Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson is caught between a rock and a hard place.
Earlier this month, Nelson told Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times that "the Russians are in Florida’s records" — a claim that is starting to cause Nelson a lot of problems.
On Friday, The Washington Post fact-checked Nelson's claim and gave him "Four Pinocchios," which signals a "whopper," a gross or blatant lie, the worst possible rating handed out by the newspaper when they fact-check claims.
"Nelson, however, went on to make a specific and alarming claim several times: that Russia currently has access to Florida’s election systems and could purge voters from the rolls," the Post's fact-check concluded. "Not a single speck of evidence backs him up, and we have serious doubts whether the classified information he cited even exists."
Florida officials added that DHS and FBI officials told them that they have "no information that corroborates Senator Nelson’s statement."
Nelson also misquoted a letter that he and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) wrote on July 2 to a Florida election official warning about the need to strengthen election infrastructure.
To make matters worse for Nelson, a video emerged this week of him suggesting that his claim that Russians had infiltrated Florida's election systems was an assumption based on what the Russians did in 2016.
After the Post's fact-check came out, Nelson tweeted out a link to NBC News that he thought vindicated him:
Unfortunately for Nelson, Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler was there to quickly shoot it down:
The article that Nelson tweeted out specifically said that Nelson has not been able to respond to questions about his unfounded claims "presumably because he spoke out of turn about classified information."
So, based on all the information that is currently available, Nelson appears to have either made a false claim when he stated that "the Russians are in Florida’s records" or leaked classified information. Concerning potentially leaked classified information, the Washington Post's Salvador Rizzo wrote:
Nelson also has cited “classified” information. Although it’s possible that this information exists and proves his claim, it’s a tough proposition for The Fact Checker to accept, since the Department of Homeland Security has denied Nelson’s assertions, the FBI said as recently as Aug. 2 that there’s no sign of “efforts to specifically target election infrastructure,” and U.S. officials probably would have shared this classified information in some form with the state of Florida, where election officials have contradicted Nelson’s claims.
Either way, it's bad news for Nelson as recent reports show that Democrats are not surging in Florida and Nelson is falling behind his opponent, current Florida Governor Rick Scott (R), with Latino and older voters.