Who Is @Catturd2, the Sh-tposting King of MAGA Twitter?
ON A RECENT “Weekend Update” segment for Saturday Night Live, Michael Che relayed the news that Ronna McDaniel had just won a close reelection as chair of the Republican National Committee. He then ran down the list of McDaniel’s failed challengers, including some real ones (MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell) and a few joke picks (Kevin Sorbo, Kyle Rittenhouse). Among the latter was “Twitter user @CAT_TURD_2.”
That mention got a big laugh. To most, it probably sounded like a throwaway gag: the writers inventing a crass, right-wing internet troll who had a genuine shot at leading the Republican Party. Only someone truly immersed in the culture wars would know that they had created no such character. Sure, they’d modified his handle, but @catturd2 is entirely real. Selling himself as an everyman comedian and poop-inspired mischief-maker of the MAGA movement, he has acquired 1.4 million Twitter followers, legions eager to hear him roast American liberalism in all its absurd forms. Raging about everything from the FBI’s overreach to people’s pronouns, he has developed bonds not only with other right-wing influencers, but also Donald Trump, who has amplified him on numerous occasions; Tucker Carlson, who gave him effusive primetime coverage for trolling a Democratic congressman; and Twitter CEO-for-now Elon Musk, who is bending over backward to address @catturd2’s frustrations with the site. Channeling many streams of misinformation into a single torrent, he’s hit upon an explosive formula for derailing — or even directing — public discourse.
Day to day, @catturd2 is riffing with J.K. Rowling and dunking on libs with Ron DeSantis spokesperson Christina Pushaw. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has taken a selfie wearing one of his T-shirts and, as a guest on his podcast in 2021, said that it was preferable to Fox News. Trump wrote him a get-well message after he went to the hospital for a gastrointestinal condition in April 2022. Sharing that message in May, @catturd2 emphasized how special it was that the former president would extend such courtesy to “an old country, average person” like himself. This is the balance he chooses to strike as a digital MAGA warrior: anonymous and ordinary, yet plugged into the mainframe of ideological power.
While @catturd2’s rhetoric is mostly unoriginal, he produces an incredible amount of it, covering a wide breadth of topics, and has a proven ability to spread it. Anyone drawn in by his folksy demeanor will soon be treated to claims that Pfizer sponsored “unholy satanic performances at the Grammys,” fresh material for the QAnon forums. He stokes fear by warning that China “owns” the Biden family while endorsing the far-right activists Project Veritas over the “lying propagandists” of mainstream media. These takes are scalding hot enough to accrue tens of thousands of likes and retweets. He also packages arch-conservative notions in what sounds like pithy common sense: the insistence that Americans should not have the option to vote by mail, even as the pandemic raged, led @catturd2 to argue in September 2020, “If Nancy Pelosi can get her hair done in person — you can vote in person. Pass it on.” One of those to pass it on, via retweet, was the then-President of the United States.
Tucker Carlson has taken notice as well. On July 12, 2022, Tucker Carlson Tonight ran a brief segment reporting that Biden’s family calls him “Pedo Peter,” a bit of conjecture based on an unverified leak of personal data from an iCloud account purportedly linked to the president’s son, Hunter Biden. Carlson’s segue into this piece of the show was vague yet revealing: “So, a lot of people online are wondering why, according to Hunter Biden’s electronic devices, Joe Biden’s family refers to him as ‘Pedo Peter.’” One of those people, as it happened, was @catturd2, whose two tweets that morning alluding to the “Pedo Peter” claim received more than 11,000 and 26,000 likes, respectively — well over 100 times the engagement that others using the nickname on Twitter received. @catturd2, in fact, was part of a small cadre of major conservative influencers (including Tim Young, Lavern Spicer, and Raheem J. Kassam) who gave the meme the online traction it needed to make the leap to cable TV.
