Conservatives cheered Thursday as Donald Trump announced an executive order of dubious legality that would let people who have been banned from Twitter and other social media sites file complaints about political bias.
But Trump’s promise of social media redemption offered little succor to Brian and Ed Krassenstein, the brothers who had become two of Trump’s most notorious critics on Twitter before they were banned.
“I don’t really think that would help us,” said Brian Krassenstein, one half of the buff, anti-Trump Florida duo known online as the “Krassenstein Brothers.”
A year ago, the Krassensteins were riding high. They’d come from nowhere to amass more than 1.6 million followers on Twitter, thanks in large part to their exceptional ability to quickly respond to Trump tweets and thus plop themselves at the top of his replies. They even had a children’s book, How the People Trumped Ronald Plump, in which a ripped “Robert Moral”—a sculpted, shirtless stand-in for then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller who wouldn’t have looked out of place at a Chippendales revue—took on an oafish Trump double.
But the Twitter gods giveth and taketh away. In May 2019, the platform banned the brothers, with a Twitter spokesperson telling The Daily Beast that the site wouldn’t tolerate users “operating multiple fake accounts and purchasing account interactions.” Twitter hasn’t publicly offered proof that the Krassensteins were breaking Twitter rules, while the Krassensteins claim they had multiple accounts but operated within the site’s regulations.
Denied their biggest platform, the Krassensteins mostly faded from public view, and sold their news website, Hill Reporter, to internet ad tech businessman Roman Romanuk.
Now, the brothers are back, or, at least, attempting to emerge from their digital exile. They wrote a series of Medium articles casting doubt on Joe Biden sexual assault accuser Tara Reade that the Daily Dot dubbed “immensely popular.”
And for a subsequent act, the brothers are mulling a defamation lawsuit against Twitter over the allegation that they broke the site’s rules.
“We’ve been talking with a very, very famous lawyer who’s well-known,” said Ed Krassenstein.
Twitter declined to comment and the Krassensteins wouldn’t name the lawyer; but they did joke that they’ll hire Michael Avenatti, a fellow one-time #Resistance star who was convicted in February of attempting to extort Nike and still faces more federal charges.
Even without a lawsuit, the Krassenstein family has managed to make it back onto Twitter through the simplest of acts. Brian’s wife Heidi set up the account @HKrassenstein, which has amassed more than 50,000 followers. Her tweets tend towards the retweet-friendly Krassenstein family style, a bit of political flair and liberal tude, such as the one on Friday praising singer Taylor Swift for opening up a “can of whoop-ass” on the president.
Though it has been speculated that the account is nothing more than a front for the brothers to let out their social media steam, Heidi insists she’s actually running it.
“I do think a lot of people think that that’s probably what he did, that him and Eddie are doing it,” Heidi Krassenstein told The Daily Beast. “But no, it’s all me and my thoughts.”
The Krassenstein brothers say they don’t want to regain their thrones as Trump’s most eager haters on Twitter, saying they would “scale things back considerably” if they got back on the site. Cast out from the platform, the brothers say they have used their time away to think more about all the hours they spent attempting to snag the top spot in the replies below Trump’s tweets.
“It was a lot of time we wasted,” Brian Krassenstein said.
Instead, the brothers say they just want Twitter to clear their names and acknowledge that they weren’t manipulating the site with fake accounts. They were stung in early May when Will & Grace star tweeted one of their Medium stories about Reade—only to quickly delete her tweet after people mocked the actress for posting a story from the Twitter-banned brothers.
It’s clear that their relationship with the internet remains a sore spot: at once forcing introspection at their life choices while still filling some internal psychological need. Asked, for instance, by The Daily Beast about whether they were secretly running Heidi Krassenstein’s account, the brothers responded with a nearly 3,500-word reflection on their Twitter methods that doubled as a manifesto about the uses and abuses of social media fame. In the massive email, the brothers held forth on how they became anti-Trump Twitter stars, and fumed over the allegation that they’re “grifters.”
“If there is one thing we regret that has come out of the entire Twitter experience, it’s the fact that we allowed the ‘grifter’ tag to follow us around,” the brothers wrote.
The brothers blame much of the ridicule directed at them on reporters, who they say “hated us because we stole attention from them.”
“Journalists opposed the fact that we used catch phrases on Twitter to garner more attention, such as ‘BREAKING’ or ‘BOOM’ or ‘KABOOM,’” they wrote.
Without their Twitter accounts, the brothers say they’ve had to fill their days in other ways. Brian Krassenstein has been trading stocks more, while both brothers have been researching potential new Medium articles.
“We do have a lot of free time,” he said. “It’s probably a blessing, actually.”
While the Krassensteins admit they developed a reputation as annoying Twitter power users, they claim it worked—at least for a while.
“I know our tweets were obnoxious sometimes, and that was done intentionally,” Ed Krassenstein said.