GOP Senate hopeful claims Twitter hack, demands apology

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Lena Epstein, who is Jewish, is demanding an apology from critics after claiming a hacker accessed her Twitter account and “liked” posts by former Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Screenshots circulated late Thursday by Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon and others showed Epstein’s account had liked posts by Duke championing the “alt-right” and the First Amendment in the wake of last weekend’s deadly violence at a white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesvile, Virginia.

The activity no longer appears on Epstein’s account, which as of Friday morning showed the last post she “liked” was from Aug. 2.

“As a Jewish woman with deep roots in the Jewish faith, a proud lineage of Jewish leaders, and relatives who were killed in the Holocaust because of blind hatred and prejudice, there is little that could be more offensive to me than the suggestion that I support, ‘like,’ or condone David Duke, neo-Nazis, or any group that promotes hatred and prejudice,” Epstein said in a Friday statement.

The Bloomfield Hills businesswoman on Thursday night demanded Dillon apologize and delete his own tweets criticizing her. She later said she was “disgusted” he was “exploiting what is so obviously false.”

But Dillon stood by his criticism Friday morning, calling Epstein’s hacking claims “utterly ridiculous.”

“She’s about as credible as the president she worships,” Dillon said, referring to Republican President Donald Trump. Epstein co-chaired his state campaign in 2016.

Trump renewed a firestorm Tuesday when he reiterated his assertion that “both sides” were to blame for violence in Charlottesville. While he denounced white supremacists, he also said there were “very fine people” on both sides of the protest and counter-protest. His comments were praised by Duke but drew heavy criticism from Michigan congressional members on both sides of the aisle.

Epstein on Thursday night shared an email Twitter sent at 5 p.m. asking her to confirm her account, initially pointing to that as the time of the hack. On Friday, her campaign shared a password change email notification Twitter had sent at 9:43 a.m. Thursday.

“We initially thought we were notified at 5pm, it turns out that’s when our security team re-secured our account,” Epstein said on Twitter.

A separate screen shot provided to The Detroit News suggested Epstein’s account had liked another Duke post closer to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Her campaign provided The News with an email showing it notified Twitter of the alleged hack an hour later.

Dillon argued her “changing cockamamie story” does not add up.

“She claims that her account was hacked but then hours after it was hacked she was still liking posts,” Dillon said. “It’s clear she did this. It’s consistent with the way she’s run her campaign, which is to run a very unapologetically pro-Trump campaign.”

The Epstein campaign on Friday asked Twitter to provide forensic data to prove the account was comprised, but Twitter declined, saying it does not provide IP or other data in such cases.

Screenshots from Thursday night also suggest Epstein’s account had liked a post from user BakedAlaska, who has been linked to the white supremacist movement and thanked Trump for “condemning the alt-left antifa thugs who attacked us” in Charlottesville.

“Whoever illegally hacked into my account chose to try and portray me as a supporter of all that I stand against,” Epstein said.