Since winning in the top-two primary this spring, I’ve been subjected to an attempted character assassination mounted by former campaign staff who departed from my team.

I’m grateful to see The Intercept finally cover some of the facts that evaded the public discussion until now, though I’m also disturbed by the continuing failures of the press. From excluded evidence and salacious reporting to systemic racism in surprising places, my experience as a candidate indicates challenges confronting our democracy. We can all learn lessons from this. Our campaign offers the following suggestions for how you can demand better press coverage and representation of diverse candidates.

Excluded Evidence

First, and foremost: the allegations made towards me included statements that my accusers knew to be false. My former colleagues reached out to a campaign volunteer, who flatly rejected rumors about her that they had been spreading. Sickened by the initial round of inaccurate reporting, this volunteer sent the campaign a copy of text messages documenting their exchange.

The texts prove that my critics knew their claims in the initial DSA-SF resolution were false before they spoke in the press to advance them.

The first set of texts, dated July 15th, include the volunteer saying, “I’m telling you it’s false and now it’s your responsibility to alert everyone….”
She goes on to write about how “absolutely outrageous what bullshit this is. Really disappointed in the…slandering that’s happening here.”
She concludes, “”I’m not jumping on a smear campaign….[A]ll of you pedaling [sic] these stories are biased disgruntled ex employees….Check your bias.”
A separate exchange on July 16th confirms that my former staff were actively spreading disparaging rumors, to which the same volunteer replied, “I’m seeing some people try to run a smear campaign against Shahid… but this story about me is false….”

The text messages also depict a disturbing reflection of racial privilege. In the exchange, a white man encourages a white woman to lie about me — a brown immigrant — to support rumors of sexual misconduct concocted by my critics in order to support their political agenda.

Contrived Accusations

In order to package their combined claims to the press, my critics worked with another person on the east coast who has a long history of making false claims towards me and many others. The Intercept correctly noted that my former colleagues developed their concerns about me only after encountering this now discredited accuser. The Intercept failed to document the political interest shared by my critics, who have each gone on to work for figures and organizations that never endorsed our campaign.

After these text exchanges, former staff later introduced the resolution they drafted to weaponize DSA-SF in the service of their scheme. These debunked rumors were the only known basis for the pattern they alleged. The volunteer also sent all of these messages to press outlets, which declined to correct their stories. The only outlet to update their reporting, The Intercept, noted that “DSA-SF ultimately passed a resolution in a virtual meeting on August 4 that stripped out [these] accusations.” The report also observed that “the ability of the press, the public, and members of progressive groups to adjudicate or analyze allegations is complicated by a situation in which the decision-making process included accusations that were made privately but not presented to Buttar or the general membership of the groups.”

Inaccurate and unethical hit pieces by local outlets, including 48 Hills and Mission Local, amplified the smear and remain uncorrected to this day, despite repeated corrections requests. The willingness of local journalists to print uncorroborated information — and then to refuse to print corrections even when confronted with contradicting evidence — may have been motivated by any number of factors. Whatever explanation one might offer, the end result regardless of intention was ultimately to advance white supremacy in multiple dimensions.

As a man of color falsely accused and presumptively judged in public, I stand in a long and unfortunate line. Thankfully, I was subjected to only character assassination, and remain standing to defend myself, the truth, and the future.

Particular tropes about Muslim men and misogyny are unfortunately well-established. They were actively promoted twenty years ago to justify the war in Afghanistan. Slate has published articles titled Is Islam Misogynistic?, and the New Humanist investigated an entire conference in 2014 dedicated to asking Can Muslims Escape Misogyny? These tropes were inevitably implicated by the attacks on me and my supporters.

Unethical Acts

My former staff behaved unethically at multiple points throughout this saga.

Several waves of mid-smear bullying included allegations made towards my current staff and volunteers as well as my romantic partners. My critics purposefully misgendered my female volunteers. They accused my current staff and volunteers of internalizing oppression and acting to undermine other women — which was instead a projection of what my former staff were doing. They not only falsely constructed a character of an overbearing toxic male, but also falsely accused my supporters of being intimidated by that character. Both sides of that smear rely on tropes about Muslim men.

