Dean Browning, a white Republican former congressional candidate from Pennsylvania, drew some viral attention when he tweeted that he is a "Black gay guy" who did not believe that Barack Obama was a good president. He came under even more scrutiny after being connected to what appeared to be a sock puppet account claiming to be a Trump-supporting, homosexual Black man.
As the Miami Herald noted, his controversial message was written in reply to a user criticizing Donald Trump, with Browning replying that Trump was a better president than his predecessor.
"I'm a black gay guy and I can personally say that Obama did nothing for me," Browning wrote in the now-deleted reply. "My life only changed a little bit and it was for the worse. Everything is so much better under Trump though. I feel respected — which I never do when democrats are involved."
The tweet sparked some viral interest, with many speculating that Browning intended to send it from an anonymous sock puppet that pretended to be an African American homosexual man. It instead came from his verified account, which he had used during his unsuccessful primary bid in a congressional race.
As Vox reported, it appeared that Browning was connected to a user named "Dan Purdy," a person claiming to be a gay Trump supporter who joined Twitter in October and frequently replied to Browning. The user often posted racist remarks, mocking the intelligence of African Americans.
"@DanPurdy322 is an account with a cartoon of a Black man wearing a beanie as its avatar and a Trump 2020 logo as its header," the report noted. "As people on Twitter soon discovered, it also has a history of posting extremely racist and sexist remarks."
After Browning deleted the tweet, he wrote another reply saying that he was not speaking for himself but instead quoting a message he had received from a follower, apologizing that the context was not clear. But many did not buy the explanation, mocking Browning and accusing him of posing as a Black person to make it appear as if Trump was better for minorities.
As the Vox report noted, the Purdy account later posted a video of a Black man claiming to be the person in question, saying that he had sent the message to Browning that was then passed along. But many still doubted the claim, and other users found that the name "Dan Purdy" was connected back to a suspended account that used several other aliases.
Browning's name shot to the top of Twitter's trends on Tuesday evening, drawing a mostly critical response.
His viral tweet came just weeks after the social media site took efforts to remove fake accounts posing as Black supporters of Trump. As The Hill reported, many of these were fairly obvious fakes, using publicly available pictures and claiming to be members of groups that supported the president. A prominent one was @CopJrCliff, who claimed to be a police officer and had 24,000 followers despite only having tweeted eight times.