When news that Christopher Rufo was ending his campaign for City Council citing harassment against his family, many in Seattle, including quite a few Slog commentors as well as Q13's Brandi Kruse, called on Rufo to show proof. If he was being harassed, where were the receipts?
Rufo supplied those receipts to The Stranger on Friday.
"Christopher Rufo, Mike O'Brien's District 6 City Council challenger, is an absolute fascist," reads one post on social media. "What a sad excuse for a human being," reads another. "Get f*cking bent," reads a post meant for his wife.
These are among the several dozen posts supplied by Rufo, who also says that on Nov. 1st, his child's school called his wife Suphatra and said a fellow parent was leaving inappropriate posts on the school PTSA's Facebook page about her husband. The posts were concerning enough so that the moderator deleted them. (This was verified by another parent at the school, who said in an email to Rufo that the posts were "aggressive" and included "false accusations.")
When the same angry parent—who, at Rufo's request, I have agreed not to name—left hostile messages on other social media networks about Rufo, Suphatra responded to him directly: "I hope in the coming year that we can come together and find great new ideas for Seattle," she wrote. "You and I—we both have kids that go to [a local elementary school]. We have common friends. Please let me take you out for coffee and listen and learn more about what you believe in. We are more alike than we are different."
In response, the man took to Twitter and Facebook and said that Suphatra had doxed his child.
Harassment is a part of life for politicians. The hostile posts about Rufo seem to mostly originate from a small number of local residents on the progressive left who object to Rufo's right-leaning platform. His stance on homelessness, which he said the current City Council has failed to address, was particularly concerning to some. To others, it was the fact that he sued the city over the income tax or that he's a fellow at the conservative Discovery Institute, which pushes the concept of "intelligent design." And to others, he's simply a white supremacist. This last claim was especially difficult for his wife, an immigrant who says she moved to the U.S. with her mother to flee abuse and human trafficking in Thailand and was one of the only minorities living in a small town in New England.
Of course, harassment doesn't just come from the political left. Progressive city council members get harassed all the time. Certain right-leaning locals seem to find shitting on Kshama Sawant something of a pastime, to say nothing of ring-wing media. A Facebook page called "Cunt of the Day" featured her after she called for protests of the Trump administration. In 2016, the five female members of the City Council were targeted by sexist attacks after they opposed building a new arena to bring a pro basketball team back to Seattle. It's the internet, the place where bad shit happens.
Still, Rufo says he was not prepared for the amount of hate leveled against him. "My job is to keep my family safe," he told me. "People are messaging my wife saying she's a bad minority and her husband is a white supremacist. It's just mind-blowing."
But is it illegal? While many of these posts Rufo supplied are certainly unpleasant, according to law professor Danielle Citron, legally, "cyber harassment is understood as repeated online expression amounting to a 'course of conduct' targeted at a particular person that causes the targeted individual substantial emotional distress and/or the fear of bodily harm."
I'm not sure telling someone to "get bent" constitutes a threat of bodily harm or "sexual violence," as Rufo claims, but still, fear is obviously subjective and I have no doubt that Suphatra Rufo was upset and stressed out—I could hear her anxiety in her voice when we spoke. Whether or not the alleged harassment should or will lead to criminal charges, however, is unclear. The family says they are meeting with an SPD investigator next week. "Once our investigators have spoken to Mr. Rufo, we will evaluate the information and determine whether or not to move forward with a criminal investigation," said the SPD in a statement.
Update: After this post was initially published, the parent who accused Suphatra Rufo of "doxing" his child returned my request for comment. He says: "I don't believe telling someone who's doxed your kid to 'get bent' is a threat of 'violent sexual assault.' After I wrote this, someone invited a number of Rufo supporters to the [District 6 Facebook] page who all started to write 'hate has no home here' repeatedly, ad nauseum. Scary AF. This whole thing is a GD nightmare." He also says he reported the alleged doxing to the SPD and he thinks his family may be in danger. I have reached out to the SPD to confirm.