The individual set up several accounts on Twitter that were reportedly followed by some White House officials and correspondents, who also exchanged messages with the impostor. The social network has since suspended the accounts for violation of its impersonation policies.
What does one need to become a member of the White House press corps? Good education, hard work, quick mind? None of that. It seems one needs to be a good conman.
According to Politico, Kacey Montagu from White House News has worked as a White House reporter since at least last December, only this week it turned out that Kacey Montagu doesn’t exist and that there is no such media outlet as White House News.
This, however, did not prevent the swindler from asking the White House press secretary several questions that touched on a variety of issues from – what ambassadors the Biden administration plans to appoint, to coronavirus travel bans, to the president’s reaction to the news that Microsoft users were hacked, Politico reported, citing screenshots of the emails and conversations with journalists and White House officials.
How did Montagu fool everyone?
According to Politico, a quick guide on becoming a (fake) White House reporter looks like this:
Step #1: Gain followers
Back in December, Montagu set up two accounts on Twitter – @WHschedule and @WHpoolreport – that shared posts from President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the first lady and the second gentleman. The accounts became quite popular and were followed by several White House correspondents and even officials, such as Michael LaRosa, press secretary for Jill Biden and Symone Sanders, a senior adviser for Kamala Harris, the outlet writes.
Step #2: Make them believe you’re real
As the swindler’s accounts gained more and more followers he or she asked the White House Correspondents Association on how to become a pool reporter and wrote to the Biden administration about the need to get a pass for a colleague, who would cover the press briefing in person.
Step #3: Take advantage of safety issues
Due to the coronavirus pandemic. the number of reporters attending White House press briefings has been limited and only 14 people are now present in the room. These people often ask questions sent by their colleagues from the press corps. Kacey Montagu took advantage of that. They emailed questions to White House reporters pretending to be their colleague and said that due to safety regulations it is impossible for him or her to attend the briefing.
Some reporters said when they conducted quick checks before deciding on whether to ask the question, they stumbled upon a LinkedIn profile for Montagu, which said that he or she work as “Chief Political Correspondent” at WHN in Washington, DC. The account has since been deactivated.
Here is one of the questions Kacey Montagu sent for a White House press briefing:
“Recently the White House has had read outs of calls and has the name of the people saying ‘Senior Administration official’ so why isn’t the White House releasing the names of people in the calls, making these comments so that they can be held accountable to the American people?”
Step #4: Be polite and say ‘thank you’
According to Politico, in some cases Kacey Montagu wrote back to White House reporters and thanked them for asking questions on their behalf.
The outlet writes that Montagu’s con fell apart on 8 April after Chris Johnson, of The Washington Blade asked a question about Biden’s relationship with Barack Obama and whether the administration would bring back presidential portrait unveiling. The question was sent by Montagu. Mediaite inquired about the origin of the question and it soon transpired that Kacey Montagu was not a member of the White House press corps.
Identity of the Swindler and His or Her Motivation
According to Politico, not much is known about the perpetrator, who refused to reveal personal information to the outlet.
People who spoke with the fake reporter assume he or she is a member of the gaming platform ROBLOX, where people call themselves “Legos”. Within this platform there is a role playing group called nUSA, whose members pretend to be government officials. For example, meet (fake) British Prime Minister Sir William Heseltine…
…or President Speed of the United States.
Kacey Montagu’s only remaining account on Twitter appears to corroborate the claim about ROBLOX. The website is mentioned in the profile description.
As for the reasons that prompted him or her to pretend to be a member of the White House press corps, the swindler told Politico they believe the work of White House reporters leaves much to be desired.
“I love journalism, and I think the press corps is doing a pretty bad job at the moment, so I decided I would ensure some transparency and ask some questions me and some friends wanted the answer to”, Montagu said.
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