One former staff member misrepresented themselves as current staff to reporters who reached out after the initial reporting. The same critic published comments aiming to shame me for my relationships, and falsely assuming that my rare personal time away from the campaign always involved sex.

Two former staff both leaked an internal email from the campaign, posted in a group chat and on twitter. At least one reached out to an accuser with a long history of previous false accusations about me, including racialized and homophobic comments.

These staff knew about her long history of making false accusations — at least towards me, if not the many others who she has also defamed — but did not mention that history when promoting their fabricated story to the press. They knew that I could not add that information myself without appearing to demean my accuser. They used the MeToo movement as both a sword and a shield.

Upon investigating, The Intercept correctly reported the claims by this accuser to be “dubious.”

Tweet from Ryan Grim on Aug 18: The fight the Bay Area left is having over @ShahidForChange often conflates 2 independent accusations: 1. That he mistreated staff and 2. That he sexually harassed a former acquaintance. We've investigated the latter and find it of dubious credibility. On the former /1

Racism even without prejudice

The Intercept also correctly reported that my former colleagues critical of me include women of color. As I’ve observed elsewhere, “you don’t need to be white to be racist.” Frankly, it takes nothing more than to leap to judgment in spite of evidence. Contriving libelous claims is worse. Even worse yet are the words of one of my critics of color, a self-described socialist, whose words during one DSA-SF call included, “Brown men rape.”

Most revealing, The Intercept observed that my former campaign manager recklessly accused me in writing of “sexual assault,” knowing full well that even the allegations that she herself had contrived did not rise to that level. When asked about it by a journalist, she absurdly claimed that her written claim (read by thousands) was a mistake, rather than a malicious lie contrived to achieve her stated goal of ending my campaign.

Since the smears were first launched with the help of unethical local and international journalists who failed to corroborate facts and suppressed the voices of whistleblowers, a number of journalists have stepped in to correct the biased stories initially published by the San Francisco Chronicle, Mission Local, 48 Hills, and the Intercept.

After the Intercept substantially updated its story, exposing the baselessness of my critics’ claims, Katie Halper interviewed two volunteers with our campaign, both women, who our critics bullied while disingenuously claiming to stand with women.

Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uyger from the Young Turks shared some of the outrage we have heard from so many supporters frustrated by the failures of press and political organizations, and how they undermined the political process, as well as progressive principles.

Writing in Salon, Nicole Karlis was the first journalist to observe how white supremacy and institutional racism helped enable the smear campaign, although Rutgers law professor Sahar Aziz had also described them as fueled by Islamophobia. Both the head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Bay Area and the national policy director of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee agreed—yet the various political organizations that fell prey to these dynamics have yet to acknowledged them publicly.

Some have suggested that the facts can not be known, which is patently false. My leading critic revealed their own confusion and entitlement in her own words on a podcast titled, This is Some Noise that featured two hour-long episodes exploring the attacks on our campaign.

No stranger to struggle

I am an immigrant who has overcome housing instability, challenges funding my education, and racism & Islamophobia to build a strong record of public advocacy. I am a Stanford-educated non-profit constitutional lawyer with 20 years of experience spanning San Francisco and Washington DC. It is wildly presumptuous — and deeply racist — for my former staff to claim total credit for the success of my campaign, as if my labor, voice, and experience contributed nothing to our efforts.

Despite having encountered the surprising emergence of white supremacy in the press and among local political organizations in San Francisco, I’m grateful for the chance to be the first Democrat in over 30 years to face House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a General Election.

I am running to represent San Francisco in Congress because I know that the future is at risk, that it has been preyed upon by the past, and that it needs our solidarity in the present.

The need for climate justice has been literally written in the sky in recent weeks. Meanwhile, the global pandemic makes the case for universal healthcare unavoidable. Finally, the continuing pattern of murder by state actors has forced our communities into the streets to declare our demands for justice.

Those are the reasons why I’m running to represent San Francisco in Congress, and why I’m grateful for the chance to advance our city’s voice in the nation’s capital. If San Francisco has a chance to hear about the contrast between our choices — instead of being distracted by baseless, politically motivated smears — I’m confident that our city will make a choice for a new voice in Washington.