Twitter Hordes Thought They Found Another Amy Cooper. They Were Wrong.
Peter Weinberg — ProShares’ marketing director — opens up about being falsely accused of a racist attack.
Less than two weeks after Amy Cooper — the now-former head of insurance solutions at Franklin Templeton — got fired for calling 911 on a black birdwatcher in Central Park, another clip went viral.
The video, which emerged on Twitter Thursday evening, depicts a white man in a bike helmet and sunglasses, who grabs a young girl’s wrist, wresting papers from her hands. She was hanging signs in a park in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. He then gets his bicycle and runs toward the person filming him, who appears to fall to the ground.
As in the Cooper case, amateur online detectives set to work trying to identify the man in the video. They quickly zeroed in on a suspect using Strava, a cycling app where users share stats, including maps of where they’ve ridden.
It seemed like another Amy Cooper was about to emerge: the person they found and named also worked in finance.
But they had the wrong man.
That evening, Twitter users repeatedly said that Peter Weinberg was the man in the video. Weinberg is the senior director of marketing at ProShares, a Bethesda, Maryland-based ETF provider with more than 140 ETFs and $40 billion in assets under management.
“It’s kind of like a flash fire,” Weinberg said by phone Tuesday. “It ignites quickly and burns hot.”
Soon, users began tweeting threats and insults at Weinberg.
He attempted damage control, tweeting late on Thursday: “I recently learned I have been misidentified in connection with a deeply disturbing attack. Please know this was not me. I have been in touch with the authorities and will continue to help any way possible.”
On Friday, he produced a police report that showed he wasn’t a suspect. Soon after, he tweeted the phone number of the local police captain to confirm the report. Maryland’s attorney general, Brian Frosh, stepped in too, tweeting on Friday: “Police are focused on a suspect. It is not Mr. Weinberg.”
The suspect, Anthony Brennan III, was arrested and charged with three counts of second-degree assault that day, according to a press release from the Maryland-National Capital Park Police.
According to Weinberg, ProShares stood behind him as this unfolded. “Above all else, they were concerned for my safety,” Weinberg told Institutional Investor. “They were really supportive throughout.”
The incident diametrically opposes what happened to Amy Cooper, who was roundly “canceled,” as the Twitterati calls it, even losing her job at Franklin Templeton.
One financial executive recruiter, Charles Skorina, said that for Cooper, future job prospects will be hard to find.
“Her goose is cooked,” Skorina said. “I wouldn’t dream of presenting her to a client. They’d look at me and throw me at the door.”
But Weinberg’s experience presents a different case. “There’s a saying: the first lie out the door wins,” Skorina said by phone.
According to Weinberg, “The damage is done. There’s a lot of misplaced negativity attached to my name now.”
Such is the case for many who have — rightly or wrongly — been accused of something like this. There is sometimes a way out, though, according to Skorina. “You can, if you’ve got enough money, hire people who actually can purge that stuff,” Skorina said, adding that it costs a small fortune — usually to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.