The Wild Story of a Fake White House Reporter Who Got Real Questions Answered
Just how this person (who claimed to be from the fake White House News and whose true identity remains murky) was able to trick legitimate members of the close-knit circle of White House reporters into asking questions on their behalf — and the White House itself into answering those questions — isn't entirely clear.
The likeliest scenario, as Politico reported on Friday, is that the faker benefited from the COVID-19 precautions taken by the White House.
According to Politico, amid the pandemic, "it's become the norm for the pool reporter to ask a question or two for a press corps colleague as a courtesy," with the number of people allowed in the White House briefing room now at 14 (down from 49, pre-pandemic).
That's why "Kacey Montagu," who was never physically in the briefing room, would ask questions via other reporters who were there, purporting to be working on behalf of an outlet called White House News, or WHN for short.
Reporters writing pool reports will make a habit of asking questions on behalf of those who can't physically attend a briefing though some, after searching Montagu's name online and finding little more than a sparse LinkedIn profile, chose not to ask questions for them.
Johnson's question, he said in the briefing, came from a "colleague" but according to Mediaite, was asked on behalf of Montagu.
Politico reports that, in conversations with journalists and U.S. officials, Montagu claimed to be "an 18-year-old law student from the United Kingdom who was born in the U.S. before moving across the pond with their family at age six."
But some speculate that Montagu is a more likely a gamer on the online platform Roblox, whose users jokingly refer to themselves as "Legos."
A video posted to Twitter Thursday on Montagu's account features a Roblox figure along with Obama's voice (copy-and-pasted from various audio clips) reciting the lyrics of Justin Bieber's 2015 song "Sorry."
"Here is a video I have recorded to the fake news," the video caption reads, along with the Twitter handles of several reporters and a Democratic consultant.
In another conversation reviewed by Politico, Montagu said they "are not motivated by politics, but were socially liberal and conservative on economic issues."
Mediatite reported that a since-deleted Google bio page for Montagu described their political views as: "President Trump 2024, baby! I'm a Conservative."
In a series of Twitter messages sent from the Twitter handle @SecMontagu to PEOPLE, the person calling themselves "Kacey Montagu" explained how, in their words, they began to have their questions answered by White House staffers.
"I began doing this by sending an email to the Press Office at the White House asking to receive emails from them — this would include pool reports and allowed me to see who would be in the briefing room — I would simply email them my question," @SecMontagu wrote. "I did this to see if we could have a bit more transparency, as I noticed a lack of it in regards to the readout of calls, etc."
The person behind the Twitter account continued: "None of my intentions were malicious at all — I wouldn't even say I 'impersonated' a journalist, I'd just say I was being a journalist."
When asked about their true identity, @SecMontagu told PEOPLE, "I can't really mention my identity - but nothing I did was in any way malicious or was intended as that - I just wanted answers to questions from the White House."
They added that they first started sending questions to the White House "a few months back."
As of Monday, Montagu's Google and LinkedIn pages and been deleted, while other Twitter pages set up by the person, including @WHSchedule and @WHPoolReport, were suspended from the platform for violating the company's impersonation policy.