TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A former Michigan resident was briefly amused to be mistaken for a high-ranking legislator by President Donald Trump supporters who demanded nullification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory in the state.
But when a trickle of calls and texts Sunday became a torrent of hundreds that continued into Monday, it wasn’t funny anymore.
The recipient, who goes by the name O Rose and uses non-gendered they/them pronouns, has a phone number nearly identical to that of Lee Chatfield, former Republican speaker of the Michigan House, whose term expired this month.
In social media postings Sunday, the president’s campaign organization targeted Chatfield and Lee Shirkey, a Republican and the Senate majority leader. “Hear the evidence … Correct false statements … Demand vote on decertification,” the campaign said on Facebook.
The posting provided email addresses and phone numbers for Chatfield and Shirkey. But the number listed as Chatfield’s actually belonged to Rose, who moved from northern Michigan to the Oakland, California, area five months ago.
“People are calling me from every single state. It’s weird, very weird,” Rose said in a phone interview Monday with The Associated Press. The 28-year-old provided a first initial but withheld their full first name because of concerns about security.
Rose said they initially found the mix-up, first reported by the Petoskey News-Review, humorous and responded with texts of funny memes — “pictures of pancakes, squirrels, something absurd so they’d know I wasn’t a government official.”
But people kept calling, many refusing to believe Rose wasn’t Chatfield.
“They’d argue with me. They said everything I was saying was a lie,” Rose said. “One of them called me three times. He said, ‘Well, if you’re happening to have lunch with Chatfield or something, could you tell him?’ I said, ‘No, dude, I don’t know this person.”
Rose unsuccessfully tried to notify the campaign and enlisted friends to post messages explaining the mistake to the president’s Facebook and Twitter feeds. Those, too, drew a barrage of denials and accusations from Trump backers.
An email message seeking comment was sent to a Trump campaign spokesman.
Biden received 2,804,040 votes in Michigan, or 50.6%, while Trump got 2,649,852 votes or 47.8%.
The results were certified by the bipartisan Michigan Board of State Canvassers despite baseless claims of fraud by the president’s backers. Chatfield and Shirkey met with Trump at the White House shortly before the board voted. But both said repeatedly the legislature had no power to intervene. Biden, a Democrat, was awarded the state’s 16 electoral votes.
No legal avenue remains for the Trump campaign to change the outcome in Michigan, said Tracy Wimmer, spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office, which oversees elections.
Rose’s phone number was still on the campaign’s Facebook post Monday evening.
Although none of the callers made threats, Rose plans to get a new phone number — pronto.
“I don’t need any more attention,” they said.