A senior adviser for Pete Buttigieg was accused of running a fake Nigerian supporter account

  • Lis Smith, A senior communications adviser for Pete Buttigieg's presidential campaign, was accused of running a fake account that appeared to be a Nigerian Buttigieg supporter. 
  • Screenshots of the account surfaced on Sunday that included a tweet that identified the author as Smith and matched the language of a letter the campaign sent to supporters. 
  • Smith acknowledged the theory on her official account, and the campaign denied she was behind the account. 
  • Despite rampant speculation online, and "Lis Smith" trending on Twitter, there is no hard evidence that the account belonged to Smith.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A senior adviser for Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg got caught up in the Twitter rumor mill on Sunday when she was accused of running a fake account purporting to be a Nigerian supporter of the former mayor.

The theory that Lis Smith, the senior communications adviser for Buttigieg's campaign, was behind an account for someone named "Chinedu," who was described in the profile's bio as a "Pete Buttigieg supporter from Nigeria" who loves "wine and dancing," was surfaced in a series of screenshots that included a tweet from the account apparently identifying itself as Smith.

In the one tweet presented as possible evidence Smith slipped while running the account, the author writes on January 30: "Team Pete. Hey. It's Lis. It's Phase 4. Time to leave it all on the floor. Phone bankers, we need you."

The language in the tweet appears to match up with some lines from an email sent to supporters from the Buttigieg campaign, which announced "Phase 4," or "time to leave it all on the field."

After the theory began making the rounds, the "Chinedu" account tweeted to mock the allegations, blaming "Bernie Bros." 

 

The "@easychinedu" account appeared to be removed from the site as of Sunday afternoon. 

Insider has identified Instagram and LinkedIn accounts with similar profiles to the @easychinedu Twitter account - including similar photos and an expression of interest in wine. The owners of those accounts did no immediately respond for comment. 

Smith acknowledged the allegations on her official account, brushing it off as an "absurd" conspiracy theory.

Matt Corridoni, the campaign's deputy rapid response communications director, denied the allegations in a statement emailed to Business Insider.

"Nigerian shadow account conspiracy theories are the new rat emojis," Corridoni wrote. "Sad but not surprising."

When asked if the campaign was officially denying that Smith had created and posted from the account, Corridoni confirmed it was regarded as "an online conspiracy theory."

"Of course we are because this is very obviously an online conspiracy theory," Corridoni wrote in an email. "Quite shocked you'd think otherwise."

Other journalists chimed in to joke about the theory, with New York Magazine's Olivia Nuzzi referencing email scams, writing that Smith "asked me for my social security number and the name of the street I grew up on...or else I couldn't have a press credential to cover Pete."

Smith is a well-known political adviser who partially made her name as a campaign aide for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and has been credited for the media strategy responsible for Buttigieg's rise in the polls, which she has described as "going out everywhere, meeting voters where they are, [and] not turning our noses up at non-traditional outlets."

The account's identity as a black Buttigieg supporter touches on one of the campaign's widely reported points of vulnerability, as an Insider poll last fall found the former mayor was satisfactory to only 27% of black voters

Those results came a month after a report from The Intercept said the campaign had falsely said that three prominent black figures in South Carolina supported his Douglass Plan for Black America, when only two had and none had supported him as a candidate. 

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