A man who says he supports Bernie Sanders punked Joe Biden's presidential campaign into sending out notices of a phony Palm Beach "November debate watch party" that was supposed to be held at the infamous estate of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
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Gerald Doherty, 28, confirmed to FOX Business that he created the fake invite that linked to a Biden campaign web page for the alleged gathering during Wednesday's Democratic debate at 358 El Brillo Way in Palm Beach, the address of Epstein's nine-bedroom mansion where prosecutors say he performed illegal sex acts with underage girls.
The event promised "street-side parking," according to an invite reviewed by FOX Business. "Looking forward to seeing you. Joe Biden for President," it added, with a link to Biden's official campaign website that said "pizza" would be served.
The event notice was sent via email to numerous people in South Florida by the Biden campaign, one recipient told FOX Business, which reviewed the email. FOX Business then sought to confirm its legitimacy by contacting Doherty, whose telephone number was on the invite. In an interview Sunday, Doherty fessed up to the joke.
Epstein, a multimillionaire Wall Street financier with ties to the rich and powerful like former President Bill Clinton, President Trump and Britain's Prince Andrew, reached a plea deal with prosecutors in 2008 for soliciting sex from a minor and served a brief jail sentence. His net worth approached a billion dollars, and he maintained mansions across the country, including his palatial estate in Palm Beach.
In August, the New York City medical examiner said Epstein hung himself in his jail cell after facing new federal charges for abusing dozens of underage girls, which could have kept him in jail for the rest of his life, if convicted.
Doherty described himself as a graduate of Ithaca College in New York who resides in Miami. He said he remains convinced the multimillionaire sex offender died under mysterious circumstances, which was one of the motivating factors for creating the fake invite. Another reason Doherty said he created the fake invite is that he wanted to show just how little grassroots support Biden has in the area, particularly as compared to the Vermont senator, who is challenging Biden in the Democratic race to challenge Trump in the 2020 election.
And his last reason for doing it: "I was bored."
"I'm a Bernie Sanders supporter and I can tell you Joe Biden has zero grassroots support; it's a joke," said Doherty. "I'm also fixated with the Jeffrey Epstein story. The circumstances surrounding his death are weird. I'm not a Jeffrey Epstein expert, but based on what I've seen it's hard to digest he killed himself."
Biden is the nominal front-runner in the Democratic race now featuring almost 20 candidates as former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg leans toward entering the race. But the Biden campaign has hit a rough spot because of gaffes made by the candidate in debates and campaign events, and some say, a poor campaign organization that is having difficulty raising money and crafting a coherent message for the former vice president. Biden is running as a moderate in a field that features progressives like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Doherty's candidate, Sanders.
Doherty, for his part, said he was surprised that what he termed a "joke" got so much local traction with the Biden campaign. He said he set up the fake invite by following the directions on Biden's campaign website "toolkit" for "hosting events." People looking to host Biden events are asked to fill out an application and "after it's approved, you'll be able to edit it, invite people and track who's coming," the instructions say. "If your event is public, it will be displayed on our website and could be emailed to supporters to your area."
The campaign will also supply a stock photo for the invite and link to event information, as it did for Doherty's fugazy debate party.
"If the Biden campaign was doing better, this attack wouldn't happen," said Democratic campaign consultant Hank Sheinkopf. "It says the Biden campaign if Bernie Sanders people think they can get away with this."
It's unclear how many invites were sent out in recent days to South Florida residents. The Biden campaign didn't return emails and calls for comment.
Doherty said he has received about 10 responses from people looking to attend, but after he was contacted by FOX Business, he said he would attempt to remove the web page that the invite linked to on the Biden campaign website.
"I did not do this because I believe Joe Biden was somehow connected to Jeffrey Epstein, because there's another candidate with those ties," said Doherty, referring to Trump's now disavowed friendship with Epstein. "I did it because I'm watching the Epstein story disappear, and I wanted to remind people that Joe Biden has zero grassroots support."