WASHINGTON — Here’s a new way to fight back attempts to spread fake news: file a police report.
That’s what Senator Chuck Schumer’s staff did on Tuesday in reporting to the Capitol Police the existence of a fraudulent document that described false allegations against the New York Democrat.
The document, which looks like a court filing, suggests that Mr. Schumer sexually harassed a staff member. The staff member who was named in the document as the plaintiff, and who no longer works for Mr. Schumer, told The New York Times on Wednesday that the harassment claims were “completely false.” The former staff member spoke on condition of anonymity.
Mr. Schumer’s spokesman, Matt House, said that the document was forged and that the allegations in it are false. Mr. Schumer is the top Democrat in the Senate.
“We have turned it over to the Capitol Police, and asked them to investigate and pursue criminal charges, because it is clear the law has been broken,” Mr. House said in a statement. “We believe the individual responsible for forging the document should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law to prevent other malicious actors from doing the same.”
Mr. Schumer’s decision to file a police report is a new tactic to fight personal smears and the spread of fake news. It comes at a moment when activists have tried to feed news organizations false information in hopes of getting it published.
Last month, a woman with ties to a right-wing activist group tried to convince The Washington Post that she had been impregnated by Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate from Alabama. The Post had written a series of stories about sexual assault and child molestation accusations against Mr. Moore. The newspaper found numerous inconsistencies in her story and concluded that she was part of an effort to undercut the earlier reports by convincing reporters to publish untrue accusations.
It was not immediately clear on Wednesday who was behind the fake document about Mr. Schumer. But on Tuesday, conservative bloggers Mike Cernovich, a far-right activist, and Charles C. Johnson, a right-wing internet provocateur, posted messages on social media about a sexual harassment complaint against an unnamed senator.
However, Mr. Cernovich said neither he nor Mr. Johnson was behind the document of false claims against Mr. Schumer. In Twitter posts on Tuesday, Mr. Cernovich said he “did his homework” and concluded the document was a hoax.
Mr. Cernovich pushed last year’s so-called Pizzagate conspiracy, a false rumor suggesting Hillary Clinton and her aides were part of a pedophile ring run from the basement of a Washington pizzeria. But he is also credited with helping to expose a complaint against a congressman. BuzzFeed News, which first published documents about a settled sexual harassment complaint between Representative John Conyers Jr. and a former staffer, said it received the documents from Mr. Cernovich. Mr. Conyers, Democrat of Michigan, resigned on Dec. 5.
The fake Schumer document was being circulated as early as Dec. 11, when Mr. Johnson posted this message on Facebook: “Michael Cernovich & I are going to end the career of a U.S. Senator.”
A spokeswoman for the Capitol Police said the agency does not comment on ongoing investigations.