A few months later, in December, Carlson explicitly acknowledged the civic contributions of @catturd2. Opening a Friday evening show with a sarcastic farewell to outgoing Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of the few Republicans who had voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Carlson recounted how Kinzinger had lost his temper on Twitter several weeks before, when @catturd2 shared a meme ridiculing American support for Ukraine. “Our heart goes out to Catturd tonight, who’s probably cowering in a litter box somewhere, waiting for Adam Kinzinger to show up with sharpened nails,” Carlson joked. “Mock the Ukrainian flag? Get scratched. Those are the rules, Catturd. It’s a tough town. Meow!” He delighted in Kinzinger’s overreaction as @catturd2 had in provoking it. And, naturally, @catturd2 was more elated still at this wink of approval from Carlson — to his mind the only trustworthy anchor left at Fox News.
Two weeks ago, @catturd2 tweeted that he would not participate in this Rolling Stone profile — while reaping engagement by announcing it was in the works. He did not directly respond to multiple interview requests. Nor did several of his associates, among them Jewels Jones, with whom he hosts a Monday-Friday live podcast called In the Litter Box.
His evasiveness and air of anonymity notwithstanding, the real identity of @catturd2 is not hard to deduce. Rather than reveal his name, however, we’ll call him “B.” He lives in a town of a few thousand in the Florida Panhandle. On Twitter, B. has freely acknowledged the location of his “ranch in the middle of nowhere,” but it’s also listed in his 2019 registration for a small company, Catturd LLC, through which he sells beanies, bumper stickers, and refrigerator magnets. B.’s age and birthday match the information @catturd2 has shared in public tweets. He’s in his late 50s, has multiple ex-wives but no children, and apparently lives alone except for his pets. From a rural home, and behind the signature profile image of a smug-looking cat in glasses, he holds sway over the faction of the Republican base that idolizes Trump and DeSantis, along with congressional hardliners like Reps. Greene, Matt Gaetz, and Lauren Boebert.
BORN IN THE MID-1960s, B. has said he served in the U.S. Army as a young man and came to the Gulf Coast of Florida when he got out in 1985. It wasn’t long before he found the woman who would become his first wife, at a gym. She was 19 years old, just starting college, while he was in his early twenties. “He was older and so much more experienced than I was,” she wrote in a book she self-published in 2018, in which she did not refer to B. by name. The pair were wed in September 1986, three months after they’d met, and had the marriage annulled in 1988.
“I wasn’t physically perfect enough, my flaws were many and glaringly obvious, at least to the man I’d married,” B.’s first ex-wife recalls in her book. “His words struck me in a way that seeped under my skin, beneath my bones, and created within me a roaring doubt.” She did not respond to a request for an interview.
By 1991, B. had married and divorced again, and, later, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. He married a third time a few years after that, to a woman we’ll call “H.” She was a dancer when they first crossed paths, while B. was devoting himself to music. Eventually he fronted a rock band with an extremely silly, fruit-themed name, which gigged at establishments like Bullwinkle’s Saloon in Tallahassee and Bubba’s Pizza in Panama City Beach, and was reportedly on the radar of the Dust Brothers, producers who worked on Beck’s Odelay. H. tells Rolling Stone that she was around for the formation of the band. B.’s talents instantly captivated her, she says, and his bandmates were at their wedding.
“He was very handsome, and with his singing and playing, he swept me off my feet,” H. remembers. “He used to work late-night at the post office, and I worked until 4 a.m., then he spent the whole morning serenading me. I fell hard.”
H. and B. drifted apart around 1998, she says, as he strove to get his band on the map. “Well, him and his band headed one way, and I went the other,” H. explains. “I think he was doing the pushing, he was so talented.” She can’t pinpoint exactly when the band broke up, as it was sometime after the couple’s own parting. “I still love him, but we were just going in different directions,” H. says. Their divorce was official in 2002, and H. hasn’t seen or spoken to B. since.
