In the immediate aftermath of President-elect Donald Trump's win, one disturbing image caught the eye of Americans on both sides of the aisle. A sign reading "Rape Melania" cropped up at an anti-Trump rally in November, sparking outrage that protesters would stoop so low as to call for such an act of violence.
For conservatives, the despicable message was proof positive that liberals aren't as pure of heart as they make themselves out to be. Others entertained the possibility of foul play — the images depicting the sign, many said, could have easily been manipulated. At the time, Mic spoke to experts who argued for and against the image being digitally altered.
Now, the case of the "Rape Melania" sign has become even murkier: According to BuzzFeed News, there's evidence to suggest the controversial sign had been planted by a Trump supporter to sabotage protesters.
BuzzFeed News reporters obtained text messages exchanged between Jack Posobiec, an organizer of the post-inauguration celebration known as the DeploraBall, and a co-conspirator, showing the two discussing plans to smear protesters.
In the Nov. 10 exchange, Posobiec says he successfully infiltrated an anti-Trump protest and managed to get someone to repeat his shouts to "assassinate Trump," which he says he caught on tape. He later posted a video recording of someone yelling something to a similar effect on Twitter.
On Nov. 12, Posobiec and his partner talk about plans to "discredit" protesters organizing outside Trump's Washington, D.C., hotel using "bad signs." Posobiec seemed to brainstorm exactly what to write on the "bad signs" during the pair's Nov. 10 conversations.
BuzzFeed News' screenshots show Posobiec suggesting, "Fuck Melania Trump." His conspirator replies, "Too subtle...Rape Melania is better."
The two later exchanged texts including a screenshot that #RapeMelania was trending on Twitter following the sign's appearance at the D.C. rally.
Posobiec denied that he sent the texts and told BuzzFeed News that the photos of the "Rape Melania" sign were likely digitally altered.
Anti-Trump demonstrators discussed the sign on the Facebook event page for the protest after one man posted a photo of it, writing, "I really hope someone asked this person to leave tonight! We have to go high when they go low!"
A woman named Amy Whetzel replied in the comments claiming the protester holding the sign "pretty much confirmed" he was a Trump supporter when other protesters approached him.
Whether Posobiec planted the sign amid protests or whether the "Rape Melania" message was edited in after the fact, there's at least one thing everyone can agree on: Calling for the rape of any person is abominable.