In harrowing, emotional and painful detail, a mother-daughter duo of Georgia election workers described during Tuesday’s Jan. 6 committee hearing how a mob of Donald Trump supporters came after them, online and in person, after having gobbled up a debunked conspiracy theory about their actions on Election Day 2020.
As a result, their lives will never be the same, the two women, Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, said during Tuesday’s hearing.
“There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere,” Freeman, who along with her daughter was aggressively targeted by conspiracy theorists in the weeks after the 2020 election, said during taped testimony. Parts of her never-before-seen interview were played toward the end of Tuesday’s hearing, as she sat behind her daughter in the committee room.
“Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States to target you? The president of the United States is supposed to represent every American. Not to target one,” Freeman said. “He targeted me. A proud American citizen who stood up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of a pandemic.”
Moss, who testified in person on Tuesday, described the moment she discovered she’d been receiving myriad “racist” and “hateful” threats on Facebook’s Messenger application.
“I went to that icon and there was just a lot of horrible things,” Moss said. “A lot of threats, wishing death upon me, telling me that I’ll be in jail with my mother and saying things like, ‘Be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920.’”
Moss and her mother were targeted and harassed relentlessly after Rudy Giuliani, who was advising Trump on how to overturn the results of the 2020 election, used video footage of the pair working during the election count to push lies about the results.
Their testimony Tuesday underscored the very real, direct and dangerous effects that Trump’s lies about the 2020 election and the mob they incited had on rank-and-file election workers.
Users on websites like 4chan and Twitter zoomed in on CCTV footage, falsely claiming Freeman and Moss were moving a “suitcase” of illegal ballots. In reality, the “suitcase” was a regular box of ballots. Freeman and Moss were identified by conspiracy theorists and far-right influencers, like 8chan’s Ron Watkins and the blog Gateway Pundit, who falsely claimed the video served as evidence of a rigged election.
The conspiracy theories were later pushed by Trump in the days before Jan. 6, 2021.
Giuliani falsely claimed that Moss and her mother were passing USB drives “like vials of heroin or cocaine” during ballot counting operations in Fulton County, Georgia.
Asked on Tuesday what her mother was actually handing her on the video, Moss said it was a “ginger mint.”
Moments later, in video testimony played during the hearing, Freeman laid out, with raw and halting emotion, how the harassment she faced by pro-Trump supporters irreversibly changed her life.
“I have lost my name and I have lost my reputation,” a visibly shaken Freeman said in the video. “All because a group of people starting with number 45 and his ally Rudy Giuliani decided to scapegoat me and my daughter.”
Following the threats, intimidation and harassment she faced, Freeman said she won’t wear the shirt she wore on Election Day 2020 — her favorite item, which has her nickname, “Lady Ruby” emblazoned on it — that she won’t introduce herself by her name anymore and even gets anxious while shopping.
“I get nervous when I bump into someone in the grocery store who knows my name,” she said.
Freeman said she wasn’t able to live at her home for two months after FBI officials warned her it would be unsafe in the days before Jan. 6, 2021.
“I stayed away from my home for approximately two months. It was horrible. I felt homeless,” she said in the video. “I felt, you know, I can’t believe this person has caused this much damage to me and my family to have to leave my home. That I’ve lived there for 21 years and you know, I’m having to have my neighbors watch out for me. You know, and I have to go and stay with somebody. It was hard. It was horrible.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who led most of the hearing Tuesday, summed up the jarring consequences Trump’s lies had on Moss and Freeman with a rhetorical question following their testimony.
“If the most powerful person in the world can bring the full weight of the presidency down on an ordinary citizen who is merely doing her job, with a lie as big and heavy as a mountain,” he said, “who among us is safe?”