A GOP campaign manager has resigned from his duties in the re-election efforts for a New York congressman after it was revealed through internet sleuthing that the Republican operative deliberately spread false information on Twitter — posting Hurricane Sandy pictures and reports to the microblogging service that ultimately made their way into mainstream media reports.
GOP strategist @comfortablysmug apparently relied on the supposed anonymity of Twitter to spread falsehoods on the service, using the Hurricane Sandy-related panic to take advantage of users seeking to share relevant information. One particularly viral lie tweeted by the Republican campaign manager concerned the stability of the New York Stock exchange, and he posted:
“BREAKING: Confirmed flooding on NYSE. The trading floor is flooded under more than 3 feet of water.”
Luckily, markets weren’t affected by the tall tale, but the lie nonetheless grew legs and was even cited in reports by CNN and employees of The Weather Channel.
The strategy of telling stories to inflame people may not seem a hanging offense in an era of Frank Luntz-style politicking, but BuzzFeed set about unmasking the user misleading frightened and potentially endangered fellow twitterers affected by Sandy, eventually discovering that @comfortablysmug was likely Shashank Tripathi, a manager working on the campaign of GOP congressional candidate Christopher Wight.
Tuesday evening, Wight campaign spokeswoman Carlisle Williams confirmed that Tripathi had resigned from the campaign and said:
“He has taken full responsibility for what he tweeted.”
BREAKING:Confirmed flooding on NYSE.The trading floor is flooded under more than 3 feet of water.— ComfortablySmug (@ComfortablySmug) October 30, 2012
In breaking the story, BuzzFeed wrote of Tripathi’s exploits:
“FEC documents show Wight has paid Tripathi thousands of dollars this election cycle as a “consultant.” @comfortablysmug has been a vocal supporter of Mitt Romney and posted tweets suggesting he attended this year’s Republican convention. He’s listed here by a local Republican group coordinating volunteers for a Romney phone bank. He’s 29 years old.”
This evening, the GOP strategist himself was forced to apologize directly on Twitter, and he tweeted the following regarding the @comfortablysmug hoaxing:
I wish to offer the people of New York a sincere, humble and unconditional apology. twitter.com/ComfortablySmu…— ComfortablySmug (@ComfortablySmug) October 31, 2012