Snopes may be known for debunking urban legends, hoaxes, and folklore, but our journalistic efforts go far beyond that. Investigations into inauthentic behavior seek to expose bad actors and their methods. These stories also document patterns of the shortcomings of social media platforms, in particular when it comes to U.S. politics.
Facebook appears to have taken action on a popular Facebook Group themed for White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. Official Kayleigh McEnany Fan Page disappeared in October 2020. There is no indication that McEnany or the White House had any involvement with it. The private group was created on May 1, 2020, and built up more than 475,000 members, an average growth of almost 100,000 members per month.
These numbers bear similarities to another group that Snopes reported on after Facebook removed it in August. That group, Kayleigh McEnany Official, was managed from North Macedonia and had more than 456,000 members. Facebook told us in September that Kayleigh McEnany Official was removed “as part of routine enforcement against spammy and inauthentic behavior because it used a range of deceptive techniques to boost their popularity on our platform.” They also told us that the group’s management “used compromised accounts to mislead people about its origin, make their content appear more popular than it is, and drive them to off-platform domains filled with pay-per click ads and to YouTube.”
The more recently removed Official Kayleigh McEnany Fan Page does not appear to have been run from North Macedonia, but it may have been taken down for similar reasons. It may have boosted its popularity with deceptive techniques in order to quickly build a massive membership base. We reached out to Facebook about this group, but only received this statement in response: “We regularly monitor Groups and Pages through a combination of automation and expert content reviewers, and take prompt action when our Community Standards are violated.”
The listed administrators for Official Kayleigh McEnany Fan Page were Nicholas Zulu and Angela Lutz Hart. Zulu’s account has a different last name in its URL, facebook.com/nicholaszeller. Hart’s account has since disappeared from Facebook. Both accounts were also admins in the Facebook Group named The Constitutional Conservative Patriot Page, with only Zulu left to manage it now. Attempts to reach out to either person were unsuccessful.
Zulu also invited Kayleigh McEnany and her husband, Sean Gilmartin, to join the group via Twitter:
@kayleighmcenany and @GilmartinSean, my conservative Facebook admins and I wanted to create a FB page to honor you, your family, and the great job you are doing as @PressSec. Please visit the OFFICIAL KAYLEIGH MCENANY FAN PAGE at https://t.co/loMK9Itc32
— Nicholas Zulu (@nicholaszeller) May 23, 2020
Neither of them appeared to respond to the invitation.
After the Facebook Group was created on May 1, 2020, it added 50,000 members by June 14. Between June 14-19, Official Kayleigh McEnany Fan Page added another 100,000 new members. Between June 19 and July 1, the group added yet another 100,000 members, bringing its total to more than 250,000. By July 11, the group reached 300,000 members. Zulu posted that day: “Quality content to honor Kayleigh, Trump, Conservatives, and Jesus.” The group reached 400,000 members by July 30, after only being created three months earlier.
Earlier, when Official Kayleigh McEnany Fan Page only had 40,000 members, Zulu posted “WWG1WGA.” The acronym stands for “Where We Go One We Go All,” the slogan of the QAnon conspiracy theory. On Oct. 6, Facebook announced that it would ban groups that openly support QAnon. The Associated Press reported: “Facebook said it will ban groups that openly support QAnon, the baseless conspiracy theory that paints President Donald Trump as a secret warrior against a supposed child-trafficking ring run by celebrities and ‘deep state’ government officials.”
Posts about QAnon may have been one of the reasons that Facebook took action on the group. Zulu also tweeted about QAnon:
Did you notice him making a Q with his hand at the beginning of the video?
— Nicholas Zulu (@nicholaszeller) June 13, 2020
Have any idea what is being referred to? Castle Rock, CO? Castle Rock, ME? Castle Rock the series based on Stephen King?
— Nicholas Zulu (@nicholaszeller) June 6, 2020
In our research for this story we found a connection to previous reporting. We noticed that on July 2, Twitter user Kyle Mizokami tweeted the following:
This is the second day in a row @Facebook is pushing me to join QAnon groups. I haven’t shown the slightest interest. It’s just two groups—that I can’t banish from view—and about fifty others I might actually be interested in.
— Kyle Mizokami (@KyleMizokami) July 3, 2020
Mizokami followed up, saying that he was shown Candace Owens and Official Kayleigh McEnany Fan Page as suggested groups to join:
One is simply Candace Owens and the second Q one is OFFICIAL KAYLEIGH MCENANY FAN PAGE (surprise, it’s not official.)
Both have between 262 and 298k followers each.
— Kyle Mizokami (@KyleMizokami) July 3, 2020
Snopes previously filed an exclusive report on the removal of the same Candace Owens Facebook Group.
The Candace Owens Facebook Group had several admins, a few of which were fake accounts. The group grew to more than 523,000 members in a little over six months. A separate Facebook Group named Candace Mods, where admins and moderators for the group organized efforts, is still active today.
Another Kayleigh McEnany-themed Facebook Group, Kayleigh McEnany Fan Club, currently has more than 404,000 members and was created on June 10, 2020. For comparison, the official Trump campaign pages Women for Trump, Latinos for Trump, Black Voices for Trump, Veterans for Trump, Evangelicals for Trump, and Catholics for Trump have a cumulative page-like count of 453,000 likes, and they were all created prior to 2020.