Angus King’s Response to Leaked “Enemies List” Raises More Questions Than It Answers


U.S. Sen. Angus King’s office responded Monday to the online leaking of an “enemies list” the King campaign provided to social media companies in 2018.

Many of King’s political critics and supporters of State Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin), including former Republican candidates for office, media writers, and accounts controlled by the Maine GOP, were suspended from Twitter after King’s team shared the list.

A spokesman for King issued a statement to the Bangor Daily News attempting to downplay the list, which was first reported by independent journalist Matt Taibbi as part of the “Twitter Files” disclosures.

But the response from King’s office, far from resolve open questions about the enemies list, only raises new questions and suggests his office isn’t being candid about the list or his campaign’s intentions in compiling it.

Here are the claims made to the Bangor Daily News by King spokesman Matthew Felling:

  1. The King campaign provided two lists for Twitter, one of liberals and one of conservatives
  2. The King campaign was invited by Twitter to provide the list(s)
  3. The King campaign did not want the accounts banned or censored, but instead wanted them “flagged for review.”

Let’s examine those claims:

First, King claims he provided not one but two lists to Twitter. One contained conservative critics, the other contained liberal critics. However, the list published by Taibbi includes both liberals and conservatives. Look for yourself. The very first Twitter account on the list is Scott Dworkin, a well-known left-wing activist who worked for Barack Obama. Why is he on this list if, as Felling claims, there was a separate list for liberals and Taibbi only leaked one? Why does the list Taibbi published also include multiple other left-wing accounts, including supporters of 2018 socialist candidate Zak Ringelstein? The claim that there were two lists and only the conservative list was leaked doesn’t hold up if you just look at the list. King could clear this up by releasing all of his social media enemies lists.

But — importantly — how does it make the situation better that independent King’s enemies list(s) included both liberals and conservatives?

That claim only makes the problem twice as bad!

A bipartisan enemies list is still an enemies list, it’s just a little longer.

Second, Felling claims the list was shared with Twitter upon invitation. How does that change anything? It doesn’t answer the question of why the enemies list(s) was/were created in the first place? And if it was created at Twitter’s invitation, why then does the list include Facebook users? And why does the list indicate that it was also sent to Facebook? Again, something doesn’t add up here. Further, why was the King campaign talking with Twitter about a video in the first place if not to limit the spread of the video on that platform?

Third, Felling claims King’s campaign wasn’t trying to get anyone censored. Their intention, he said, was to have the accounts “flagged for review.” But what would the preferred outcome of that review be? Are we really to believe that the King campaign did not want these reviews to lead to the suppression of the accounts on the list? And if King’s purpose in sharing the list wasn’t to achieve censorship of his critics, why then does the document include a column that tracks whether a flagged Facebook account was removed? Again, look for yourself. No explanation for the meeting and the provision of the list makes sense if censorship was not the goal.

None of the claims Felling made on King’s behalf stand up to basic scrutiny. Yet absent a more robust sense of curiosity from Maine’s journalist class, King is unlikely to feel compelled to clarify Felling’s claims. Maine Public has yet to cover King’s role in this major national news story, despite running an excellent piece today on phytoplankton. The Press Herald coalition of newspapers have likewise ignored the story. Even the Sun Journal, Brakey’s hometown paper, hasn’t posted a story about the revelations. Instead, everything a political operative told the BDN has been accepted unquestioningly as fact. What an odd way to do journalism.

Here are some questions that a reporter might ask King or his office:

  • Will Sen. King be commenting personally on Taibbi’s reporting?
  • Who prepared the files tracking pro-Brakey and pro-Ringelstein social media accounts?
  • Were taxpayer resources spent in the preparation of the list?
  • Did Sen. King personally approve this operation?
  • How did the Campaign Director get the contact information for high level employees at Facebook and Twitter?
  • Did Sen. King use his position on the Intelligence Committee to facilitate communications between his campaign and Twitter content moderators?
  • Did Sen. King ever discuss how to leverage social media censorship with California Rep. Adam Schiff?
  • Does Sen. King believe that the power/influence of his office meant his request for content moderation received priority attention?
  • Why is it significant that two lists were provided to Twitter rather than one? Is that claim true?
  • If the King campaign did not want the accounts censored, then why provide the list?


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