Michael Moates lost his Twitter account and the dream of a seat in Congress in the span of a few days.
A 24-year-old sometimes-journalist and occasional peddler of the QAnon conspiracy theory, Moates has also been accused of sending inappropriate texts to teenagers. (He has acknowledged the texts on Twitter and on a podcast, but denied that they rose to the level of sexual harassment, a claim at least one accuser actually agreed with.) Still, on Dec. 30, the right-wing wunderkind took to Twitter to announce a long-shot Libertarian bid to represent Texas’s 26th House District in Congress.
About a week later, his campaign had been suspended.
Moates has been banned from Twitter before. Previously, he had more than 200,000 followers under the Twitter @freedom_moates, where he has made headlines for calling Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a “bitch,” encouraging Border Patrol to shoot migrants “on site,” and promoting QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory that falsely accuses President Donald Trump’s rivals of Satanic pedophilia and cannibalism.
The comments might not be out of the ordinary for an anonymous troll, but Moates made a career as a blogger for conservative news sites like The Blaze and the Washington Examiner, and occasionally appeared at White House press briefings. The short, strange arc of his false-start candidacy suggested that, even as troll candidates abound on the right, some campaigns still can’t survive on the fringes.
In December, Moates announced that Twitter had banned his @freedom_moates account, and encouraged his Facebook followers to follow a new profile. (Twitter’s rules prohibit creating multiple accounts to avoid bans.)
He announced his fledgling campaign from the new handle: “We need someone who will stand up for our values and be aggressive to fight for our district,” he wrote.
But Moates might be hard-pressed to make a case for conservative values. In 2018, Right Wing Watch reported that multiple women and girls accused Moates of making inappropriate comments to them (two of them while they were under 18). One tweeted screenshots of an alleged conversation with Moates when she was 15, in which he was said to message her, “hey beautiful crazy chick.”
Moates did not deny the conversations, but tweeted that “the fact that you can’t call a woman beautiful without offending them anymore is a problem.” (The girl in question was not an adult.) He voiced similar sentiments on a podcast, saying that “if anyone here made my comments sexual, it’s the lady who interpreted it.”
The girl who received the “beautiful crazy chick” text also told Right Wing Watch that the messages did not rise to the level of sexual harassment.
Moates also burned bridges with other conservative bloggers when he took a picture of a female Daily Wire reporter’s butt at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference and tweeted it at racist podcaster Nick Fuentes with the caption “found your friend.” (The reporter criticized him on Twitter for the creepshot.)
Meanwhile, throughout 2018, Moates also repeatedly hyped QAnon ideas, hinting to his followers that he knew inside information about the conspiracy theory (but that he was conveniently silenced by a non-disclosure agreement), and announcing his dream to ask President Donald Trump about the theory (a longtime goal of Q believers).
When Moates first announced his congressional bid on Twitter, users were quick to note his history of conspiracy peddling, along with the allegations of inappropriate messages. His account encouraged followers to give money to the campaign, but didn’t even have a functional donation page set up.
Shortly after the complaints came rolling in, Moates’ Twitter—his campaign’s main social media vehicle—was suspended, possibly for ban evasion. (Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.)
When The Daily Beast asked how he anticipated the allegations of inappropriate messages affecting his election chances on Thursday, Moates said he’d actually called the whole thing off. (A request for further comment about the original texting allegations themselves had not been returned prior to publication.)
“I have withdrawn my candidacy so the point is moot,” he said in an email. It lasted 10 days.