Montreal actress Adina Katz inadvertently became the target of a viral political onslaught this week after being wrongly identified as a woman who appears in one of the campaign videos for Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
“I felt like I was in a bad dream; I had a breakdown, I started crying and I had major chest pains,” said Katz, who says she has endured online harassment, bullying and even body shaming as a result of the misidentification.
It all began with a short video posted to Scheer’s social media on Aug. 2. In the clip, a woman approaches the politician on the street, identifying herself as a cancer survivor and Conservative supporter named Adina. She asks Scheer what he will do to improve health care and mentions that she will be voting for his party come October.
We were set up to film a video in Toronto when I met Adina on the street. She’s a cancer survivor and I had a chance to tell her about the health care guarantee I signed earlier today. To patients like her, my mother after her kidney transplant, and every Canadian who relies on our healthcare system – this guarantee is for you.
Posted by Andrew Scheer on Friday, August 2, 2019
Two days later, in an attempt to demonstrate that the Conservative MP hires actors to pose for him, the Twitter account Alberta Resistance shared a photograph of K at z as suppose d proof.
The problem? Katz was not the woman in the video.
But in the Twitterverse, that didn’t seem to matter. The tweets from Alberta Resistance went viral; overall, the posts received more than 1,000 likes and 600 shares. According to Twitter analytics, there have been more than 160,000 impressions referring to the initial tweets.
Last Sunday, while vacationing in Connecticut, Katz was informed by her friend that her name and picture appeared to be popping up on Twitter. After signing in, she found screenshots of her acting profiles splattered across the platform. What’s more, she says she received countless messages that accused her of being a terrible and immoral actress who should be ashamed of lying that she had cancer.
“I know I’m sensitive, but it really touched a nerve when people accused me of pretending to be a cancer survivor,” she said. “My father died of cancer, two of my uncles died of cancer and my friends have died of cancer.”
She says she also received multiple messages telling her that she does not matter and that nobody cares about her.
“I had nothing to do with that video, and people were so quick to be cruel,” she said. “If I just had a little less self-esteem, I can see how I could have been depressed or suicidal.”
Katz says the misinformation spread at an even faster pace after the initial speculation was shared by prominent figures such as former Liberal MP Marlene Jennings and TV pundit Rob Silver, who is the husband of Justin Trudeau’s chief-of-staff. Jennings and Silver have since deleted their tweets and apologized to Katz.
Dear Ms Katz, as one who retweeted those that speculated you might be the woman in Scheer’s ad due to resemblance, I apologize to you without reservation.
— Hon. Marlene Jennings (@marlenejennings) August 5, 2019
1. I’m sorry for retweeting something that had inaccurate information in it. I have deleted the tweet so it is not spread further
2. Why in the world does my wife owes you anything for something I tweeted, Brock? I am my own person. I expect crap like that from trolls, not you. https://t.co/slgg4D93Qp
— Rob Silver (@RobSilver) August 5, 2019
The Alberta Resistance page also deleted its initial tweets and issued an apology, although the account has since been suspended.
“Misinformation can be spread easily these days and therefore I sincerely apologize for playing a role and contributing to that process,” wrote the account’s anonymous user.
On Thursday evening, Katz took to social media to explain how she was on the receiving end of a spate of online harassment. She says the response to her post has been overwhelmingly kind, as the messages reminded her that she is not defined by the experience.
“I just hope this ordeal makes people think twice about sharing something before they think critically about it,” she said. “Because words can cause irreparable damage.”