But her stepfather Gary Davis warned Tuesday that the portrait of Winner that emerges from her social media is not “an accurate portrayal of my daughter.”
Davis said his daughter served her nation with distinction for six years in the Air Force, where she worked as a linguist. He said she speaks Arabic and Farsi and has training in other Mideast languages.
“She received commendations during that time,” Davis said. “She’s just a passionate young woman who probably made some mistakes.”
Davis said he’s not certain that the Twitter account cited in press reports actually belongs to Winner, although it uses her photo. “The person they are portraying in the media is an invention,” he said. “It’s their take on what little they know about.”
Winner’s mother, Billie Winner-Davis, described her as no fan of the president, but added that “she’s not an activist.”
South Texas roots
At her family home on a sparsely populated road near the tiny farming town of Ricardo, just south of Kingsville, the curtains were pulled tight and no one answered the door.
A neighbor, who said he called the local sheriff’s department after TV crews approached the home, declined to give his name, saying only Winner’s arrest was “a shock.”
The rural neighborhood, where many houses fly large U.S. flags and sport yard signs with gun targets reading “If you can read this, you’re in range,” is interspersed with rows of cotton, sorghum and cotton.
In Ricardo’s tiny downtown, word of Winner’s arrest had begun to spread Tuesday, with neighbors taking differing views on her actions.
“I don’t think it was right,” said Melissa Vasquez, cashier at the 5-0 convenience store. “You don’t know what kind of information she was giving. Obviously it was classified for a reason.”
But customer Mary Jane De Luna, a manager at a Kingsville pharmacy, said she was glad Winner took the risk of leaking to the press. “I think we should know what’s going on,” she said. “It took someone young like her to bring it out. People need to know what’s going on behind the scenes.”
De Luna said a co-worker’s son who went to H.M. King High School with Winner described her as “very intelligent.”
After graduating in 2010, Winner completed Air Force basic training in 2011, according to the Kingsville Record. Davis said she turned down a full scholarship to Texas A&M Kingsville to enlist. After her discharge, she worked as a contractor with Pluribus International Corp.
At Naval Air Station Kingsville, news hadn’t spread far as of early Tuesday afternoon. A trio of service members at a coffee shop near the base, said they hadn’t heard of Winner’s arrest. “It’s crazy, but I don’t know anything about it,” said one, who declined to give his name.
Winner’s arrest marks the first criminal leak case under President Trump. Court documents say she admitted to printing out and mailing top secret documents to an undisclosed media outlet — apparently the online outlet The Intercept.
Earlier this year, she met with staff members of U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-GA. to discuss environmental issues. She posted a selfie with her eyebrows raised outside of the first-term senator’s Atlanta office to Facebook on Feb. 14.
“A great American once told us to go out and have conversations with one another,” Winner wrote in the post, in which she also wrote she was “feeling optimistic.”
“Our team meets with hundreds of Georgians monthly to discuss issues important to them,” a Perdue spokeswoman said in a statement. She said Perdue’s office doesn’t ask about employment in routine meetings with constituents and that Winner’s work as a federal contractor didn’t come up then.
“The allegations against Ms. Winner are very serious, and if true, directly threaten our national security,” the spokeswoman said. “I trust our Justice Department will get to the bottom of this and handle it appropriately.”
Her social media feeds show she was particularly passionate about climate change, refugees, Syria’s civil war and the citizens of Iran.
After a friend asked about her meeting with Perdue’s staff, Winner said it went “really well.”
“I can’t believe I got a private 30 minute meeting, and his state policy director is going to send me email updates on some of my concerns regarding climate change and what the state of Georgia is doing to reduce dependency on fossil fuels,” she wrote.
Winner said she also told Perdue staffers that senators should “not be afraid to directly state when our president or his cabinet tell outright lies.” She said her suggestion was “well heard.”
In February, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted that Iran would be “unmoved by threats as we derive security from our people. We’ll never initiate war, but we can only rely on our own means of defense.”
Winner replied: “There are many Americans protesting US govt aggression towards Iran. If our Tangerine in Chief declares war, we stand with you!”
Trump supporters took to Winner’s social media pages, leaving comments calling her a traitor, mocking her parents and fantasizing what will happen to her if she goes to prison.
One of her most recent posts reflected a loss in her life. Above a photo of her sitting pensively in front of a Mayan pyramid in Belize, she wrote, “There is nothing that can fix the hole in my heart that you left behind. I still don’t know who I am without you here or how to keep moving forward without the one person who believed unconditionally in everything I want to do in life.
“I miss you, Dad.”