The head of Wikileaks told @SeanHannity__ to seek ‘other channels’ for information on Sen. Mark Warner. Turns out ‘@SeanHannity__’ was a woman in Texas.
At about 4 a.m. on Saturday morning, a couple hours after she started pretending to be Sean Hannity, Dell Gilliam says she got a direct message back from the head of Wikileaks, Julian Assange. That’s when she said she “kind of panicked.”
“I felt bad. He really thought he was talking to Sean Hannity,” said Gilliam.
Gilliam, a technical writer from Texas, was bored with the flu when she created @SeanHannity__ early Saturday morning. The Fox News real account was temporarily deleted after cryptically tweeting the phrase “Form Submission 1649 | #Hannity” on Friday night. Twitter said the account had been “briefly compromised,” according to a statement provided to The Daily Beast, and was back up on Sunday morning.
When Gilliam made the account, she did not expect to be setting up a meeting over “other channels” for Assange to send “some news about Warner,” an apparent reference to Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“I can’t believe this is happening. I mean… I can. It’s crazy. Nothing can be put past people,” Gilliam, posing as Hannity, wrote to Assange. “I’m exhausted from the whole night. What about you, though? You doing ok?”
“I’m happy as long as there is a fight!” Assange responded.
Gilliam reassured Assange that she, or Hannity, was also “definitely up for a fight” and set up a call for 9:30 a.m. Eastern, about six hours later.
“You can send me messages on other channels,” said Assange, the second reference to “other channels” he made since their conversation began.
“Have some news about Warner.”
While Assange was not the only high-profile person duped by the account, his interactions with it were likely the most significant.
Citing mysterious sources and to-be-revealed bombshells, Hannity has been alleging he will unveil “the biggest scandal in American history” for weeks on his primetime Fox News show that has devolved into mostly a recitation of conspiracy theories about a “secret society” and the “deep state.”
Both Hannity and Assange’s Wikileaks have pushed similar document drops and hashtag campaigns since before the 2016 election, most recently the push to release a confidential memo about government spying under the hashtag “#releasethememo.” Last year, Hannity even invited Assange to guest host his radio program. Both participated in baseless speculation about the murder of former DNC staffer Seth Rich, which Hannity later dropped after advertisers dropped his program.
This was not Gilliam’s plan when she created the account on Saturday morning. In fact, she said she didn’t really know much about Sean Hannity when it all started. Gilliam said she watches Fox News, NPR and CNN in equal parts, had “intentionally ignored [Hannity] because he seems to have no respect from anybody on either side except for Trump.”
She said she simply wanted to play a joke on another Sean Hannity account, @SeanHannity_, with one underscore and not two.
“It kind of started on a whim. I was going to tweet at one of the fake Sean Hannity accounts that was up to tell them not to be me,” she said.
Then, in part because Gilliam seemed to have picked up on Hannity’s conspiratorial and frenzied voice, things picked up fast.
“I don’t even really know how [Hannity] sounds, so I started by copying the tone of the first fake one,” she said.
“To all the lib haters, know that I am back and here to stay. You can’t silence the truth and you have no idea what’s coming,” her first tweet read. “To all my loyal supporters – follow me on my new account to stay updated. Twitter can try to knock us down but we will keep rising up! #SeanHannity”
That tweet, which had 1,800 retweets and 3,500 likes, was retweeted by dozens of verified journalists and Twitter personalities.
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