Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional information from Huffington Post reporter Luke O’Brien clarifying the nature of his interactions with Logan Cook, including to make more clear that Cook himself used his real name in connection with his Carpe Donktum alias long before O’Brien ever did.
Thursday evening on Twitter, Donald Trump shared a doctored video of a CNN broadcast showing a white toddler chasing a Black toddler down a street behind a chyron reading, “TERRIFIED TODLER [sic] RUNS FROM RACIST BABY.” After a few seconds, the message changes: “RACIST BABY PROBABLY A TRUMP VOTER.”
The video, which then rewinds to show “WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED” — the two children running toward each other to embrace before playfully taking off down the street together — was created by a pro-Trump meme maker who goes by the name Carpe Donktum. His real name, an Informer reader pointed out, is Logan Cook — a graduate of the Ames High School class of 2001 who now lives in Kansas (or, if you’d prefer to believe his Twitter profile, Maga City, Kekistan).
Trump shared the video in a tweet he pinned to the top of his Twitter feed, making it the first to display for any of his 82.2 million followers who looked at his profile. After the tweet was subsequently viewed nearly four million times, according to The New York Times, the social media platform flagged it as “Manipulated media” — CNN had, in fact, reported on the video in its full context last September.
A July 2019 BuzzFeed article that withheld Cook’s name at his request called him “one [of] the most influential Trump supporters on social media.” It described Cook’s recent appearance on the One America News Network, a far-right cable channel known for promoting pro-Trump propaganda and conspiracy theories. On OANN, Cook was identified by another pseudonym, Dennis F. Charles, and described as a “conservative social media analyst.” He was interviewed by Jack Posobiec, a fellow Trump ally and network correspondent perhaps best known for amplifying the Pizzagate conspiracy theory that involves satanic rituals, a child-sex ring, and Hillary Clinton and led to a gunman from North Carolina opening fire at a Washington DC pizzeria in search of a nonexistent underground chamber.
Earlier that July, Cook visited the Oval Office for a 20-minute meeting with the president himself. He was joined by another meme maker who goes by @mad_liberals on Twitter and recalled in an interview with The Washington Post that Trump greeted Cook by asking, “Where is the genius? I want to meet the genius.”
As the Post report added, Cook “previously won a $10,000 anti-mainstream media meme contest sponsored by the conspiracy-theory website Infowars” and “recently created a fake animated cover of Time magazine that suggested Trump would stay in office forever.” The president shared that video on Twitter, too — it was viewed over 25 million times — as well as another of Joe Biden groping himself.
After the BuzzFeed article was published, Huffington Post reporter Luke O’Brien, who covers political extremism and disinformation, began raising questions about Carpe Donktum’s identity, noting that his Twitter account once used the name Logan Cook, including in response to tweets by Dilbert creator Scott Adams in October 2016. (Due to an inexact editing choice, this article previously said that O’Brien “outed” Cook, a characterization the reporter disputed. “Claiming that I ‘outed’ him without that context [of Cook’s own past association of his name with the Carpe Donktum moniker] will help solidify a fake doxing narrative far-right extremists use to harass me and other reporters on my beat,” he told the Informer in an email.)
O’Brien later identified Cook in a photo of him posing with “MAGA propagandist” Ali Alexander, who also goes by the name Ali Akbar and, like Cook, is on the Trump family’s radar — the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., drew criticism last summer for sharing a tweet of Alexander’s that said Senator Kamala Harris was “not an American Black.”
Cook did not appear happy with the exposure. Responding to another tweet by O’Brien accusing him of concealing his real name so that he could “stoke harassment against the press” without consequence, Cook said, “Logan Cook wants to protect his family from violent losers, such as yourself and those who follow you.
“After you released my name one of your followers sent me pictures of my house with threatening messages,” he went on. “That same account was followed and retweeted by the Dayton Shooter” — an apparent reference to a mass shooter who just days before had killed nine people in Ohio.
O’Brien disputed this claim, pointing to a tweet from Cook of one of the apparent pictures that he said did not match the appearance of his house in live-streamed videos in which it was visible. After Cook accused O’Brien of “releasing my name” and falsely suggested the reporter had encouraged Antifa followers to go after him, O’Brien said he became the victim of targeted harassment by Cook’s supporters. According to O’Brien, this culminated in someone who “called me up and threatened to come to my house that night and murder me” and then do the same to his parents, whose address had been posted on the extremist-infested message board 8chan, because the caller believed O’Brien had doxed Cook. O’Brien said he reported the harassment to Twitter and the FBI, but neither did anything.
Videos Cook has made, as well as others he’s promoted on a website he launched last year called Meme World, have repeatedly attacked the media, sometimes using violent imagery. His Twitter account was suspended last year after sharing a clip from a spaghetti western edited to show Trump slapping and then shooting CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta.
Another video, created by a Meme World contributor who goes by the name TheGeekzTeam, altered a scene from the 2014 film Kingsman: The Secret Service. The video depicted “a macabre scene of a fake President Trump shooting, stabbing and brutally assaulting members of the news media and his political opponents,” as The New York Times described it in an article revealing that it had been shown at a recent conference held for supporters of the president at his Miami resort. (Cook dismissed the controversy in a message posted on Meme World.)
Cook’s racist baby video that Trump tweeted on Thursday ended with a message targeting the media with words rather than bullets: “AMERICA IS NOT THE PROBLEM. FAKE NEWS IS. IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FAKE NEWS DUMPSTER FIRES.”
“If you see something, say something” is also an anti-terrorism motto used by the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11 and adopted for display on billboards and various public transportation systems in cities around the country. Because of how many Americans associate race with crime, the campaigns led to concerns about the potential consequences of innocent people being reported as suspicious to law enforcement.
“CNN did cover this story — exactly as it happened,” the news channel’s PR outfit responded after Trump shared Cook’s racist baby video, in a tweet that also criticized the president for demanding that a recent CNN poll showing him trailing Joe Biden be retracted. “Just as we reported your positions on race (and poll numbers). We’ll continue working with facts rather than tweeting fake videos that exploit innocent children. We invite you to do the same. Be better.”