Parody accounts have become ubiquitous, especially in politics, on Twitter. Utah political Twitter is rife with accounts lampooning elected officials, like, for example, Fake Governor Cox. Others, like State of Utah Updates, can be hard to distinguish from the real thing. Utah political veterans will remember the “Snowball” parody account that popped up during the 2011 Utah Legislature in response to proposed legislation to allow the shooting of feral cats.
When the “Based Mike Lee” Twitter account popped up late last month, it was easy to dismiss it as just another parody account, especially with such cringeworthy bon mots as “The haters can’t handle this frickin’ smoke” and “This account is no cap — bussin, forreal forreal.”
Except it wasn’t a parody.
The account is controlled by sitting U.S. Senator and self-styled constitutional scholar Mike Lee. His ownership of the social media property was confirmed to The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday.
Unlike Sen. Mitt Romney’s alleged anonymous “Pierre Delecto” account, Lee makes no attempts to hide his identity. He uses a picture of himself for his avatar. His bio reads “I’m a U.S. senator from Utah.”
The first post on the account was July 24 in response to Prince Harry’s speech at the United Nations, where the member of the royal family was critical of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“Love being lectured on democracy by an actual prince,” Lee tweeted.
The creation of Lee’s account seemingly coincides with his speech last month at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in Florida. Conservative commentator Benny Johnson highlighted Lee’s new account to help him gain followers, which prompted Lee’s “bussin” response.
The account creates a sort of cognitive dissonance. The same person who has been relentlessly promoting his book about the Supreme Court posted a picture of himself photoshopped wearing 8-bit sunglasses from the “Deal With It” meme that was popular more than a decade ago.
Lee’s stilted efforts at embracing youth culture is reminiscent of Steve Buscemi’s undercover cop character from 30 Rock attempting to pass as a teenager with the now famous “How do you do, fellow kids?” clip.
Lee’s edgy posts ended that same day with a boast that he’s taller than Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
Since, Lee has used his new handle to attack Democrats in Congress and the Biden administration, while also taking some shots at his November election opponent, independent candidate Evan McMullin. Lee even threatened to sue McMullin in response to a tweet about the FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.
“If I’d conspired with a guy whose home is now being invaded by the FBI, I’d be worried...” McMullin asked, tagging Lee’s official congressional Twitter account.
“I’d also be worried if I had repeatedly engaged in actionable defamation against a political opponent, falsely accusing him of grave offenses while acting with reckless disregard for the truth. Stick to the truth or lawyer up,” Lee responded.
It’s not clear why Lee felt the need to launch another Twitter account. His congressional and campaign accounts both carry the blue verified badge.