Officials in a small Northern California community say an online conspiracy that started with a tweet from former FBI Director James Comey forced them to cancel an annual school fundraiser out of safety concerns.
The cancellation by a school foundation in Grass Valley, north of Sacramento, occurred after Comey participated in the Twitter hashtag trend #FiveJobsIHad, The Sacramento Bee reported.
A QAnon conspiracy theorist rearranged the letters in Comey's tweet to spell "five jihads" and grouped the first letters of each of the jobs he listed — grocery store clerk, vocal soloist for church weddings, chemist, strike-replacement high school teacher and "FBI director, interrupted" — to spell GVCSF, the initials of the Grass Valley Charter School Foundation.
"In the current political and social climate, schools and communities must take into consideration matters never before imagined," the festival's organizers said in a statement last week announcing they were scuttling the event scheduled for this weekend.
Foundation president Wendy Willoughby said a barrage of questions from across the country quickly followed with people trying to find out if it was a legitimate foundation and from others who were concerned.
"They felt we were being targeted by Comey and that they alerted us to the disastrous event that would befall the festival," Willoughby said. "Many put up videos (or) went to photos on our website - there were photos of our children. It became very personal, very frightening."
Grass Valley and Nevada County authorities determined the event was not under threat, but organizers held firm to the cancellation out of what they said was "an abundance of caution."
"In today's world, based on recent events, regardless if it is debunked ... it mobilizes unstable people to take action," Willoughby said. "How do you contend with a threat that you don't even know is there?"