Fact check: Trump's baseless conspiracy about protester shoved by police in Buffalo
President Donald Trump tweeted a baseless conspiracy theory about the 75-year-old protester shoved to the ground by police in Buffalo, N.Y., accusing the man whose injury was captured on video of being a member of antifa, trying to disrupt police communications and faking his fall. Travis Fain is here to review for PolitiFact.Posted — Updated
"I watched," Trump wrote. "He fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?"
Sage Green, who knows Gugino through activism work in Buffalo, said she never knew him to be related to any antifa-type work, nor to be savvy with technology.
"I’ve never known him to be someone who has any radical tactics," Green said. "He’s not the troublemaker in the crowd."
There’s no evidence that Gugino was trying to "scan police communications" before he was shoved — or that Gugino’s fall, which left him bleeding from his ear and resulted in second-degree assault charges against two officers, was part of "a set up."
"Not a piece of proof," said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a press conference.
Kelly V. Zarcone, Gugino’s attorney, said in a statement that Gugino has "always been a peaceful protester."
"No one from law enforcement has even suggested anything otherwise, so we are at a loss to understand why the president of the United States would make such dark, dangerous, and untrue accusations against him," she said.
The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
The video shows Gugino approaching a line of police officers with a phone in his right hand and what looks like a helmet in his left. Gugino stands face-to-face with a pair of officers and talks for a few seconds as a third officer shouts for Gugino to move.
One officer shoves Gugino with a baton while another pushes him with his hand. The force sends Gugino stumbling backward and hitting the ground hard.
"He’s bleeding out of his ear," a person says repeatedly as Gugino lays motionless and blood pools on the pavement beneath him.
Zarcone, Gugino’s attorney, said Gugino remains hospitalized.
The Buffalo Police Department and a spokesperson for the Erie County district attorney’s office both told us they could not comment on the case pending investigations.
Three activists who have worked with Gugino described him as willing to be involved in a range of social justice causes but said he was not an agitator.
"From what I know of Martin, he has never spoken to me with being affiliated with antifa-type work," Green said.
In a statement to PolitiFact, OANN’s Pearson Sharp said the network is working on another report detailing Gugino’s background as an activist.
"We have found substantial evidence that suggests Martin Gugino is, if not a professional provocateur, at least an enthusiastic one," Sharp told PolitiFact, citing past tweets, arrest records, and comments he said others made about Gugino.
Trump’s claims that the incident was a "set up" and that Gugino was waving his phone in an attempt to scan police communications are similarly unsubstantiated, with the only proof being that Gugino was holding a phone at the moment that he was pushed.
Green, Gugino’s friend, said she didn’t think Gugino had any capability to interfere with police communications.
But that doesn’t substantiate Trump’s claims about a "set up" and a "scanner," either.
Trump said, "Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment ... Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?"
This is an unsubstantiated conspiracy that made its way from a conservative blog site to Trump via One America News Network. There’s no evidence that Gugino is connected to antifa, that he was "aiming (a) scanner" or that he was staging his fall as "a set up."
We rate this statement False.
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