On Thursday, the Portland Press Herald reported that a Republican candidate for Maine House of Representatives is blaming the Uvalde, Texas school shooting on "liberal teachers" who "brainwashed" him.
Specifically, Heather Ann Sprague cited a debunked internet hoax that the shooter was a transgender girl, and that this somehow traumatized the shooter into committing the crimes.
"In an apparent reference to a rumor on social media that has been debunked, Sprague claimed there were pictures online of the shooter dressed in women’s clothing," reported Stephen Betts.
The report then quoted Sprague's full post.
"All I have to say is this is the result of what happens when kids are pushed past their limits," the candidate wrote. "Its (sic) obvious he was brainwashed in school by liberal teachers to think he shouldn’t be a male. If this crap doesn’t stop we will have more shootings because there are alot (sic) more confused, fed up and now mentally ill kids out there thanks to the #publicschoolsystem THIS is why I have been TRYING to get the truth out about what the schools are doing to our youth because it’s DANGEROUS."
According to NBC News' Ben Collins, the idea that the shooter was a transgender girl traces back to a hoax on the far-right message board 4chan, where an anonymous user posted Instagram images of a transgender girl named Sam who had been the target of prior harassment campaigns on the site, and claimed she was the shooter. Even many 4chan users themselves didn't believe the hoax, but it still spread to the point that lawmakers, including Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), promoted it.
Maine Republican Party chief Jason Savage disavowed Sprague's tirade, saying, "we believe it is appropriate for everyone to have time to gather the real facts of this case before drawing any conclusions."
So far, reporting indicates that the actual shooter, Salvador Ramos, purchased the guns legally on his 18th birthday from a licensed dealer, displayed warning signs of disturbed obsessions prior to the incident, and shot his grandmother before going to the school.