She pushed Trump's Big Lie — and now she wants to oversee elections in Ohio
Screengrab from campaign ad

A podcaster who helped shape the fictitious narrative that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump is on the ballot in Ohio for secretary of state, the office with responsibility for supervising elections.

Terpsehore Maras, who reaches thousands of listeners each day through her “Tore Says” podcast, has built an avid audience of Trump supporters, conspiracy theorists and QAnon followers. Maras frequently alludes to a dubious history as a contractor for various intelligence agencies, claiming expertise to share insight on key events like the 2020 election, the Jan. 6 attack, the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

The 44-year-old Maras is putting those claims front and center in a campaign ad that began running on CNN in Ohio markets on Monday, in which she tells voters: “The two-party system has failed you. Choice is an illusion. All warfare is based on deception. I worked in intelligence. I overthrew governments we don’t like. Not with guns, but with voting machines. They are weapons of war.”

Stephen Piggott, a program analyst at the Western States Center, said Maras campaign ad fits a pattern of corrosive rhetoric across the country in the runup to the Nov. 8 midterm election.

"During this election cycle, we have seen a number of election officials and those aspiring to be using a combination of violent rhetoric and conspiracies about the validity of America's election system," Piggott said. "This rhetoric is troubling because it not only can lead to more erosion of trust in free and fair elections, but can also be a catalyst for voter intimidation and possible political violence."

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Maras’ emergence as an influencer among an elite strata of Trump allies seeking to overturn the election coincided with a North Dakota court’s finding in September 2020 that she violated the state’s consumer fraud law. Judge Todd Cresap wrote that Maras used social media to create “an entirely fake online persona” that included claiming “to be a 22-year veteran of Naval intelligence and a Purple Heart recipient,” and also claiming that “she was operating a medical laboratory and that she was a doctor, among other false educational and employment accomplishments.”

Roughly one month prior to Judge Cresap’s finding, Maras was featured in the conspiracy-laden documentary Shadowgate, as a “whistleblower” who was purportedly recruited by “people that worked for” one-time CIA director John Brennan. Maras and Shadowgate producer Millie Weaver joined a team of researchers and propagandists in Washington, DC whose lodging was covered by former CEO Patrick Byrne. In late December 2020, Maras’ was unveiled by the Washington Post as the author of an anonymous declaration in which she asserted that she had worked for “US and 9 eyes agencies” from 1999 to 2014, while claiming knowledge of an algorithm that redistributed votes from Trump to Biden without detection.

The North Dakota court cited a profile on the Together We Served website, which has now been removed, that indicated Maras served in the Navy for 12 years, reaching the rank of lieutenant, and received a Purple Heart. Maras has denied creating the profile.

In fact, Maras’ military discharge form shows that she served in the US Navy as a communications and intelligence specialist for only eight months in 1996 and 1997. While disputing that she ever claimed to have received a Purple Heart, Maras has continuously maintained that she was recruited from the Navy to work as an intelligence contractor and worked under Brennan. And on Oct. 28, she told a group of voters in Toledo that she “was part of the high-value intelligence group for both Bush and Obama.”

A spokesperson for Brennan told the Washington Post in 2020 that he had never heard of her.

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Maras declined to provide Raw Story with documentation such as a work email or letter of commendation to verify her claim to have worked for intelligence agencies.

“As far as my work, absolutely not,” she said “People like me are not supposed to exist.”

Maras appears on the Ohio ballot as a candidate without party affiliation in the secretary of state race, alongside Republican incumbent Frank LaRose and Democratic candidate Chelsea Clark. She emphasized to voters in Toledo last week that they should elect her because “your secretary of state is going to be in charge of your presidential elections in 2014.” She’s also pitching her candidacy to voters on the left with an anti-corporate appeal.

“People on the left actually despise corporation-run parties,” she told Raw Story. “‘Oh, that person is independent. I’m going to give it to you.’ Republicans are very rigid. They’ll go straight ticket.”

Maras publicly disputes the finding of the North Dakota court, which was upheld by the state supreme court, and has refused to pay a $25,000 judgement.

“The judgement was because I didn’t defend myself,” she told Raw Story. “I didn’t have an attorney…. I didn’t comply with anything. I didn’t have representation, and I refused to cooperate because they violated my constitutional right of due process. They had secret subpoenas without a complaint or a crime. They admitted there was no crime or complaint.”

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The North Dakota Attorney General’s office, which obtained the judgment against Maras, did not respond to a request for comment for this story, but in an email in early 2018, a prosecutor told Maras that the Attorney General’s office had not received a complaint about her or her fundraiser, adding, “as I stated, no complaint is necessary for the Attorney General to enforce North Dakota law.”

