There is a real woman behind the Twitter account whose presidential retweet revealed an army of “bot” accounts later suspended by the social media website.
Twitter suspended a number of fake accounts using stock photos as avatars after President Donald Trump shared a tweet from one of them thanking him for working hard while vacationing, and The Daily Beast tracked down that account’s original owner.
That woman, Nicole Mincy, is a student at St. Peter’s University in Jersey City and uses another first name on Facebook, and she insisted on some degree of anonymity before speaking to The Daily Beast.
Her online persona, Nicole Mincey, was created after someone from a group called ProTrump45 reached out to her in January through her Instagram account, where she had been posting memes supporting the president-elect and sometimes photos of herself.
She said a woman called Lorraine asked her to contribute to the group’s blog along with a man named William, who she said eventually took over her Twitter account before they had a falling out.
“They altered the spelling of my last name so it would be hard of me to find it,” she said. “I’m very angry at them because I told them to stop using my identity before. They would temporarily stop and then start back up again. This isn’t my first time telling them to stop. They wrote articles about a fake identity that doesn’t exist.”
She dropped out of the group in June, after learning they’d been using her name and college to sell Trump merchandise.
“It does make perfect sense, marketing-wise why they would do that,” she told The Daily Beast. “I was talking to someone who said, ‘You’re black, so they took the opportunity there.’”
Things quickly got weird after the president retweeted a message sent from her old account, which used a stock model’s face with a pro-Trump message added on her T-shirt.
“(ProTrump45) started trolling Trump’s twitter, saying nice things in the replies,” she said. “Everyone is tracing it back to me, but it isn’t my picture. We all joined the group to be anonymous Trump supporters.”
The woman said Lorraine apologized Monday, but she hasn’t heard from William or a second woman, Naijaina, who conducted an interview as “Nicole” on the national right-wing radio show Trending Today USA.
Someone using Nicole’s name also conducted an interview in May with the conservative WND website.
The Daily Beast attempted to find or contact the other three group members but found no one using their names in the states where they claimed to be located, and only Lorraine replied to a request for comment — which she declined.
A woman using the same name — Lorraine Elijah — lives in Newark, just like Nicole, and not Texas, as she claimed.
Nicole claimed she’d deleted all the emails and texts from the group after her June falling out to save space on her phone, and she turned over some screenshots, with some delay and a good deal of redaction, of text messages The Daily Beast described as displaying “comic book villainy.”
“It was really a group, however I don’t want my name exposed or anyone else’s,” Nicole insisted. “It’s hard with Trump. A lot of people don’t like him, unfortunately.”