What does it take to get your questions answered during the White House press briefing? Less than I’d have imagined, apparently, thanks in part to Covid-19 protocols. A player in a Roblox political roleplay group managed to invent a journalist persona for themselves that was good enough to fool their supposed colleagues and have their questions asked to White House press secretary Jen Psaki multiple times. They seemed like legitimate press corps questions, too. Power to the players, apprently.
According to Politico, the player behind fictional journalist Kasey Montagu is a member of a political roleplay group in Roblox called “nUSA”, having previously played the role of fictional Secretary of State.
In order to become a member of actual political happenings, Montagu set up multiple social media accounts. They had a LinkedIn account and Twitter accounts for both White House Schedule and White House Pool Report (though both are now suspended). Montagu used those accounts to post the daily schedules for the president, first lady, vice president, and second gentleman along with pool reports on those individuals’ activities during the day. Those accounts got enough of a following, including actual White House correspondants and political officials, to make them appear legitimate.
Montagu then began emailing press briefing questions to press aides and other pres corps members. “During the pandemic, it’s become the norm for the pool reporter to ask a question or two for a press corps colleague as a courtesy,” Politico explain, since the press briefing currently only allows 14 reporters present instead of filling all former 49 seats.
Eventually, Montagu had success and got their questions asked by other reporters who believed them to be the political correspondant for “WHS”. They eventually had questions asked on their behalf about “everything from Covid-19 travel bans, to coming ambassadorships, to Biden’s reaction to Microsoft being hacked,” Politico say. They also asked about former President Obama’s level of involvement in the current administration and about presidential portrait unveilings.
Montagu told Politico, “I love journalism, and I think the Press Corps is doing a pretty bad job at the moment, so I decided I would ensure some transparency and ask some questions me and some friends wanted the answer to.”
Amusingly, this is not the only instance of nUSA members being mistaken for actual people or government agencies. Unlike Montagu’s trickery, that one appears to have been an unforced error. It only took me about 30 seconds to find though, so I’d be surprised if it hasn’t happened other times.
Kasey Montagu may not have been real, but she sure got to field some real questions to the real government. Well played, Montagu.