How Aubrey Huff Went From Two-Time World Champion to Right-Wing Troll
The ex-MLB star drew fire Tuesday for seemingly advocating the sexual assault of Iranian women. He told The Daily Beast it’s all one big “joke” that his critics just don’t get.
Aubrey Huff wasn’t mad when the internet blew up at him for seemingly suggesting he wanted to establish a harem of kidnapped Iranian women. Far from it.
On Tuesday afternoon, the retired former Major League Baseball player casually insinuated on Twitter that, should hostilities escalate between the United States and Iran, the proper course of action would be to kidnap Iranian women and bring them back to America. There, at least 10 of them could “fan us and feed us grapes, amongst other things…,” he wrote, ending the now-deleted tweet with a purple devil emoji.
The two-time World Series winner and avid Trump supporter followed up by posting a photo of Mahlagha Jaberi, a 27-year-old Iranian-American social-media influencer—along with the second image that appears in Google if you enter the search term “beautiful Iranian women”—plus the text: “I mean.....”
The tweet garnered a great deal of attention, the vast majority of which was negative. The events of the last few days—the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, followed by President Trump’s threatened destruction of cultural sites in Iran, and the possibility of another endless war in the Middle East—would seem to make joking about atrocities like the abduction and sexual assault of women the kind of material most humorists would avoid.
Not so for Huff.
As Huff, 43, explained when we spoke on the phone, he’s simply grown less inhibited online following his 2017 divorce. Two years ago, a scan of his social-media accounts would have revealed grievances common to middle-aged, well-off white men: grumblings about how those protesting Trump’s Muslim ban needed to get a job; how masculinity is under attack; how women use marriage “2 get rich off a successful man”; how evolution is a lie; and rants of disgust at Colin Kaepernick for protesting state-sanctioned violence.
In 2019, however, and continuing through the first week of the new year, his offerings grew darker.
In December, he garnered widespread attention for boasting from a firing range about preparing his two sons to use firearms in the event Bernie Sanders defeats Trump in the election. (Threatening violence over a Trump loss is an increasingly common sentiment among the far right.)
And then came Tuesday’s post about captured Iranian women serving his pleasures.
Foolishly, I thought we could talk it out. Perhaps if I explained the general outraged reaction without passion or vitriol, Huff might be able to hear why his joke was so disturbing—that the outrage wasn’t just an example of the right’s favorite bogeyman in “P.C. culture.” I never thought I could convince him otherwise, but maybe, just maybe, we could find something approximating common ground.
I failed. Even worse, Huff didn’t really seem to care that much either way. Like most trolls, he thinks it’s all quite funny, really.
Reached at his home in Solana Beach, California, the former San Francisco Giant, Tampa Bay Ray, and Baltimore Oriole was watching The Punisher, a Netflix series about an ex-soldier who embarks on a bloody campaign of vigilantism. Huff is a fan. “Absolutely epic. Unbelievable shit. Good stuff, if that's your cup of tea,” he said, referring to the violence. “It’s pretty awesome. A lot guns. A lot of natural justice,” he said, punctuating his review with a hearty laugh.
I asked if he’d intended for his tweet to come across as advocating for rape.
“What?” Huff replied, shocked at the suggestion. He proceeded to re-read aloud the now-deleted post he’d quote-tweeted from the account @patriarchywins, which read: “we should invade Iran We should invade Iran and take their bitches. Persian girls are hot af without the headgear and you know they know how to act right.”
“I just thought that was funny,” he said before proceeding to re-read aloud his own tweet. (He workshopped a similar joke about going to Iran a month ago, along with a photo of a different woman, but that one went largely unnoticed.) He wondered: Why was the joke so hard to understand? Huff had seen outraged responses similarly mentioning rape and was confused. “Where’d you get raping from? I would never rape anybody.”
I explained that, joke or not, the implication was that women are the proper spoils of war. Throughout human history, rape has been used by invading or conquering military forces to terrorize populations. It’s a practice favored by ISIS. That’s why.
Huff disagreed. “My thing is I’m imagining beautiful women like that over in Iran that are just miserable having to cover their faces and just would desperately love to get the hell out of there,” he said, “and, uh, bring them over here to America.” (Of course, the idea that women in the Middle East need to be rescued is a long-standing Islamophobic trope.)
When it comes to his tweets, very little should be taken seriously, the 2008 Silver Slugger Award winner said. “A lot if it’s just bullshit. it’s satire,” he claimed. “It’s meant to be locker-room-style kind of stuff.” He lamented: “People, in this day and age, they get their panties in a bunch over shit that doesn’t really matter.”
Unprompted, he brought up the tweet about Bernie Sanders which went “viral as shit.” The reason for posting it, he explained, was to express his desire to teach his kids proper gun usage “in case there's socialism,” which, he said, would necessarily result in widespread violence, plunder, and a “shit show,” requiring his young sons—aged 11 and 9—to take up arms. “Then everybody goes apeshit thinking I threatened Bernie Sanders,” which he hadn’t, Huff promised.
