@QueensQuayKaren, as her self-penned Twitter bio describes her, is a “Downtown Toronto gal who likes politics, my cat Mittens, and a good book.” She has a “George Smitherman for Mayor” twibbon. She also doesn’t exist.
Two excellent, sprawling, behind-the-scenes articles just published about Rob Ford’s winning mayoral campaign, one from the Globe and the other from Maclean’s, tell an identical story of Karen Philby’s genesis. The Twitter account was the work of the deputy communications director of Rob Ford’s campaign, Fraser Macdonald, and was created with one purpose in mind: getting the whole recording of a conversation between Dieter Doneit-Henderson and the candidate, in which Ford promised the fibromyalgia-afflicted man that he would “fucking try to find” OxyContin for him. Ford’s campaign knew the Toronto Star had a copy, and feared it would all but end the race for Ford if the paper published it. So Macdonald created @QueensQuayKaren, befriended Doneit-Henderson (“@DieterDH What have you got on @robfordteam? Nothing I’d like to see more than to bring him down!”), got the recording from him, and then passed it on to the Sun‘s Sue-Ann Levy—who quickly wrote a typically sympathetic story headlined “Ford feels ‘set up’ by drug tape.”
That was published on June 17. But @QueensQuayKaren didn’t stop; she continued tweeting for four months, up until three days before the election.
The 150 tweets sent out from the account range from weirdly uncritical of Ford for a Smitherman supporter (“I can see Ford’s appeal. I don’t agree with him on everything, but the man speaks the truth. George needs to improve on that.”) to weirdly scathing of Sarah Thomson for a Smitherman supporter (Philby attacks her for having a “bitchy attitude,” calling her a “total embarrassment”) to weirdly hateful of George Smitherman for a Smitherman supporter (“I know [he’s] an asshole, but we need to stop Ford.”)
@QueensQuayKaren also tries to get questions asked on CP24’s televised mayoral debates (“What are you going to do about the city’s Fair Wage policy?”). In one especially incredible sequence of tweets, she sends live updates throughout a meeting of the progressive group One Toronto, typing stuff like “Progressive vision ftw!” and “power to the people!” and “Cheers for man behind the billboard tax.” She tweets rumours (“Has anyone heard more about rumours Rocco Rossi was ‘removed’ as CEO of Heart and Stroke? Story coming soon?”). She tweets concerns about Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (it’s “about homos, not hamas. Let’s make pride about pride.”).
She even tries to get Torontoist to poke fun at a picture of Smitherman, as we had recently done with a photo of Ford at a football game. (“Yikes, can’t wait to see what the folks at @torontoist do to this awkward photo of @g_smitherman.”)
As of midnight Friday, the @QueensQuayKaren account is still online, but we expect it won’t be much longer. Here in reverse-chronological order, then, are her—by which we mean Macdonald’s—complete tweets and retweets as of Friday, October 29 at 10 p.m.:
: No surprises here—@QueensQuayKaren’s tweets are starting to vanish.
At left: the number of tweets on the @QueensQuayKaren account in the few hours leading up to midnight on October 29. At right: the number of tweets on the account within thirty minutes of this article being published.
As of 12:26 a.m., only other people’s tweets, ones that the Ford team retweeted from the fake account, remained on it.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Goldsbie suggests that “Kim” Philby, a famous Soviet spy, might have been the inspiration for the account’s name.
: And now @QueensQuayKaren has totally disappeared:
OCTOBER 30, 1:47 PM: The latest: Dieter Doneit-Henderson, the man who Karen Philby was initially created for, has taken to the comments thread of this article to defend himself, going so far as to release what appear to be the private, Direct Messages from @QueensQuayKaren. And Kelly Grant, the Globe‘s City Hall Bureau Chief and the author of her paper’s feature on Ford, adds that the Ford team voluntarily disclosed the existence of the fake Twitter account.
OCTOBER 30, 4:20 PM: And finally, to end the performance, Fraser Macdonald, the twenty-four-year old deputy communications director for Ford’s campaign and the one responsible for the account, has just taken a bow:
OCTOBER 31, 3:28 PM: There’s more. It looks as if Rob Ford’s team, if not Fraser Macdonald himself, started deleting especially inflammatory tweets from the @QueensQuayKaren account before the Globe and Maclean’s articles came out—including ones that called one-time mayoral candidate and then-Smitherman ally Sarah Thomson “George’s attack whore” and a “bitch.”
The screenshots below are from Google’s cached version of the page—which chronicles only those tweets posted between October 4 at 5:06 p.m. and October 10 at 2:45 p.m., and which will likely disappear soon itself. All of these tweets were not among those still online on Friday night.
Additional research by Steve Kupferman.