Posted at 01:25 PM ET, 06/21/2011

#BornFreeCrew: The group who warned about Weiner


Anthony Weiner speaks during a news conference in New York, June 16. (Richard Drew - AP)
This post has been updated.

It’s been a weird couple weeks of fake identities online, with the Gay Girl in Damascus revealing himself as a straight, married white guy last Sunday and reports over the weekend that Twitter accounts pretending to be teenage girls tried to seduce Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.).

The group most heavily involved with monitoring Weiner have identities just as difficult to pin down.

Conservative group #BornFreeCrew had for weeks before the “Weinergate” scandal closely monitored who the congressman was following on Twitter, and even urged young women to stay away from him, according to Slate.

The #BornFreeCrew has no Web site or Twitter account, banding together only around a hashtag. The “members” were led by a man named Dan Wolfe, the man who discovered Weiner’s crotch shot and sent it to conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart. Wolfe had for weeks promised that a scandal was coming, leading many to think that the Weiner photo was just a prank when it was discovered. Wolfe has yet to come forward and identify himself and vanished completely from online on June 3.

Mike Stack, a 39-year-old conservative tweeter from New Jersey who was an online friend of Wolfe’s and around for the conception of #BornFreeCrew, spoke to BlogPost over the phone today. He explains what he knows about #BornFreeCrew and Dan Wolfe:

“Dan Wolfe was the sort of leader of the group, but I don’t look it as a group. Dan was monitoring Weiner, and the group was just reacting.With all the hashtags out there, we thought about what we should call ourselves, and what our song would be. Kid Rock has a song called Born Free, and we used that.”

“I’ve never spoken to Dan on the phone, it was always through e-mail and DMs [direct messages on Twitter]. He accumulated these friends, he often replied all. The problem is that he involved everyone in his retweets. ... So then people started interpreting us as a conservative group. Certain publications made it seem like some kind of militia.”

“I thought Dan Wolfe was just someone younger in politics, a conservative guy. I didn’t think he had a hatred for Anthony Weiner. I do think he was in the right place at the right time when he found the picture.”

“Dan Wolfe has now basically disappeared. I’ve sent him a million e-mails, but his e-mail account is now closed, his Twitter account has disappeared. Everyone has theories on who he is, and other people are trying to imitate his style and his politics on Twitter [with new Twitter accounts]. But I would know if it were him.”

Wolfe earlier said that he had never followed Weiner on Twitter and had no plans to take the congressman down. But many bloggers have said the coincidence that Wolfe was the man who found the picture is too great. Wolfe used the Twitter handle @PatriotUSA76 before he deleted it in early June. One of Wolfe’s tweets:


Another “member” of the group Michael Madden,  a 52-year-old retired Philadelphia firefighter, told the New York Times: “It seems now that Dan may have had an agenda all along.” Madden goes by the Twitter handle @MMadden59. One of Madden’s tweets:

@RepWeiner The truth right out of the gate would have saved many people not just yourself a lot of anguish @patriotusa76 #BornFreeCrewless than a minute ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

By  |  01:25 PM ET, 06/21/2011

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company