Anyone who thought so was acting in bad faith, the ex-athlete added. “They’re just looking for anything to be offended about. Nobody has a sense of humor.” His words aren’t spittle-flecked or accompanied by any sort of vein-popping rage at all, really. It’s kind of jarring. If Huff is a cultural warrior, he’s alternately a happy or indifferent one, and doesn’t seem to care what anyone thinks of him. Even if Twitter banned him, “I don’t give a shit. It doesn’t bother me at all,” Huff said, laughing again. “I just think it’s fun to go on there and just to see how sensitive the world is.” (After our conversation ended, Huff posted to Twitter a photo of a stick-figure drawing he’d made to unpack his earlier joke. Then he insinuated that a sportswriter who’d criticized his tweet was a closeted homosexual. These, too, are jokes.)
To further illustrate his point, Huff compared tweeting to his pro-baseball career. The only way to last 13 years in the big leagues, he said, was to remain on-alert 24/7. Fans would constantly launch “daggers” and a teammate could just as easily direct a fiery barb his way, he explained, and those who lack the mental acuity he acquired don’t deserve to be on Twitter. “People think I’m crazy because of the past I’ve had,” he said. “I’m edgy. I like to push the envelope to see how far you can go to toe that line to piss people off.”
He continued: “I get all these comments and none of it bothers me. I actually enjoy reading the comments and coming back at people to see how triggered you can make them. It’s pretty funny.”
That’s the very definition of trolling, I said.
“Oh yeah. Shit,” he replied. “I guess that’s what you’d call it.”
For a source of quality humor, he suggested checking out the work of Titania McGrath, a Twitter account created by a right-wing troll who gained acclaim amongst the online right by pretending to be a devoted social-justice warrior. “McGrath” also tricked a few publications into publishing ostensibly left-leaning work under his phoney byline. But the McGrath character is not the kind a store-brand “conservative Christian guy,” as Huff described himself, would be familiar with.
His social-media follows are limited, but for anyone who’s dealt with a middle-aged or older person whose thought processes have seemingly curdled from years spent marinating in a stew of talk radio, Fox News, and the conservative media ecosystem, it’s not difficult to guess the sort of right-wing icons who might have introduced Huff to trolling and the politics of Owning the Libs Above All Else.
Huff only follows a little over 200 accounts, and the first few dozen are ballplayers, sports reporters, and few team accounts. Then he added Joe Rogan, a popular podcast host who often hosts celebrities along with the occasional far-right and extremely online guest. Shortly thereafter, his follows grew more overtly political: Candace Owens, anti-SJW comedians Adam Carolla and Bill Burr, a handful of Barstool Sports accounts, followed by the likes of Hotep Jesus, far-right troll Mike Cernovich, InfoWars correspondent Owen Shroyer, former Alex Jones acolyte Paul Joseph Watson (in December, Jones himself invited Huff on air), Donald Trump Jr., and so on. These are exactly the type of accounts likely to be followed by someone prone to sniping at total strangers online and calling them “betas” and “cucks.”
It also fits snugly with Huff’s main source for information, political and otherwise: One America News, as he revealed in a follow-up text message. Though he does supplement the truly deranged Trumpist juche network with occasional doses of Fox News.
While currently employed, Huff devotes time to coaching his sons’ baseball and basketball teams. Ideally, he’d like to do more podcasting and blogging in the future. Maybe something in media, perhaps at an unnamed conservative sports network, he said via text message, where he could more fully express his beliefs and give voice to even “edgier content.”
A portfolio of this kind of content already exists. Podcast episodes and blogs whinging about bat flips and feminism can be found on Huff’s website. Most of the interviews are with former sports figures like himself, but his YouTube page also features direct-to-the-camera Divorced Dad rants from inside his car, like one aggrieved bit railing against athletes who are open about their political beliefs, while simultaneously making his own beliefs all-too-clear.
It hasn’t always been like this. Back in 2017, when Huff was promoting his autobiographical book, Baseball Junkie—a brutally honest account of his struggles with addiction and a prior suicide attempt—he’d apologized for some of his prior online behavior and told the San Jose Mercury News: “I was an absolute scumbag for most of my life.” At the time of the book’s publication, very few athletes were willing to speak openly about mental-health issues. That Huff did so was quite brave. I asked why he’d expressed regret for some of his online behavior then and what’s different now when, as he told me, he regretted none of his posts? Why can’t he at least temper some of the jokes, locker-room humor or otherwise, saving them for an environment capable of appreciating Huff’s humor in the proper context.
He was married then, Huff explained. But, as he mentioned, the past Adderall abuse caused difficulties in the relationship. Though the couple remained together for six years after he’d entered rehab, they divorced in 2017.
“After that happened, I was like, ‘You know what, if I want to say it, I’m going to say it,’” Huff said.
“It’s kind of nice to be free and be able to say what you want to say and not have somebody to tell you not to do something. And I dunno, I’m just living the single life and hanging out and doing what I want, which is pretty nice.”