The unknown administrator of a satirical Twitter avatar of Buncombe County GOP chairman Chad Nesbitt has announced he will no longer tweet from the account.
The announcement comes after a much publicized press release was sent out last week by the real Chad Nesbitt claiming he was interviewed by the Secret Service because of statements made by the parodying personality in his name. In the statement, Nesbitt denied any involvement with the Twitter account and said he’s reported it to local authorities.
“I do not have and have never had a Twitter account,” he asserted. “I reported this false account several weeks ago to the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department. They consulted with Buncombe County District Attorney Ron Moore, who I understand refused to take action. Per that lack of accountability, this situation reached a point of seriousness requiring Secret Service action. I hope the Buncombe County Sheriff Department and Mr. Moore will now realize the seriousness of this matter and act on my complaint. I will, again, make a formal request for action.”
In response to the GOP press release and a WLOS story on the issue, the satirical @chadnesbitt tweeted messages saying that the account was clearly satirical, he didn’t believe Nesbitt’s claim that the Secret Service interviewed him over the Twitter messages, and that “considering Chad’s tough-guy persona” he was “genuinely surprised at his sensitivity.”
In a statement released today, Oct. 27, however, the operator of the satirical account cited legal concerns in his or her decision to discontinue tweeting from the handle. Here’s the entire statement that was originally published in a TwitLonger blog post:
Message to: #avlnews @mxnews @citizentimes @WLOS_ABC13.
I started the @chadnesbitt account on Twitter as a form of political expression. Twitter is rife with satire accounts, and I considered @chadnesbitt an effective way to draw attention to the antics of one of the most divisive public figures in Buncombe County: Chad Nesbitt, Chair of the Buncombe County Republican Party.
The idea was to satirize the actions of the real Mr Nesbitt by using similar language and statements he is known for. Since the joke only works if it’s clear that @chadnesbitt wasn’t representing the real person, I was careful to make sure no reasonable person would confuse the two. Precautions included:
—> An eye-patch on the avatar
—> Spelling errors in the bio
—> A #satire hashtag in the bio
The project was fun at first, but quickly became tedious. I was starting to think it was time to wrap it all up when Mr. Nesbitt announced the Secret Service had asked him questions about the @chadnesbitt account. Allegedly, certain statements I had made could be construed as a threat to the President.
I anxiously waited for a visit or call from the authorities. When none arrived I assumed the Secret Service was merely asking Chad questions they would ask any local political opposition. (eg: “Any crazies we have to watch out for?” “Are you planning a counter-protest?”) One of the questions may have been about the Twitter account – and Chad seized on this as a way to force the hand of local authorities to shut @chadnesbitt down.
I’d like to review, and give my perspective, on the “threatening” tweets. As I do so please keep in mind these are only three out of 200+ innocuous comments.
1) Brainstorming ways 2 disrupt #Shuler event on Saturday. Doing so will make crowd vote #Republican & get me a lot of attention.
2) Oops – my informant tells me the #Clinton visit to #Asheville is on Thursday! :-O My bad! I’m going to have to think fast! :-O
3) What are good ways for #Avl #Republicans to make themselves known during Thursday’s #Clinton visit? #avlteaparty #bcgop
These tweets were made _after_ Chad disrupted a Democratic Party get-out-the-vote rally a few days earlier with one of his street sweepers. The point of the joke was that Chad is more interested in bringing attention to himself and promoting his party, than crafting a reasonable campaign strategy to counter a Clinton visit.
If anyone is going to take the three aforementioned tweets seriously as a threat, they would also have to take these tweets seriously:
4) Yesterday’s anti-annexation rally, which I organized all by myself, went amazingly well. I put the call out, and people came. (Oct 13)
5) I now have a secret mole in the DemocRAT camp. (It’s Gopher Face with a mustache.) (Oct 12)
6) I’ve started a club for #BCGOP: “Tummy Sticks” – because America needs to beat #socialism in the gut! #Republican #Asheville (Sep 26)
Clearly, when taken in context of the entire Twitter account, no reasonable person would assume tweets 1-3 are meant as anything other than satire.
Once President Clinton left town, I committed myself to using @chadnesbitt for at least one more week; primarily to demonstrate to Mr. Nesbitt that I’m not scared of him or his hyperbolic press releases.
As I’ve said publicly via Twitter – If I’m hurting Chad’s feelings or causing him any kind of harm – he should contact me. Although he is a public figure, and I am entirely in my rights to comment on his antics as long as he remains so, a simple “Please stop this, you’re causing distress” would have put my project to a screeching halt. He could still do so via “@bcgop” and/or his personal Twitter account: “@neverleft”. (Note about @neverleft – I was following that account, but he blocked me. He’ll have to unblock in order for him to send a Direct Message.)
Finally, it has come to my attention that Buncombe County may be seeking a subpoena to determine the owner of @chadnesbit.
I have nothing but respect for County Attorney Ron Moore. My only regret in all this is that he may have to waste taxpayer dollars investigating whether there is a legal basis to prosecute a satire account on a public figure.
Mr. Moore, if you’re reading this, please accept my deepest apologies. I’m sure you would much rather be focused on more pressing issues. I am a politically-motivated, peaceable, satirist – with no intent to cause violence to anyone. Hopefully, the next paragraph in this letter will make both our lives easier.
I will no longer Tweet from @chadnesbitt. I’m a simple person who doesn’t enjoy this kind of drama. If I wanted attention, I’d run for Chair of a political party.
– Anonymous (aka: @chadnesbitt)
Although the Secret Service declined to comment on the alleged interview with Chad Nesbitt and security concerns ahead of the Clinton rally, Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan confirmed to Xpress on Oct. 25 that his office was investigating possible criminal issues involved with the satirical account.
“It’s under investigation at this time and we’re doing the subpoenas to get the information to find out who’s actually logging the Twitter account and there may be a criminal charge there,” he said. “That depends on what our legal advice says. … If it gets into the area of harassment, then it could fall into the cyberstalking law. So that’s what we’re trying to figure out.”