source-identifying information."
Our rating (in under 140 characters)
In a tweet, Zielinski said the state GOP tweeted an insulting message about women. Not true. He made it up. Pants on Fire.
Twitter.com account of Graeme Zielinski, post from March 8, 2012
Emails, Graeme Zielinski, spokesman, Democratic Party of Wisconsin, March 26, 2012
PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Wisconsin GOP bill would repeal law ensuring pay equity for women, Dem lawmaker says," March 12, 2012
PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker ended Planned Parenthood contract for poor women's cancer screenings Dem. Rep. Gwen Moore says," Dec. 27, 2011.
Email, Ben Sparks, communications director, Republican Party of Wisconsin, March 28, 2012
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