BuzzFeed reveals person behind storm misinformation Twitter account

BuzzFeed says it has identified the person behind @ComfortablySmug, the Twitter account that spread misinformation about the New York Stock Exchange being under more than 3 feet of water. The writer's name is Shashank Tripathi, Jack Stuef reports, and he's a campaign manager for Christopher Wight, the Republican candidate to represent New York's 12th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Stuef writes:

FEC documents show Wight has paid Tripathi thousands of dollars this election cycle as a “consultant.”

For years, [Tripathi’s] been a prolific commenter at and a popular conservative presence on Twitter. In 2008, he penned an entry for the site’s popular sex diary feature that “detailed a week of obsession, rough sex, and Ambien.”

Stuef said that Tripathi immediately hung up when reached by phone, and that he didn’t respond to a Direct Message sent on Twitter.

@ComfortablySmug’s incorrect tweet about flooding at the New York Stock Exchange was retweeted more than 650 times. CNN and the Weather Channel reported the false information, though they said the information came from the National Weather Service.

Before @ComfortablySmug’s identity was revealed, BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) criticized the Twitter account for spreading other false information -- including this tweet that suggested there would be a blackout in Manhattan. Later,  @ComfortablySmug tweeted: “Still waiting on that apology from @BuzzFeedAndrew.”

Amy Quinn, a reporter for PlanPhilly/NewsWorks, called @ComfortablySmug the "biggest Internet troll of all time." Others have suggested that people block the account.

It's easy to be fooled on Twitter, even by accounts that are not anonymous. Journalists have been fooled by fake Twitter accounts several times throughout the past year. Last week, journalists fell for a fake Twitter account allegedly by political news analyst Cokie Roberts. They have also been fooled by fake accounts for North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, former New York Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane, and Wendi Deng, wife of Rupert Murdoch.

  • Mallary Jean Tenore

    As managing editor of The Poynter Institute’s website,, I report on the media news industry, edit the site’s How To section, and moderate the site's live chats. I also help handle the site's social media efforts, and teach social media sessions on the side.


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