Ashley Feinberg has done it again.
Feinberg, a Slate reporter and expert internet sleuth who exposed the secret Twitter account of former FBI Director James Comey more than two years ago, has now also uncovered a covert Twitter account used by Sen. Mitt Romney to keep tabs on the national political discussion.
In a profile published Sunday by The Atlantic, the former Massachusetts governor-turned-Utah senator revealed that he has a secret “lurker” account, where he follows a number of political commentators and celebrities — but not President Donald Trump. The disclosure came after an Axios report last week accused Romney of falsely claiming to not follow Trump, since his official @MittRomney account does.
“I won’t give you the name of it,” Romney told The Atlantic‘s McKay Coppins of his secret account, adding that he follows 668 people: athletes, journalists, and late-night comedians, including — in an apparent reference to Conan O’Brien — a “big redhead from Boston.”
Those were apparently enough clues for Feinberg.
Less than nine hours after The Atlantic’s article went live Sunday morning, Feinberg’s follow-up went up on Slate: “This Sure Looks Like Mitt Romney’s Secret Twitter Account.”
Rather than scouring through O’Brien’s 28.6 million followers to look for suspect accounts, Feinberg wrote that she combed through the followers of Romney’s lesser-known relatives with a focus on “ones that appeared to make an effort to conceal their real identities.”
Eventually she came upon the Twitter handle @qaws9876, a nondescript account that goes by the name Pierre Delecto.
While the account’s name doesn’t imply any clear connections to Romney (though a Washington Post reporter noted Sunday that he did Mormon missionary work in France), its actions and history drew a pretty certain line to the 72-year-old senator.
The account followed 702 people — reasonably close to 668 — including a number of athletes and celebrities, from Tom Brady to Jimmy Kimmel to, yes, O’Brien. According to Feinberg, the account’s first follows appeared to be Romney’s oldest son, Tagg, followed by a former Boston Globe reporter and two former advisors to his past presidential campaigns. The other 700 or so people that Delecto followed included Republican commentators, journalists, and Romney fan accounts, according to Feinberg.
True to Romney’s “lurker” description, the account sparsely tweeted. But when it did, most of Delecto’s 10 tweets — all but one of which were sent this year — were defenses of Romney in replies to commentators who were critical of the Republican senator for not more forcefully opposing Trump.
“Only Republican to hit Trump on the Meuller [sic] report, only one to hit Trump on character time and again, so Soledad, you think he’s the one without moral compass?” Delecto wrote in reply to a critical June tweet by journalist Soledad O’Brien commenting on an article about Romney.
Delecto also liked more than 250 tweets, nearly 60 of which came from Romney’s official accounts, according to Feinberg’s count. Others were reportedly mostly tweets about Romney in general, as well as a number from George Conway, the outspoken conservative Trump critic and husband of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway. Per Feinberg, Delecto’s “liked” tweets also included a few particularly eyebrow-raising statements for the typically staid Romney.
Hopefully Hillary will inspire a new generation of girls to marry ambitious perverts who will pay off their embarrassment with Senate seats.
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) June 8, 2016
You were cheating on your second wife with the woman who is now your third wife even while impeaching Clinton for cheating on his wife. Show yourself out🐮 https://t.co/3I5ZhWgAFE
— Devin Nunes’ cow 🐮 (@DevinCow) September 30, 2019
I've always thought that "invoke the 25th amendment!" was a misguided, futile notion but after this Tweet from the President, I'm reassessing… https://t.co/MFs3MpT6kj
— Jeff Greenfield (@greenfield64) October 7, 2019
The account, which reportedly went private less than an hour after Feinberg’s story was published, also joined Twitter in July 2011, just a month after Romney officially launched his 2012 campaign.
As of Monday morning, the senator’s spokespeople had not replied to requests for comment by Boston.com (or Slate). However, Coppins was able to get Romney on the phone Sunday night. Asked about the Pierre Delecto account, Romney reportedly had just two words: “C’est moi.”
For those who don’t speak French, that translates to “It’s me.”