Spurred on by the so-called “Twitter Files,” the House Oversight Committee hearing on Twitter’s decision to temporarily block a 2020 New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop was supposed to show overwhelming proof that the social media giant was engaged in anti-conservative “censorship.”
Instead, former Twitter officials revealed on Wednesday that former President Donald Trump not only received preferential treatment for years, but he also directly requested the site remove tweets that he didn’t like. At the same time, they also noted that President Joe Biden hadn’t contacted Twitter to take down any tweets or censor content.
One tweet Trump especially wanted to be deleted: Supermodel and TV star Chrissy Teigen calling him a “pussy ass bitch” in 2019.
Former Twitter executives Yoel Roth, James Baker, and Vijaya Gadde, along with ex-Twitter official turned whistleblower Anika Collier Navaroli, were brought on to testify about the FBI’s possible role in suppressing the laptop story. And though they once again conceded it was a “mistake” to briefly block the article over misinformation concerns, they also denied the feds had any role in that decision.
While GOP committee members used much of their time to air personal grievances and smear the ex-Twitter employees, Democrats largely focused on highlighting how Twitter had bent over backward to accommodate Trump and his conservative allies.
Navaroli, for instance, noted how she recommended Twitter take action against a 2019 Trump tweet that told four liberal congresswomen of color to “go back” to “crime infested places from which they came.” Although that tweet was in clear violation of the company’s policy against abusing immigrants, Navaroli testified Wednesday that her recommendation was overridden and the policy was changed.
Roth told Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) that the FBI sending over review requests of certain content may not have been a valuable use of the bureau’s resources and time, but it still didn’t represent any First Amendment violations. And even though Jordan disagreed, he also acknowledged that Twitter “isn’t bound by the First Amendment” because it’s a private company.
“My, my, my—what happens when you hold a hearing, and you can't prove your point?” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) snarked in response to Jordan.
The Virginia lawmaker then brought up a 2020 tweet in which Trump threatened to “strongly regulate” or “close” Twitter “down” in retaliation for allegedly “silenc[ing] conservatives.” He then turned to Navaroli to ask about a 2019 Trump tweet heckling Teigen and her husband John Legend, both outspoken critics of the former president.
Navaroli confirmed that after Trump blasting the couple via tweet, he immediately contacted the social-media giant to demand Teigen’s tweet calling him a “pussy ass bitch” be deleted from the site.
“What I was privy to was my supervisors letting us know that we had received something along those lines, or something of a request,” Navoroli replied. “In that instance, I do remember hearing that we had received a request from the White House to make sure that we evaluated this tweet and that they wanted it to come down because it was a derogatory statement towards the president.”
Connolly, dripping with sarcasm, remarked that he “thought that was inappropriate action by a government official,” adding that it “wasn’t Joe Biden about his son’s laptop” but rather “Trump because he didn’t like what Chrissy Teigen has to say about him.”
Intent on using his line of questioning to prove Trump engaged in the exact behavior Republicans accuse the Biden administration of doing, the congressman then questioned the other former executives on the current president’s contacts with Twitter.
Both Roth and Gadde told Connolly they were “not aware” and “did not recall” any evidence of Biden having urged Twitter to remove content. Baker, for his part, insisted he didn’t know the answer to that question.
In a separate exchange with Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-FL), Navaroli actually quoted Teigen’s tweet before reiterating that the ex-president had pushed Twitter to remove it from the site. “This fell under the policy for abusive behaviors, and we evaluated it under our ‘insults’ policy,” she stated. “At that time, up to three insults were allowed. It was our job to determine how many insults were included within that phrase.”
As the hearing was still in session, Rolling Stone reported that Trump’s demand to take down Teigen’s tweet was “hardly an isolated incident.” According to former Trump officials and Twitter staffers, prominent Republicans and the ex-president routinely asked the company to remove posts—the same behavior they’re now insisting shows Democrats and Twitter conspired to silence conservatives and restrict their free speech.
For some reason, none of this has been revealed in the many editions of Musk’s “Twitter Files,” which have almost entirely concentrated on communications sent by Democrats and government agencies to Twitter.
Shortly after the publication of Rolling Stone’s article, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) entered it into the record during Wednesday’s hearing.
Fox News, meanwhile, aired much of Connolly’s Q&A segment live on-air, prompting “straight news” anchor Harris Faulkner to follow up with a dramatic rant slamming Democrats for “reflexively” leaning “all the way in on former President Trump.” As for Republicans, she asserted they were revealing that America no longer has a “free and open press” while highlighting the Biden family’s corruption.
“Do they not see the complicit nature that Republicans are trying to show the public?!” Faulkner exclaimed, adding: “I wanted you to see the Democrats go after Trump at a hearing that is literally all about getting to the bottom of what was going on with a president who may have been exposed through business dealings either through his son, Hunter, or complicit on his own right, Joe Biden.”