Almost none of the details in the illustrious biography claimed by Maras can be verified, including that she helped rig an election in Ukraine in 2014 on behalf of the Obama administration. But her transcript from the University of Kentucky, obtained through the North Dakota Attorney General’s litigation, shows that Maras enrolled in the university in December 2008 and graduated in May 2011 with a bachelor of science in biology and a GPA of 2.430. (Maras told Raw Story she participated in graduation ceremonies in December 2010.) The transcript also shows that she was able to apply transfer credits obtained from the University of Indianapolis.

Asked to explain why she went back to college to obtain an undergraduate degree at the midpoint of purported career in intelligence, Maras told Raw Story that she wanted to study biology because of “something that I found out about gain-of-function research” in the course of her intelligence work, but told her handlers a cover story about wanting “to go back to school to find peace after my father died.”

Discussing her time at the University of Kentucky, Maras said she landed a “federal work-study” internship at the Centers for Disease Control, and that she was unceremoniously fired after submitting a report recommending against the use of porcine cells in a vaccine, which happened to take place shortly before the outbreak of the 2009 H1NI swine flu epidemic.

As with her claims about contracting with intelligence agencies, Maras said she was unable to provide any documentation to verify any work for the Centers for Disease Control.

“It was through the school,” she told Raw Story. “I don’t keep this s***. I don’t care. You’re living your life.”

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Maras’ statement to Raw Story mirrors an account she gave to far-right conspiracy theorist Douglas Hagmann in a July 2017 interview, with one significant difference. Speaking with Hagmann, Maras said she “was fired from the CDC on my first internship there because I actually did my job, again, following the money, after working on a portion of the Affordable Care Act in regards to non-English speakers.”

While the purpose Maras gave for the internship to Hagmann doesn’t match what she told Raw Story, it also presents chronological problems, considering that the Affordable Care Act wasn’t signed into law until March 2010, and the bill wasn’t even introduced in the US House until October 2009.

In the same interview with Hagmann, Maras also said she was fired for recommending against using porcine cells.

“And I said, ‘I don’t recommend us using pork cells in this batch of flu vaccine,’” Maras told Hagmann. “This is in 2008. And when I submitted the report, I was told, ‘Great job! Wow! How’d you do that? I actually was thorough. And then the next Monday when I went to the office, there was a security guard with a box waiting for me and said, ‘Thank you, very much.’…. Then we saw an outbreak in what? Pig flu.”

In a follow-up email, Maras told Raw Story that the apparent discrepancy in timing is explained because the Affordable Care Act was already being drafted under President Bush, adding a preposterous claim that “it was part of the deal when Bush picked Obama as the winner.”

Hagmann introduced Maras in the interview as “Dr. Tore Lindemann,” using her married name at the time. Speaking to Raw Story Maras indicated that she never told Hagmann she was a doctor, despite him introducing her as such.

“I said I was a doctoral candidate, and that’s because I was attempting to get my Ph.D,” she told Raw Story. “I was at the University of Kentucky undergoing research and pursuing my Ph.D.”

Patrick Byrne, who worked alongside Sidney Powell and retired Lt. General Michael Flynn to overturn the 2020 election, has said that he assigned a team of people with intelligence backgrounds to interview Maras and assess her credibility after her declaration was used by Powell.

“They came back telling me: ‘She knows things and has been behind the curtain,” Byrne said, but she also lies, exaggerates, deflects, changes subjects rapidly trying to throw people off, and we cannot rely on her for anything factual because we caught her in too many lies and exaggerations over three hours (precisely as I warned her they would if she did not heed a little coaching from me).”

But since the period of frenzied efforts to overturn the election that culminated with the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, Maras’ audience has grown exponentially. Maras began streaming on the gaming platform Twitch in July 2020 with about nine viewers on average for each broadcast, according to a report in Vice, and by May 2021 had reached 5,000 concurrent viewers. Maras’ audience has continued to build since then, with her last 10 shows averaging more than 15,000 views on the video streaming platform Rumble.

Maras’ devoted followers are organized into state “action groups” on Telegram. They banter on the public “Tore Says” channel, and also convene on private state channels, where new members must be approved by admins to join. There are currently action groups in at least 26 states, with a total of 6,225 members, although that number may be slightly inflated due followers joining groups in multiple states. The Illinois group is particularly robust, with 667 members.

Members of the Illinois group boasted on the public channel that they hold weekly meetings in Lake and McHenry counties in the northern suburbs of Chicago, and twice-monthly meetings in Will, Grundy and Kendall counties in the southwestern suburbs.

In addition to the state groups, Telegram channels for Maras’ listeners are organized in at least 17 countries outside the United States, from the Philippines to the United Kingdom.

