No, Lis Smith Isn't Behind the Nigerian Pro-Pete Buttigieg Twitter Account—But Here's the Man Who Is

Lis Smith, a senior communications advisor to Pete Buttigieg's campaign, trended on Twitter across America on Sunday when users accused her of utilizing a fake Nigerian account to promote the Democratic presidential candidate and his policies. But Newsweek has spoken to the Nigerian man behind the @easychinedu account and obtained proof that he is not Smith or affiliated with Buttigieg's campaign.

Numerous tweets accusing the account of being run by Smith surfaced on Sunday, garnering tens of thousands of likes and retweets. The conspiracy started after user @FeralHogs420 posted several screenshots from @easychinedu—described in his bio as a "Buttigieg supporter from Nigeria" who likes "wine and dancing"—which indicated that the handle was Smith's burner account. Some conspiracy theorists linked Smith's language used in campaign emails to those posted by the account. Others noted that the account holder, purporting to be from Nigeria, tweeted during hours that suggested they were actually based in the U.S. timezone.

While thousands ran with the theory online that Smith started a fake Nigerian sock puppet account to promote Buttigieg, the truth is Chinedu, or @easychinedu, is actually a real supporter of the candidate. He is based in Nigeria and is not directly connected to Smith or the campaign—though Chinedu tells Newsweek he once claimed he was in a post as a "joke."

"I just thought it was a bit funny," Chinedu said, before confirming that he deactivated the account on Sunday after receiving intense harassment online, mostly from supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders.

"It's not all Bernie supporters," he added. "There's a vocal minority of Bernie Bros that are very loud and prominent."

A Nigerian man confirms he is behind the Twitter account @easychinedu. Newsweek via Chinedu

Because of this, Chinedu has asked to be only referred to by his first name in this article. He said his world has been "turned upside down" Sunday and urged Twitter users to stop trying to track down his details. Newsweek has also seen screenshots proving Chinedu's connection with the account and a photo of him holding up a piece of paper with today's date.

"I feel very frustrated, very constrained," Chinedu said. "It's bad for Lis and Pete. I know that they had a big media push today and I just wanted to check Twitter to get some Pete information. It seems like yet another baseless conspiracy theory that Pete has been dragged into."

One particular tweet from @easychinedu dated January 30 gave the conspiracy theory legs: "Team Pete. Hey. It's Lis. It's Phase 4. Time to leave it all on the floor. Phone bankers, we need you."

Users claimed that it mimicked the language Smith had used in campaign emails.

"Phase 1 was him getting himself known. Phase 2 was funding and phase 3 was building a grassroots organization. Phase 4 was getting the word out. Lis was pretty much the originator who pushed this," Chinedu said. "I just tweeted it as a joke, kind of a way to rally people that follow me to get out and phone bank."

Chinedu studied at an American university almost a decade ago. During his time as a student, he made friends with others who were interested in U.S. politics and has been closely following the 2020 election from Nigeria.

"I started following Pete from January last year when he launched his exploratory committee," he said. "I listened to an interview and video on YouTube and I found him very impressive. I felt like he had a lot of depth, a very interesting candidate. He's a gifted communicator, intelligent, has the right profile, he comes from the midwest."

"He's the best candidate hands down to take on Trump. Every candidate has their weak points but I feel he has the most potential," Chinedu added.

Smith denied her involvement with the account in a tweet earlier on Sunday. "Yea guys I totally have the time to be running a sock puppet account from Nigeria. Find better conspiracies!" she wrote.

Matt Corridoni, Buttigieg's deputy director of rapid response, told Newsweek that the "Nigerian shadow account conspiracy theories are the new rat emojis. Sad but not surprising."

Yea guys I totally have the time to be running a sock puppet account from Nigeria. Find better conspiracies! 😘

— Lis Smith (@Lis_Smith) February 16, 2020