Marjorie Weer was baking a frozen pizza at her home in South Carolina when she first learned about the tweets.
It was the night of July 29, a Saturday, and the cousin of Weer’s husband, Kevin, sent them a post from conservative commentator Steven Crowder titled, “J.K. Rowling RAGES over Trump Snubbing Handicapped Kid. Except it Never Happened…”
The post, published on Crowder’s blog, included a 25-second video clip of a scene the Weer family had lived just a few days earlier on July 24: Marjorie, Kevin, their son Monty, in his wheelchair, and daughter, Evangeline, joined by other families in the Blue Room of the White House.
The family, along with several others, had been invited there to share their Obamacare experiences with President Trump.
Weer had been looking forward to talking about how the 2010 healthcare law had impacted her young family. But instead, her experience at the White House had, days later, been usurped by the video clip circulating the Internet, thrusting the family into the middle of one of the “fake news” stories Trump so frequently rails against.
The event at the White House took place hours before the Senate voted on three different bills overhauling the healthcare system, all of which failed, and there in the Blue Room, Trump gave brief remarks discussing the struggles Americans like Weer had with Obamacare.
After his speech, Trump walked down the row of families, shaking hands.
He shook Marjorie Weer and Kevin Weer’s hands, patted Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on the arm, and then walked out of the room.
But outside observers had noticed something in video: It was Monty, in his wheelchair, reaching up toward Trump with his left hand.
Someone published the clip from the 13-minute event on YouTube and alleged Trump had ignored 3-year-old Monty’s requests for a handshake. The video circulated on Twitter, and caught the attention of Rowling, author of the “Harry Potter” series.
“Trump imitated a disabled reporter. Now he pretends not to see a child in a wheelchair, as though frightened he might catch his condition,” Rowling said referencing Monty, who has spina bifida, in one of eight tweets transmitted to her 11.4 million followers on Friday, July 28.
“This monster of narcissism values only himself and his pale reflections. The disabled, minorities, transgender people, the poor, women (unless related to him by ties of blood, and therefore his creations) are treated with contempt, because they do not resemble Trump,” she continued.
“How stunning and how horrible, that Trump cannot bring himself to shake the hand of a small boy who only wanted to touch the President,” the Harry Potter author continued.
Thousands, including Chelsea Clinton, retweeted Rowling.
But there was a problem with the author’s commentary: Her interpretation of the scene — Trump ‘pretending’ not to see Monty in his wheelchair — was incorrect.
“It was so over-the-top wrong,” Weer told the Washington Examiner. “I thought it had to be from the Onion or something. … We laughed. We thought it was funny because it was so not true, so not near the realm it truth, it had to be made up.”
Monty, his mother said, was not trying to shake the president’s hand, as Rowling and so many others had assumed. Instead, he was showing off a patch he received from a U.S. Secret Service agent earlier in the day.
Weer and her husband let Monty hold the patch during the event in the Blue Room to keep him occupied during Trump’s remarks, and Monty showed it to all he encountered at the White House that day.
“My son doesn’t shake hands. He’s 3. We’re not that good of parents who have taught a 3-year-old to shake hands,” Weer said jokingly.
She posted a similar statement to her Facebook page — which Weer later deactivated — in an effort to clear up the confusion, hoping the message would get back to Rowling.
Weer’s appeal seems to have worked, because Rowling deleted her tweets Monday and apologized, saying if “that caused any distress to that boy or his family, I apologize unreservedly.”
But for Weer, Monty, and her family, who found themselves at the center of the “fake news” story, the damage had already been done.
“Nobody bothered to reach out, so my family got dragged into all of this, and my son had so much exposure than I ever would’ve wanted,” Weer said. “I appreciate her apology, and I hope this has calmed down, but like my husband said, we don’t know if there are any more consequences to come. There are articles and information about my son that’s out there that I wouldn’t have wanted.
“Apology accepted, but it doesn’t take away the consequences.”
For Weer, her issue with being thrust into the center of a “fake news” story has less to do with Rowling or even her comments.
Instead, it’s the fact that the media overlooked the reason why her family was at the White House in the first place, and how the press — CBS News, USA Today, and CNN, to name a few — defined her 3-year-old by his disability.
“He’s constantly referred to as ‘the disabled boy,'” Weer said. “Yes, he has mobility issues, but he’s a funny kid who loves animals and cards and planes. There’s more to him than what he can and can’t do.”
“The issue of why the disabled boy was there in the first place is because mommy and daddy are frustrated with the lack of healthcare options and holding Congress’s feet to the fire to do their jobs,” she said.
Weer said she knew she was subjecting Monty and her family to some level of exposure when she and her husband agreed to go to the White House in the first place, and it wasn’t the first time she was there.
In June, Weer met with Vice President Mike Pence and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma to discuss her experiences with Obamacare.
In South Carolina, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina was the only insurer to offer coverage on the exchange this year, and the insurer only considered doctors and hospitals located in the state as “in network.”
But Monty needed a test completed at Boston Children’s Hospital, and Weer wrestled with the insurance company for months in hopes of convincing them to cover his procedures there.
Her persistence ultimately worked, but Weer’s experience with BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina left her with a sour taste about the effects of Obamacare, and the healthcare system in general. So, when the White House called, she and Monty went to Washington to tell their story.
During their visit with Pence, Monty met First lady Melania Trump, who spent some time with the young boy, reading him books.
“She was very kind and very gracious,” Weer said. “She didn’t have to take time out of her busy schedule.”
After they returned home to South Carolina, Melania Trump sent Monty a package with 11 books, a book bag, a puzzle, candy, a stuffed bunny, and a “Make America Great Again” hat.
When the Weers were invited back to the White House last month, Weer wanted to approach the event with an open mind about the president.
“I’m not a starry-eyed groupie,” Weer said of Trump. “As a woman, I wondered what would the vibe be like in the room with the president. I wanted to see for myself, just if there was any truth in [what was reported about him].”
Before the Blue Room event, Trump met with each of the families individually, including Monty, who showed the president the “infamous badge” from the Secret Service and an airplane he had with him, Weer said.
“He came across as very professional and frustrated about what he has to work with in Congress,” she said. “He’s not what they make him out to be in the press.”
And when the event started and Trump entered the Blue Room, he stopped directly in front of the Weers, bent down, and greeted Monty.
This post originally appeared on Washington Examiner