It was sometime in the 2010s that a “Catturd,” almost certainly B., emerged as an internet personality on the blog comment service Disqus. The account bears the same avatar as Twitter’s @catturd2, while the user was similarly prolific, lodging more than 55,000 comments and receiving three times as many upvotes. Though the main profile is set to private, Disqus Catturd’s replies are visible on old stories from websites including the far-right Breitbart, which played a critical role in shaping the aggressive pro-Trump narratives that led his 2016 victory. This closed ecosystem would’ve been the ideal proving ground for B. to hone his political voice and gain a following. Years later, his Twitter fans remember him as a top commenter from this era of conservative blogging, and Breitbart has since reported extensively on his Twitter hijinks: @catturd2 is mentioned in around 200 of their articles.
B. was too late to score the @catturd handle on Twitter; someone else claimed it way back in 2010. And he has denied ever tweeting from @CATTURD1, an account that has been suspended. Whether he picked his current handle for a backup account or as he first joined the site, we know that he logged in as @catturd2 in September 2018, ahead of that year’s midterm elections, and in no time at all was receiving a boost from Pizzagate conspiracy peddler Jack Posobiec. “Today is my 9th day on Twitter. Jack Posobiec has retweeted me 5 times,” B. tweeted that same month. “And I’ve got almost 400 new MAGA friends.”
Back then, as now, B. could be vehement in his attitude, and turn anything into a partisan issue. Hurricane Michael ravaged the Florida Panhandle in October 2018, right as he launched his Twitter career, and he documented the wreckage to his property, blaming Democrats for lackluster recovery efforts while alleging that Florida had received no federal assistance. “Scumbag Democrats won’t release the money until more is paid to Puerto Rico who got TONS already and their corrupt Gov. blew it,” he tweeted in April 2019. “This is BULLSHIT!” (Florida had received nearly $1 billion in federal disaster relief by that point.)
But what seemed to help B. quickly amass MAGA connections and clout, apart from any notoriety he may have leveraged from his Disqus days, was a rude and irreverent approach to American political circus. While becoming a reply guy for the likes of Posobiec and other Trump-loyal influencers — including Bill Mitchell, Dan Bongino, and Candace Owens — he also positioned himself as a cartoonish figure: the self-proclaimed “MAGA turd who talks shit.” Early tweets saw him quipping, about a photo of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, “I thought John Denver died years ago.” He portrayed his cat alter-ego visiting Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in prison: “I bought you Swiss, American, Mozzarella, and extra sharp Cheddar for Christmas,” reads the caption. “Best present I could think of for a rat.” Several months into this schtick, @catturd2 could boast retweets from Tom Fitton, head of the conservative activist group Judicial Watch, and Sebastian Gorka, a former official in the Trump White House.
Lots of B.’s content, like the @catturd2 character, is fart-and-feces-related. His feed scans a bit like a bathroom-themed version of the anti-Resistance. It is with a supreme fondness for the scatalogical gag that B. has devised rallying cries such as #FreeTheFarts, #WetBuzzardFart, #CatturdsFartingArmy, #FartingSound (Trump retweeted one of those posts as the U.S. death toll from Covid-19 hit 200,000), #PoopyPantsBiden, #PoopGate, #ShartWeek, and countless more. Even when he’s not hammering those tags, B.’s got anal activity on the brain, fantasizing about a person wearing a medical face mask while taking a dump, for example, or how he could feed cows beans so they release more methane with their flatulence. Following his hospital stay for a bowel obstruction, he couldn’t resist noting that he was “full of shit.” A running joke on leftist Twitter is that B. is not a true MAGA crusader but a fart fetishist enlisting gullible Trump supporters to insert his kink into the conversation with the assurance that it will “trigger the libs.”
