Sen. Angus King’s office claimed Monday, in a statement to the Bangor Daily News, that Twitter employees in 2018 invited the King campaign to share a list of critical social media accounts with Twitter after having an initial conversation about a video the King campaign did not like.
In the video, which was publicized by the campaign of then-candidate Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin), King likens alleged Russian hacking activity to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
It’s unclear how exactly King’s office thinks this changes or contextualizes the fact that Maine’s junior senator was keeping an enemies list — a list that was subsequently used to ban Maine voters from social media platforms.
The King campaign at the time of the remarks sought to discredit the video by describing it as “doctored” — a claim that caused many Maine journalists to avoid reporting on it.
King Communications Director Matthew Felling revived the claim about the video in his comments to BDN, calling the video “doctored and misleading.”
In the video clip, there is an obvious jump cut; however, it’s not used to take King out of context or make it appear as though he said something he did not. But referring to politically problematic videos as “doctored” is a common tactic used by partisan operatives to influence media coverage of the content.
King clearly compared Russian hacking to the 9-11 terrorist attack, a claim several left-wing politicians had parroted in the months and years following the election of Republican President Donald Trump.
Furthermore, this is a claim King had made before, including on CNN, specifically in relation to the 2016 election. It appears to have been a standard part of his messaging at the time.
But regardless of the authenticity of the video or King’s comparing 2016’s election to 9-11, Felling’s explanation for King’s enemies list doesn’t stand up to basic scrutiny if you review the records presented by independent journalist Matt Taibbi, the reporter who broke the story.
For one, if a conversation with Twitter executives prompted the King campaign to share the enemies list, then why did the list include hundreds of Facebook users? Was the list produced in advance before the alleged invitation from Twitter? Why? And who produced it? Did Facebook also reach out, independent of Twitter, and solicit an enemies list from King?
Felling also says the King campaign did not provide the list with the intention of getting social media users banned from Facebook and Twitter.
“Felling said King’s campaign did not refer accounts to Twitter for the express purpose of banning them,” the BDN story reads.
If that’s the case, then why did the spreadsheet contain a column tracking whether the social media users had been banned from Facebook? It strains credulity to believe the King campaign was interested merely in having these accounts monitored, as opposed to having them banned, which was often the result.
Even if you take Felling’s explanation at face value, as the BDN appears to have done, it doesn’t change the facts presented in Taibbi’s “Twitter Files” reporting: King’s staffers conspired with large social media companies to suppress and censor supporters of King’s political opponents.
Whether that conspiracy began over a call about a video or at a cocktail party is largely insignificant to the facts presented by Taibbi.
King’s office still has not said whether King knew about or approved the creation of the enemies list. Nor has King’s office said whether the document was prepared by taxpayer-funded Senate office staff or campaign operatives.