Little-known jewelry auctioneer Seth Holehouse burst into MAGA stardom last week, after President Donald Trump repeatedly posted a slickly produced video starring Holehouse that alleged the election was stolen.
“Wow!” Trump tweeted on Dec. 20, attaching footage of Holehouse’s video, “The Plot to Steal America.”
In the video, Holehouse threw out a number of discredited election conspiracy theories and intoned that President-elect Joe Biden obviously stole the election, claiming that American political parties and media outlets have been taken over by the Chinese communist government.
“I hope you can see now that the invisible enemy is communism, and the most deadly virus is the Chinese Communist Party,” Holehouse said in the clip.
All told, the president tweeted or retweeted portions of the video four times, racking up more than 200,000 retweets and 2 million views. Holehouse’s Man in America YouTube channel has exploded, going from 5,000 subscribers on Dec. 15 to nearly 60,000 as of Dec. 28, according to analytics site SocialBlade.
What’s not obvious to the millions of viewers who have watched Holehouse’s video, however, is that Holehouse has extensive ties to a Chinese religious movement that reportedly believes that Trump will bring about the apocalypse.
Until 2015, Holehouse was the creative director for The Epoch Times, a right-wing newspaper and media group affiliated with the Chinese Falun Gong spiritual movement. In the Trump era, The Epoch Times has built out a massive online operation promoting QAnon and other conspiracy theories that support the president, whom they see as an ally against the Chinese government’s persecution of Falun Gong believers.
Holehouse’s viral success comes as The Epoch Times and its affiliated groups have ramped up their outreach toward Trump supporters, even in the waning days of the administration. Sizable Epoch Times street teams at the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C., have handed out copies of the paper. New Tang Dynasty, an affiliated video outlet, has also positioned itself more as an alternative for Trump supporters, livestreaming a number of events alleging the election was stolen.
Embracing Trump has paid off for the site, which has amassed more than 6 million followers on its main Facebook page alone. In return, Trump fans have come to see Epoch Times as one of the few outlets they can rely on—at a Dec. 12 rally in Washington, for example, protesters held a banner urging Republicans to ditch Fox News for Epoch Times. In a 2019 article on The Epoch Times, NBC News reported that Falun Gong believers hold that a “Judgment Day” where communists are sent to “a kind of hell” is approaching, with Trump seen as a key figure in that showdown.
Holehouse didn’t respond to requests for comment. But his newfound viral success after Trump’s retweets mark a new level of internet prominence for the Columbus, Ohio, resident. Holehouse worked in multiple positions at The Epoch Times from 2008 to 2015, ultimately leaving the company as its “luxury strategy consultant,” according to his LinkedIn page. At the same time, Holehouse worked at several luxury-accessory companies, and now runs a company that buys jewelry and watches.
Shortly before Holehouse’s video was released, Falun Gong-affiliated websites began to purge references to Holehouse’s status as a Falun Gong practitioner. As first reported on debunking website Metabunk, Falun Gong website Clear Harmony removed a reference to an appearance Holehouse made at a Minnesota Falun Gong conference in 2007. The section about Holehouse was deleted sometime after Nov. 9, 2020, according to a cache of the website.
Falun Gong website Minghui.org, meanwhile, described Holehouse as a “practitioner” of “Falun Dafa,” another term for Falun Gong, in a 2015 article about a New York City conference.
“It is nice to see so many practitioners from all over, including some old friends,” Holehouse is quoted as saying on the website. “This is a pure land.”
All mentions of Holehouse were scrubbed from the Minghui website sometime after Dec. 9, 2020, according to an archive of the page.
In an email to The Daily Beast, an Epoch Times spokesperson who didn’t give their name claimed that Holehouse left the paper in 2015. As recently as July 2020, however, Holehouse was contributing photography to the paper, according to a photo credit on an article. The Epoch Times spokesperson claimed that Holehouse provided the photography as a freelancer.
Holehouse uses clips from The Epoch Times and New Tang Dynasty in his videos, and frequently plugs The Epoch Times on social media. But The Epoch Times denied that the Epoch Times and its affiliates are behind Holehouse’s well-produced YouTube channel, saying they have “no involvement” in the YouTube channel.
But The Epoch Times has made questionable claims about former employees’ YouTube channels in the past. A top Epoch Times executive told NBC News in 2019, for example, that the paper had no connection to Edge of Wonder, a YouTube channel that promoted QAnon and other conspiracy theories. But both of Edge of Wonder’s hosts had worked as Epoch Times employees, with one of them saying he worked for the paper even after the channel launched. Those same Edge of Wonder hosts also briefly appear in Holehouse’s video, with one wearing a shirt that says “Kick ’Em in the Caballs,” a reference to the QAnon belief that the world is controlled by a satanic-pedophile cabal.
The Epoch Times did not respond to questions about whether they had knowledge or involvement of the effort to scrub Holehouse’s Falun Gong ties from the internet.
Holehouse’s viral video is filled with positive references to The Epoch Times and New Tang Dynasty. Along with echoing the The Epoch Times line that the United States is headed for a clash with the Chinese government, the video frequently positions The Epoch Times and New Tang Dynasty as one of the few remaining honest news outlets. Clips of Epoch Times reporters and hosts appear in the video, as Holehouse describes the paper as one of the few remaining honest media sites.
Holehouse urges his viewers to sign up for Epoch Times social-media pages while unsubscribing from mainstream outlets.
“Independent, honest media companies like OAN, Newsmax, and the Epoch Times will guide us out of the darkness, while mainstream media will only drag us further down,” Holehouse said in the video.
A few days after the video went live on Dec. 7 though, Holehouse walked back his endorsement of Newsmax, apparently because the network finally acknowledged that Biden would be the next president. Instead, Holehouse wrote in an updated YouTube caption that his audience should just go straight to The Epoch Times instead.
“I no longer recommend Newsmax,” Holehouse wrote. “Some of their recent positions on the election have made me question their intentions.”
Holehouse is also a frequent promoter of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which the FBI considers a potential source of domestic terrorism. On conservative social media site Parler, he reposted “Q: The Plan to Save the World,” a popular introductory QAnon video. In “The Plot to Save America,” meanwhile, Holehouse said that nefarious world leaders have brought about a “Great Awakening”—a phrase QAnon believers use to refer to the idea that people will see the world is controlled by a cabal.
“They tried to trigger a great reset,” Holehouse said in the video, referring to the “Great Reset” conspiracy theory. “But instead, they triggered a Great Awakening.”