Earlier today, the Atlantic's McKay Coppins published a lengthy profile on Mitt Romney, apparently part of Romney's effort to set himself up as the noble Republican foil to an out-of-control president. These sorts of pieces, which are more about narrative setting than anything else, typically contain a lot of new information, but this one had one notable exception. About midway through, the usually guarded senator revealed that, just like fellow lone-voice-of-reason-holder James Comey, he was the owner of a secret Twitter account.
At one point, when Coppins asked him about the #IMPEACHMITTROMNEY hashtag Trump tweeted into being earlier this month, Romney said this:
"Kind of what he does," Romney said with a shrug, and then got up to retrieve an iPad from his desk. He explained that he uses a secret Twitter account— “What do they call me, a lurker ?” – to keep tabs on the political conversation. "I won't give you the name of it," he said, but "I'm following 668 people." Swiping at his tablet, he recited some of the accounts he follows, including journalists, late-night comedians ("What's his name, the big redhead from Boston? ”), and athletes. Trump was not among them. "He tweets so much ," Romney said, comparing the president to one of his nieces who overshares on Instagram. "I love her, but it's like, Ah, it's too much ."
In other words, a wealth of information that would be highly useful to anyone hoping to track down the senator's supposedly secret Twitter hideout – or more specifically, to me. The chances seemed high that Romney, a well-known family man, would want to keep close tabs on his offspring. And as luck would have it, Romney has plenty of offspring.
Not all of his five sons have public Twitter accounts, and some of them, like the dreaded Tag have too many followers to possibly dig through. Romney's oldest grandchild, Allie Romney Critchlow, however, has just 481 followers, making digging through them an annoying-but-not-impossible feat. As I scrolled, while focusing on the ones that appeared to make an effort to conceal their real identities, one in particular caught my eye.
Reader, meet Twitter user @ qaws9876 otherwise known as PIerre Delecto.
This account joined the site in July of 2011, just one month after Romney announced his run for president. The majority of people it follows are either political reporters, politicians, political operatives, or pundits. Though it also follows noted big redhead from Boston Conan O'Brien. Pierre Delecto appears to be a fan of the late-night hosts Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon, too, as well as current and former NFL players Tom Brady and Brett Favre, respectively.
Pierre Delecto currently follows 702 accounts, which is a little more than the 668 Romney admitted to Coppins, but it is certainly possible to follow 30 additional accounts over the course of a few weeks, especially for a user who appears to have recently upped its Twitter activity.
The Pierre Delecto account's very first follow was eldest Romney scion Tagg, joined shortly thereafter by Glen Johnson, a current politics editor for Boston.com who was firmly on the Romney beat around the time the account was originally created. Next was Mark DeMoss, who described the Salt Lake Tribune in 2012 as "an unpaid advisor to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign for the past five years," and Eric Fehrnstrom, who still has "Former @MittRomney adviser" in his Twitter bio .
In general, the account follows everyone you might expect to follow someone like Mitt Romney. Among the late Charles Krauthammer, the late John McCain, Larry Kudlow, Rupert Murdoch, Bill Kristol, Matt Schapp, and — who else but — Peggy Noonan. It also follows all the people you would expect someone who is exactly Mitt Romney to follow. There are all of the available Romney children, a number of former Romney advisers and aides ( like a lot ), and quite a few reporters who have directly covered Romney or his various campaigns (like Ashley Parker, Matt Viser, Phillip Rucker, Steven Peoples, and Coppins himself, all of whom were beat on the Romney in 2012, among others).
Then, the accounts are hard to imagine anyone but Mitt Romney following. There's this seemingly random person who managed to snag the @SenRomney Twitter handle the pro-Romney parody account @AltPresRomney and various fan-run accounts like @ NY4Mitt and @ MittRomney_2016 . Also apparently the official (based on the fact that the first person to follow it was Romney's former digital director) though never-utilized (it only ever sent one tweet) account @Mitt_NH . Our Pierre Delecto was the 23rd person to follow this account, almost immediately after it was followed by the official @TeamRomney account and right before a number of reporters jumped on board, which would seem to indicate at least some sort of heads-up. Also Jon Moe, a photographer from Utah who's taken family photographs of the extended Romney clan. Also tweeted this:
Pierre Delecto's eight followers mostly seem to be of the sort any random account on Twitter might accumulate if it festers around the site long enough. The one notable exception here is its most recent follower, @ Darlin1Patience . Because @ Darlin1Patience's account is private, no easy way to see everyone currently follows. A little digging into some Mitt-adjacent accounts, however, reveals that @ Darlin1Patience does follow a few lesser-known members of the Romney family, like Craig Romney who only has a little over 3,300 followers, and eldest Romney grandchild Allie Romney, with her just under 500 followers. It is certainly notable then that @ Darlin1Patience, which only follows 194 people at the time of publication, also follows Pierre Delecto.
Then we have the tweets. Pierre has only ever tweeted 10 times in total, and all of them have been replies to other tweets — certainly the sort of behavior one might expect to see from a self-described “lurker.” The account's first tweet, coming a full four years after its initial registration, was a show of frustration at Fox News for not yet having a New Hampshire presidential poll.
Mitt Romney was living in New Hampshire at time .
The next tweet came until May of this year, when Pierre was moved to point out to a Bloomberg reporter that he had forgotten to include Romney in a list of Senators sticking up for Richard Burr.
Next was a tweet to Romney Senate colleague Dick Durbin whom Pierre casually addressed as "Dick," followed by a series of tweets defending Mitt Romney's honor.
More recently, there was a tweet expressing unhappiness at Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria (which Romney has publicly condemned) while also insisting on the Senate's powerlessness (as Romney a move as there ever was).
And on Saturday, Pierre Delecto offered a bashful joke in response to an Erick Erickson tweet full of Romney praise.
Of the 257 tweets the account has liked over the last eight years, 30 of them came from the official @SenatorRomney account, 28 came from the official @MittRomney account, seven were tweets quoting either the @SenatoryRomney or @MittRomney accounts, and three included a direct mention of one or the other. Even more were about Romney generally without mentioning an official Twitter handle.
Here are just a few of those Romney-centric tweets beloved by Pierre:
Among Pierre's liked tweets that don't directly mention Mitt Romney, George Conway, Kellyanne Conway's outspoken NeverTrump- he is a husband, appears to be a particular favorite, with Pierre liking quite a few tweets that call into question Trump's fitness for office, as well as this one expressing frustration at Lindsey Graham:
Pierre Delecto also liked this tweet tentatively supporting an invocation of the 25th amendment:
Perhaps more revealing among the account's liked tweets, though, is this:
And, from back in June of 2016, this:
There is one remaining mystery, however: the username. The handle @ qaws9876 does not hold any obvious significance to Romney, although considering the four letters are all directly adjacent to one another on a standard keyboard, and the numbers are simply run backwards, it seems entirely possible that it was an attempt at random placeholder text. The name Pierre Delecto, however, is harder to explain. "Pierre" certainly seems like a Mitt Romney-type looking for an alias might choose, though the "Delecto" is less clear.
We reached out to Romney for comment, and will update if and when we hear back. In the meantime, if you know anything about our new friend Pierre Delecto — or any other secret social media accounts members of congress might be holding onto — please let us know.
Readers like you make our work possible. Help us continue to provide the reporting, commentary and criticism you find anywhere else.
Join Slate Plus