An 18-year-old white woman has been arrested after confessing to falsely accusing three black men of sexually assaulting her — but that wasn't before white nationalists on Twitter and Reddit used the alleged incident to fuel their anti-black rhetoric.
According to a statement from the Denison, Texas, police department, Breana Harmon Talbott burst into a church on March 8 visibly injured and wearing just a shirt, bra and underwear alleging that she had been kidnapped and raped in the woods by three masked black men. Talbott said one of the men held her down while the other two raped her.
After giving police her account of the alleged crimes, Talbott went to the hospital and authorities launched a full investigation, collecting evidence and searching the area were the supposed assault occurred.
When news of Talbott's alleged assault made its way to media outlets, members of the alt-right and those with white nationalist leanings latched onto it, using it as evidence of a rash of black-on-white crime and accusing the "liberal" media of intentionally ignoring the story.
The story was also featured prominently on many white-nationalist and fringe "news" websites, with alarmist headlines filled with dog whistle terms.
But the more local detectives dug into the case, the more suspicious they were about the validity of Talbott's story.
Their suspicions were confirmed when, on Tuesday, Talbott confessed she made up the whole thing.
"Breana Harmon Talbott's hoax was ... insulting to our community and especially offensive to the African-American community due to her description of the so-called suspects in her hoax," the Denison Police Department's statement read.
Talbott is facing charges of a "false report to a peace officer," a class B misdemeanor, which, in Texas, carries a fine of up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail or both.
What's worse, though, is that Talbott's actions perpetuated a long history of white people — and specifically white women — making false accusations against black men. In fact, the Root has rounded up a whole list of some of the most famous instances of white people lying about crimes, including a case in 1931 involving two white women falsely accusing nine black men of sexual assault. Even after one of the women admitted her friend had fabricated the crimes, many of the men were sentenced to jail time anyway.
And, of course, Talbott's isn't the only contemporary case of white women falsely accusing black men. In October, Michigan resident Leiha Ann-Sue Artman fabricated a story similar to Talbott's, claiming four black men kidnapped, raped and beat her. She was sentenced to one year in prison.
While Talbott may likely be brought to justice for her lies, in many ways the damage she's done is irreparable.
As the Denison Police Department wrote, "The anger and hurt caused by such a hoax are difficult and ... unnecessary."