A new outrage is bubbling on social media, this time over the arrest of a 22-year-old man on charges of attempting to sexually exploit a child, enticing a child to engage in sexual activity and possessing child pornography.
The charges have made news for several outlets — including the Washington Post — because the perpetrator was a well-known activist working to prevent sexual violence. Before his arrest, Joel Davis was the founding executive director of the international organization Youth to End Sexual Violence and a member of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict, an international group of human rights experts.
But some conservative websites have tried to attach another, unsubstantiated label to Davis, writing that he worked as a "campaign official" for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
We found no evidence to support this claim.
"Clinton campaign official arrested by FBI on child rape/trafficking charges," said a June 27, 2018, headline from Puppet String News, an "alternative news" source, according to its about page. The Puppet String News report cited an article from blog site True Pundit, which in turn linked to a story from Daily Mail, a British tabloid newspaper. Several other blog sites with histories of peddling falsehoods online published similar articles.
Both Puppet String News and True Pundit said Davis worked for Clinton’s election campaign.
"Child trafficking is now exposed as officially embedded within the Clinton campaign, as Clinton for 2016 campaign staffer Joel Davis has been arrested for raping children and trying to meet up with children as young as two," the Puppet String news story said. "The Clinton campaign literally just had a top staffer arrested on child rape/trafficking charges by the FBI … you can only bet it goes all the way to Hillary Clinton and obvious top aides."
The Daily Mail story — the likely source for both inaccurate reports — made no such claim, but did include a photo from Davis’ Facebook page that showed the university student wearing a Clinton campaign pin and standing in front of multiple Clinton campaign posters. The three others in the photo can be seen holding clipboards and folders, but Davis’s hands are empty, save for a cup of coffee.
A caption attributed to the photo by the Daily Mail said, "He's with her: Davis posted this picture after Hillary Clinton's election defeat, suggesting he had campaigned for the 2016 loser."
Davis was allegedly committing the same crimes he was outwardly fighting, according to a Justice Department press release. Davis texted undercover FBI agents sexually explicit photos and videos of children and said he wanted to have sex with children of any age, according to the federal criminal complaint.
And, Davis was a Clinton supporter to some degree. In what he called "the only post about #election2016 I'm going to write," Davis wrote in a Nov. 9, 2016, Facebook post that "felt betrayed" by the election result because he had been living "inside a liberal bubble."
But Davis never indicated that he had worked for Clinton, and even if he had, campaigning for Clinton is not the same as being a "campaign official" or a "top staffer."
We searched Google and Nexis and did not find any credible reports connecting Davis to Clinton. We also checked Davis’s Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and found no mention of the campaign.
Seemingly, the only evidence to support the claim that Davis worked for the Clinton campaign is a photo showing him and three others with Clinton campaign pins and posters. (Puppet String News did not respond to a request for comment sent via Facebook Messenger.)
That does not make him a top Clinton aide, staffer or official.
We rate this claim False.