Despite his open reservations about Maras from her vetting in December 2020, Byrne has forged an alliance with Maras since then, and the two frequently appear on podcasts together. Byrne praised Maras’ followers during an appearance on “Tore Says” last month, crediting them for helping to roll back vaccine mandates.

“We’ve won eighty or ninety percent of what needed to be won,” Byrne said. “Not a hundred percent, but wouldn’t you say we had a good victory working with — thanks to you, Tore, and your wonderful viewers, who brought so much mass. We can keep using this strategy and keep beating them.”

Some of Maras’ followers describe themselves as “family,” while praising her as a “blessing” and thanking God for her in the “Tore Says” Telegram chat.

“She is quite plainly the most important teacher in our lives,” one follower wrote last month. “I still have difficulty understanding a lot of it. Maybe that’s the point because if you listen to Tore, you never stop thinking.”

One follower described Maras’ speaking style in a Telegram message that she forwarded as a “view from the moon” comprised of seemingly “disjointed” points “that will eventually connect.”

“Seeing takes effort on our part, kinda like a twisted version of a scavenger hunt,” they wrote. “There’s hints to where the nuggets of truth are in every story/show.”

In an interview with Raw Story, Maras rejected the notion that her followers are blindly devoted to her.

“I don’t tell people what to think,” she said. “In my line of work, I was the queen of disinformation. I was selling the government’s disinformation. I tell people: ‘Don’t trust me.’ The one thing I do is educate. I show history. I opine.”

During her campaign for secretary of state, Maras has openly signaled to QAnon supporters, while claiming to reporters that “using ‘Q’ doesn’t make me an actual ‘QAnon believer’ — only a supporter of someone’s right of free speech.”

The word “of” as part of “secretary of state” in Maras’ campaign sign is refashioned as a “Q,” and Maras’ campaign manager consistently signs off on campaign updates that are shared on Telegram with the QAnon hashtag #WWG1WGA, short for “where we go one, we go all.” Followers often respond in the Telegram chat with the hashtag to signal approval in response to upbeat reports about Maras’ activities.

Maras told Raw Story that she uses “Q” and the #WWG1WGA hashtag because her favorite movie is White Squall, the 1996 film that provided the line “where we go one, we go all” that was coopted by the QAnon movement.

At first, she rejected the notion that she should know that her followers and detractors alike will interpret the references as an endorsement of QAnon.

“I have millions of listeners around the world,” Maras told Raw Story. “Am I supposed to make a statement like the pharmaceutical commercials and say, ‘You can get GI’?”

Later, she added, “I like ambiguity. As a private contractor, ambiguity is the thing that promotes conversation.”

Maras’ followers appear to appreciate the intrigue surrounding Maras. Some of her followers speculate that she doesn’t have a belly button, with others taking the conceit a step further to claim that must mean she’s an alien.

Maras told Raw Story the speculation about her navel is a joke based on the fact that she has a fake, “surgically put-in” belly button.

Maras’ followers also revel in the claim that she’s a time traveler. When asked about it, Maras didn’t back away from the claim.

“The time traveler is a real thing,” she said. “It’s called quantum computing and predictive analytics.”

In her recent podcast with Byrne, Maras credited her followers with disrupting an Oct. 10 school board meeting in Dearborn, Mich. that ended with parents opposed to LGBTQ materials shouting down board members.

“It was my listeners that caused that school board chaos at Dearborn, Michigan,” she told Byrne.

But speaking with Raw Story, Maras dialed back the claim, saying two listeners expressed concerns about students’ exposure to LGBTQ materials in the school system, and started a group that grew to eight or nine members. Maras added that her followers’ “impact can’t be calculated; it could be anything from minimal to they lit the match.”

Maras and her followers have also contributed to a relentless stream of public records requests that have overwhelmed local election officials over in the runup to the midterm elections.

“Tore was responsible for the flood of FOIAs, as well, not True the Vote,” one follower commented on the “Tore Says” Telegram channel last month. “You all deserve the credit, not those posers.”

The public records requests, many of them duplicative, have made an impact across the country.

“We’ve heard from officials who tell us about the requests say that it’s a constant barrage,” Paul Gronke, a political science professor and founder of the Elections & Voting Information Center at Reed College, told Raw Story in September. “It’s ongoing. Officials are obligated to response, and they simply can’t keep up.”

Maras told Raw Story she couldn’t quantify the number of requests her followers have submitted, but she made no apology for their actions.

“If they’re doing it, that’s fantastic,” she said. “That’s the crux of holding our government accountable, is transparency.”

This is the first in a two-part series about Terpsehore "Tore" Maras' history of dubious claims about her experience and credentials.