Election 2020

FACT CHECK: Fabricated Claim of Biden Campaign Official’s Arrest

A viral tale on social media falsely claims that a campaign official for President-elect Joe Biden was arrested in an illegal ballot-harvesting scheme in Texas. The false claim stems from unverified allegations in an unsuccessful lawsuit brought by a group of Republicans.


Eleciton workers prepares to count ballots at NRG Park on election night in Houston, Nov. 3, 2020.

This story originally appeared on FactCheck.org.

Continuing a flow of falsehoods about the 2020 election, social media users are sharing a fabricated claim that a state political director for Joe Biden's campaign has been arrested for voter fraud — and chiding news outlets for not covering it.

The false story has been shared tens of thousands of times through various posts across social media platforms — including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Tik Tok — as well as on dubious websites.

A popular tweet on Nov. 14 declared, "Biden Campaign Staffer, Dallas Jones was arrested for Voter Fra_d. Accused of harvesting thousands of ball_ts and voting under names of homeless, elderly, dead people. MSM is suppressing the story."

Media outlets are not covering the story because there is no evidence that Jones, a Houston-based political consultant who serves as Biden's political director for Texas, has been arrested or charged with such a crime. Harris County court records show no such criminal case filed against him. A spokeswoman from the FBI also confirmed to Houston Public Media that the agency had made no such arrest, despite some social media claims, and a search of federal court records did not pull up a complaint against Jones.

"This is completely make believe and they're running with it," Jones told FactCheck.org in a Nov. 16 phone interview.

Included in some posts was a photo purportedly showing the supposed arrest. But the image is actually a snapshot of the actor Cuba Gooding Jr. being arrested in 2019.

The bogus arrest claim instead stems from unverified allegations floated by Republicans several weeks before the election in their attempt to prevent the expansion of mail-in and early voting in Harris County, Texas.

The legal filing was made in late September by a conservative activist, Steven Hotze, and several other Republicans, including two candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot. The filing asked the state Supreme Court to stop the Harris County clerk from allowing early voting to begin Oct. 13 (rather than Oct. 17) and from accepting in-person deliveries of mail-in ballots prior to Nov. 3. The county's actions were allowed under a July proclamation from Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican.

Contained in that court filing were allegations of a purported "ballot harvesting operation" in Harris County — including affidavits from two private investigators who claimed to have witnesses describing the alleged operation.

"Ballot harvesting" refers to third parties collecting and delivering ballots; the laws surrounding that collection vary by state. The court filing by Hotze claimed that the operation included collecting absentee ballots, forging voters' signatures and fraudulently casting votes. The private investigators claimed Jones was among the leaders of the operation.

A response submitted by Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins said the claims were "baseless accusations."

"In lieu of any viable legal claim, Relators launch a series of wild accusations of a ballot-harvesting conspiracy orchestrated by the leadership of the Harris County government and a State Senator," the response said. "These accusations are backed by no evidence whatsoever and are of dubious provenance, coming from private investigators who do not disclose either their clients or sources."

The state Supreme Court rejected the request to stop Harris County from carrying out its expansion of early voting.

So the claim about Jones and ballot harvesting was made by Republicans during an unsuccessful legal pursuit, and has not been corroborated by any law enforcement agency.

Jones told FactCheck.org that he had never been questioned by the FBI (as some have claimed) or any other authorities about the allegations.

"I've never been interrogated by the FBI," he said. "I'm not running a ballot harvesting scheme."

Jones also said he was still employed by the Biden campaign, contrary to online assertions he had been fired, though he said that job would be winding down as the campaign does.

A Biden campaign official likewise told FactCheck.org that Jones had not been fired and called the viral claims "laughably false."

Additional reporting by Houston Public Media’s Paul DeBenedetto.

Disclosure: Jones has worked as a contributor to Houston Public Media's program Red, White and Blue.

Editor's note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.

This fact check is available at IFCN's 2020 FactCheck.org Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here for more.

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