Someone is lying—it's just a question of who: A teenager or the most powerful office in the land?
CJ Pearson, a 13-year-old activist and rising star in the world of conservative commentary, has accused the official @POTUS Twitter account, which is used by President Barack Obama, of blocking him. Pearson included a screenshot as proof that he was blocked, which would mean he could not easily access tweets posted by @POTUS.
Of course, someone blocking someone else on Twitter is hardly news—unless, of course, the one doing the blocking is the president of the United States. As such, Pearson's claim has ignited a small firestorm of outrage online, with his name topping the trending topics on Facebook for the past 15 hours and unnumbered people using the incident as further proof that the Obama administration does not respect the American people, especially those who disagree with the president's policies and governance.A short time after Pearson posted his blocking claim, Frank Benenati, assistant White House press secretary, indirectly refuted it. Pearson, who regularly posts political commentary to his popular YouTube channel and Facebook page, called Benanti's response “outrageous.” In a subsequent video posted to Facebook, Pearson stood by his claim that @POTUS blocked him, and he went on to assert that the Obama administration “has lied to the American people time and time again.”
This is not the first time Pearson has found himself at the center of a social media-related blocking controversy. In March, Pearson was locked out of his Facebook account soon after posting a video criticizing Obama , which garnered over 1.2 million views at the time (and has since gained more than 2 million). A number of conservative blogs claimed, as they are now, that the blockage was an attempt to silence Pearson.
As Snopes points out, however, it is more likely that Facebook shuttered Pearson's account because his age at the time (12) violated the social network's terms and conditions. Pearson's page was later reinstated as a “public figure” account.
The problem with this latest dustup is that it is all but impossible to confirm either side of the story. Pearson could have easily fabricated the screenshot of the @POTUS blockage, and the White House can claim whatever it likes about blocking him (or anyone else).
The White House did not provide the Daily Dot with further proof that it had not blocked Pearson, who has not returned our request for comment. A Twitter spokesperson said the company “can't comment on individual accounts due to privacy concerns.”
And so, in this void of confirmation, we have a partisan conspiracy. Many of Pearson's supporters have also accused the White House of lying about the situation—just look at the responses to Benenati's tweet.
On its surface, this is nothing more than a minor quibble between a famous teenager who's made a name for himself by criticizing Obama, and a White House that is unpopular with half the American population.
At the end of the day, we're left with more questions than answers. But one question everyone should ask before making judgement: Who stands to gain most from the alleged blockage: CJ Pearson or President Obama?
Update 12:33pm CT, Sept. 24: Added comment from Twitter.
Screenshot via CJ Pearson/YouTube