After establishing his Twitter account in 2018, it took @catturd2 just over a year to rack up 100,000 followers, an audience he would quintuple by the end of 2020. However, the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic initially overshadowed his efforts to branch out in a new direction: as a writer. In January 2020 he self-published, as Catturd, The Adventures of Cowfart, Literally, a parodic tale of climate denialism aimed at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, followed in February by a sci-fi novel, Rabbitskin, whose plot contains a parallel to Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead: B.’s protagonist is awaiting execution for blowing up a corporate building and killing hundreds in a mass slaughter that they believe “might end up saving this sorry planet.”
After launching those titles, B. set about dismissing the deadly health crisis as overblown, and scoffed at masking and vaccination, raising his profile alongside many extremists capitalizing on the national upheaval that came with the virus. In the wake of the 2020 election, B. hyped the so-called “Big Lie” — the false narrative that rampant voter fraud had cost Donald Trump the presidency. By November, his follower account had swelled to 400,000, a number that continued to grow as Trump himself, on Nov. 30, 2020, retweeted three @catturd2 posts casting doubt on the election results. Trump has retweeted @catturd2 seven times in all, dating back to December 2019, when B. praised Fitton and Judicial Watch. After learning Trump had shared that post, B. tweeted: “I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it!”
B. has meanwhile done fine work exploiting the mechanisms of Twitter to enhance his stature. Misinformation researcher E. Rosalie Li found that he significantly ramped up use of hashtag campaigns around September 2020, when his star was most rapidly ascending. These organized actions are made to trend through coordinated posting: @catturd2 urges other MAGA foot soldiers to spam the site with a particular catchphrase until it can be covered as news by friendly right-wing media. When, for instance, Bank of America allegedly closed an account that B. and Jewels Jones had opened for In the Litter Box, he whipped up the slogan #BankOfAmericaIsCommieTrash, which led to a favorable writeup in Gateway Pundit by Jim Hoft. In October 2021, when Fox News and the New York Post inaccurately blamed President Biden for supply chain shortages, B. took credit for the coverage, having driven the tags #EmptyShelvesJoe and #BareShelvesBiden to the top of Twitter’s trending bar. After the 2022 midterms, Donald Trump Jr. promoted @catturd2’s theory that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was declining to tout baseless claims of voter fraud in Arizona because he had wanted GOP candidates Blake Masters and Kari Lake to lose. Wherever B. got that idea, Trump Jr. picked it up from him.
Elsewhere, Li’s review found, @catturd2 was an essential part of mass-mobilization efforts to smear Rep. Ocasio-Cortez for supposedly misrepresenting what happened to her during the January 6 Capitol riot (she hadn’t) and Fauci for torturing puppies (another specious accusation). In both cases, the related tags trended on Twitter, and B.’s tweets about Fauci offered “the same misinformation that led to Fauci’s office receiving 3,600 calls in 36 hours — many of which contained violent threats,” according to Li. She further notes that @catturd2’s favored tactics appear to violate Twitter guidelines against platform manipulation and targeted harassment.
“I think Catturd is a very sophisticated troll,” says Sander van der Linden, a professor of social psychology at the University of Cambridge and author of the forthcoming book Foolproof: Why Misinformation Infects Our Minds and How to Build Immunity. It can be “very tricky,” he says, to prove someone like B.’s hidden touch — as in the case of Carlson picking up the “Pedo Peter” allegation from unspecified social media users — “because you need to be able to trace behavioral outcomes (with harm potential) to the troll’s activity and disentangle it from other potential sources of influence.”
At the same time, @catturd2 “displays all of the key signs of a troll campaign,” van der Linden explains, as his aim “is to clearly manipulate public opinion by artificially amplifying extremist and polarizing viewpoints.” The key difference is that while so many troll campaigns rely on “accounts with almost no followers, and most of the accounts were in the periphery of the social network,” B., as @catturd2, has a “massive following,” which places him at the center of the network, and he’s “being amplified by hugely influential ‘nodes’” like Elon Musk, says van der Linden. “So in that sense, I think Catturd can potentially be considered more dangerous.”
