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Somewhere in the Missouri Office of Administration building, someone cleaned up a state senator’s Wikipedia page. Democrat Steven Roberts, who represents Missouri’s 5th Senate District, is a member of the Missouri Air National Guard, a commissioned U.S. Air Force officer, and the youngest black senator in state history. He was also accused by at least two women of sexual assault. But if you checked his Wikipedia page in February, you might not know that. An unidentified editor, logging in from an IP address in the Office of Administration building, repeatedly deleted the allegations from Roberts’ page.
Roberts – who reportedly pondered a main challenge against Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo. — was first elected to the state House of Representatives in November 2016. In September, Cora Faith Walker, another Democratic candidate for the State House, wrote a letter to Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson, in which she accused Roberts of raping her. She told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the couple met for drinks at a St. Louis apartment several weeks after winning their respective primary elections, and Walker woke up there the next morning, not remembering nothing after his second glass of wine. In the letter to Richardson, Walker said she reported the incident to the police. After an investigation based on Walker’s police report, a special prosecutor declined to charge Roberts, saying “there simply wasn’t enough credible evidence that the sexual relationship between these two people was anything but consensual. “.
Roberts, who denied Walker’s allegation, filed a civil suit against her for defamation before the election, but later dropped the case. On March 11, 2022, Walker died at age 37. The cause of his death has not been reported. Reached by The Intercept, Walker’s family declined to comment and a spokesperson said they would not answer questions related to the allegation.
“I specifically authorize you to name me and let people know about this letter,” Walker wrote in her 2016 letter to Richardson. “As you know, I am not the first woman to accuse Mr. Roberts of sexual assault.”
In April 2015, a law student accused Roberts, then an assistant district attorney in the St. Louis Circuit District Attorney’s Office, of touching her and trying to put his hands in her pants and underwear after he rebuffed an advance from him at a bar. The woman reported the incident to police and Roberts was arrested on “suspicion of second-degree sodomy” and suspended from his job, according to the Post-Dispatch, but he was never charged. In October, Roberts was fired from the circuit attorney’s office for “performance issues.” He filed for State House in December 2015.
Less than a year later, after Walker accused him of rape, the first accuser spoke anonymously to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about his allegation and said what happened to Walker “was preventable” and ” made me feel like I should have done more.”
But all of this information was removed from Roberts’ Wikipedia page on February 7. The page’s edit history shows that a user, identified only by an IP address at the Office of Administration building – on the grounds of the State Capitol, across from the Senate building – made four changes that day. The changes removed an entire section titled “Sexual Assault Allegations” and its subheadings, as well as a section on Robert’s dismissal from the circuit attorney’s office, all of which quote the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. An edit removed general information about Roberts’ family background related to his state senate biography. The user called the clippings “false allegations”, “defamatory statements” and “articles linked to partisan websites and false narratives”.
On February 28, another account, MOfacts, whose account information does not include an IP address, removed the same sections. MOfacts explained the removal by saying, “Sources behind paywall and unverifiable. Please use public sources for verification.
Another user questioned the deletions, noting that MOfacts added “a bunch of favorable information” to Roberts’ page on Feb. 14 and then deleted “information on Steve Roberts’ Wiki page that wasn’t favorable (multiple sexual assault allegations)”. MOfacts and the other editor went back and forth, undoing and redoing each other’s revisions. A third user who undid a MOfacts edit categorized it as “unexplained content removal.” On March 4, a user wrote in a comment on the “Allegations of rape” section: “MOFacts continues to edit this section and this section alone, creating his account a few weeks ago to inflate the page of this politician, remove repeatedly the allegation of sexual assault section without cause…. I am very concerned that they have a conflict of interest because of their behavior.
On March 13, another user protected the page so that only users with a certain level of access could edit it, and the information has not been removed since. The “MOfacts” account does not have an existing user page.
Ryan Hawkins, a spokesperson for Roberts, said he did not know who made the changes to the state senator’s page. “As you know, Wikipedia is an unregulated, unedited and largely unsourced mass of information that is often inaccurate because anyone can post almost anything,” Hawkins wrote in a statement to The Intercept. . He added that Roberts’ tenure in the St. Louis circuit attorney’s office “ended because people in supervisory roles objected to the creation of a campaign committee set up to run for office. office of circuit attorney against the incumbent’s preferred successor”. Hawkins did not respond to Walker’s allegations, writing only that the state senator “sends condolences to his family on his tragic and untimely passing.”
Asked if Roberts plans to lead Bush, Hawkins said the state senator is focused on the current legislative session, “his leadership duties as Democratic Whip and his commitment to serve in the United States Armed Forces in this time of crisis.
The deadline for Missouri’s primary record is March 29. In the meantime, Roberts is pushing redistricting maps in the state Senate that would alter the boundaries of the congressional district to move it further northwest and increase its minority population.
Roberts says the map would ensure a stronger majority-minority district. His critics, including the state’s GOP leader, said the map would displace Bush voters and that his stance on redistricting MO-1 was part of his congressional candidacy plan. Roberts has denied this goal, and according to Hawkins, Roberts’ priorities “and that of the Black Caucus, are to pass a congressional redistricting bill that secures a strong majority-minority district in MO-1” as well as preserve women’s right to control health care decisions, freeze property tax rates for seniors and defend the right to vote. “Senator Roberts urges all his colleagues, especially the GOP, to finally do their duty by passing a fair map that protects congressional representation for all Missouri voters, including African Americans.”
When Bush defeated incumbent Representative William Lacy Clay in 2020, his election added a leader of the 2014 protests in Ferguson to the House’s growing progressive team. Now she faces at least two challengers in her first primary as an incumbent, and if Roberts files a case, she will face a third.
Roberts would be the most prominent candidate to have challenged Bush. Her father, also named Steven Roberts, is a St. Louis developer and former city councilman. Elected to the state Senate in 2020 after serving two terms in the State House, the younger Roberts is currently the minority Democratic caucus whip. Missouri state senators are limited to two four-year terms, and Roberts’ first term runs until 2025.
After Roberts was reelected to the State House in November 2018, his colleagues elected him chair of the Missouri Black Legislative Caucus. Walker quit caucus, and eight months later resigned from the State House to work as policy director for the St. Louis County Executive.
As of Monday, Roberts’ Wikipedia page lists the alleged assaults. Its most recent edit, made by a different user than those involved in the previous editing battle, indicates that the latest editor attempted to present the sections on the allegations against Roberts from a neutral point of view. This included removing “inappropriate titles and language”, updating sources, and removing unnecessary detail.