B.’S FLAIR FOR TROLLING AND GOSSIP, however, exceeds his accomplishments in traditional punditry and impact on electoral outcomes. So far, @catturd2 has served as MAGA cheerleader for three hugely disappointing cycles: Democrats taking the House of Representatives in 2018, Trump’s loss in 2020, and a Republican underperformance in 2022 that even Tucker Carlson admitted was “embarrassing.” Each time around, B. has confidently predicted a GOP landslide, and each time, he’s been wrong, settling deeper into revanchist fury. He voices special contempt for those in the party he sees as part of the Washington establishment, like McConnell, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and Sens. Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham, and Lisa Murkowski. But those politicians are hanging on to their seats, while some of the more extreme candidates he’s backed, including Lake and Masters, have failed to attain office. Even if you have @catturd2’s’s support, you can’t rely on it forever: he went from tweeting “I fully support Ted Cruz in any future political endeavors” to calling Cruz a “gutless coward” whose “political career is over” in the space of a year.
It’s not the only inconsistency. Practically ever since Musk completed his acquisition of Twitter, a deal that B. and his fellow travelers hoped would liberate them from the supposed censorship of Big Tech, he has whined that nefarious “algorithms” continue to limit his reach, with Musk eagerly (if vaguely) answering him like a 24/7 tech support bot. The tantrums are all the more unjustified in light of @catturd2 crossing the million-follower mark just two weeks after Musk took the reins. There’s nothing the CEO can realistically do to appease B., whose tweets about being throttled by shadowbans ironically receive hundreds of millions of views.
From those long-ago efforts to break through with his band to his ceaseless networking as @catturd2, B. has labored intensely to earn the attention he has finally secured. Now, as a distinguished Florida voter, eager to see Trump campaign for president once more but strongly supportive of Ron DeSantis, his own governor and a potential 2024 candidate, he sits astride the nuclear bomb that is the Republican party’s future. At the moment, he hopes DeSantis will neither run nor accept a vice presidential nomination. “We need him here in Florida,” he’s tweeted. “What he’s done for my state is a miracle and is extremely important.” Nevertheless, should DeSantis lead the GOP ticket, B. is prepared to go “all in.”
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Decades past their marriage, H. is surprised by what B. churns out as @catturd2, content she views as satire. “I really never thought that he was so political,” she tells Rolling Stone. “Opinionated, definitely.” But, she adds: “It was all music with us.” Without talking to B., it’s hard to know whether he still plays guitar or writes songs. If so, he doesn’t share this side of himself online. As for why he might find inspiration in Trump, H. says, “I can give you my opinion, but it would only be mine: Both are passionate, outspoken men.” Were she to reconnect with her ex-husband, she’d want to talk about “the good times” they shared together: “My son lived with us, and he was [B.’s] sidekick for a while. [B.] watched him when I worked, and I know [my son] would like to see him. He was only about eight, and we went fishing a lot.” In one of the wedding photos H. sends, she and B. pose with her smiling boy — the portrait of a family that didn’t last.
Despite the renown he enjoys in his role as a Twitter heel, B. occasionally voices a hint of regret. “Getting old is a hell of a thing,” he recently mused. “Your mind is willing — but your body just won’t cooperate.” Once, before he was an internet celebrity, he replied to a woman who shared a photo of herself with a tube of chapstick tucked in her cleavage, “Stop getting me excited. Litter boxes are lonely,” he wrote, adding a sad face emoji. And while he always professes to be laughing his fucking ass off at Biden, or congressional Democrats, or climate change believers, or the vaccinated, or Black Lives Matter protesters, it never feels as genuine as when he talks about the beloved dogs and cats he’s rescued and nurtured back to health. Maintaining his level of clout as a political heckler, B. acknowledges, is a tiresome job for a lone man pushing 60. When you weigh up what he gets in the bargain, it doesn’t seem like much.