Michael Moates, a conservative writer with more than 200,000 followers online and an occasional presence in the White House press room, allegedly sent multiple inappropriate messages to teenage women in conservative circles, knowing they were underage. When the young women brought forward their allegations to several conservative media outlets, they were told to take their story elsewhere, they told Right Wing Watch.
In his Twitter bio, Moates, who is 23, identifies himself as the chairman of DC Chronicle, which bills itself as a nonprofit conservative media outlet based in Dallas, Texas. The outlet, according to the DC Chronicle’s about page, was founded by Moates and Thomas Dillingham. (Dillingham disputed his role as founder in an email sent to Right Wing Watch on October 10. “The ONLY non-profit I am involved with now, is my Campaign for United States Senate 2020,” Dillingham wrote in his email to us. Since we received this email, the DC Chronicle’s “About” page was removed from the site.)
Before it was taken down, the “About” page also boasted of the DC Chronicle’s influence in conservative media circles, promoting Moates and Carl Higbie, a regular commentator on Fox News and CNN who was the spokesman for the Great America Super PAC, as its top talent.
Online, Moates also touts himself as a former behavioral therapist and law student who has landed bylines in Washington Examiner, TheBlaze, Independent Journal Review, Turning Point News (Turning Point USA’s news operation) and Red Alert Politics. Moates has appeared on occasion in the White House press briefing room on behalf of the outlets he has represented and once floated a Congressional bid in Texas’ 26th district. In July, Moates teased out the “QAnon” conspiracy theory.
Right Wing Watch attempted to reach Moates for this story. We texted the number from which messages allegedly sent by Moates to the young women we interviewed were generated, in order to confirm it was being used by Moates. Minutes later, we got a call back from the number but were unable to conduct an interview at the time. When we attempted to return the call, our call was sent straight to voicemail. Shortly after we sent our text message to the number the young women provided, Moates posted this on Twitter:
Purity Thomas, 16, currently works as the executive director of reLOVE, a national pro-life youth group for teenagers. In a statement posted in August to Twitter, she wrote that Moates “flirted with me, age 16, while knowing my age.” In a message to this reporter, Thomas clarified that she didn’t believe that Moates had sexually harassed her, but found his remarks to her to be “inappropriate” and “unprofessional.”
On August 23, at 1:16 p.m., Thomas posted a statement about her experience on Twitter.
Please read. Please help and share. ? pic.twitter.com/0d9v5zmuiy
— Purity Thomas (@PurityJThomas) August 23, 2018
At 1:25 p.m., less than ten minutes after Thomas posted the tweet above, Moates wrote, “The fact that you can’t call a woman beautiful without offending them anymore is a problem.”
The fact that you can’t call a woman beautiful without offending them anymore is a problem.
— Michael Moates (@freedom_moates) August 23, 2018
In July, Moates had been listing incidents of conservatives being confronted in public for their political views, which he compiled into a thread on Twitter. Thomas messaged Moates with a link to her own account of being punched while protesting outside a Planned Parenthood in Roanoke, Virginia. In a Twitter direct message conversation reviewed by Right Wing Watch, Moates told Thomas to text him about the incident because he said he receives too many messages on Twitter.
Thomas texted Moates more details about her incident, writing that it had happened the year before, when she was 15 years old, to which he replied: “hey crazy beautiful chick.” Thomas took offense. In following messages, Moates would try to joke that he had mistaken Thomas’ first name, Purity, as “purdy,” a slang term reflecting a southern dialect saying the word “pretty.”
“After that, I thought, ‘You’re not coming anywhere near my team,’” Thomas told Right Wing Watch.
After Thomas came forward about her interactions with him, Moates defended his remarks during a September 5 podcast, saying, “Yes, she was beautiful.”
“She never sent me a text message saying that it bothered her,” Moates told Higbie. “If anyone here made my comments sexual, it’s the lady who interpreted it.”
Moates repeatedly asserted during the podcast that he did not sexually harass Thomas, although Thomas has not accused him of doing so. During the interview, Moates did not mention that Thomas was 16 years old when he made his comments to her.
Within days of coming forward, Thomas said she connected with other young women who had similarly inappropriate interactions with Moates.
“I didn’t talk about it for a bit—until I found out there were other girls—and I basically started digging,” Thomas said.
Hey guys. Here’s some more proof for you, since some dense idiots still think he’s innocent. @freedom_moates , also, there were five people in that group chat, not 12. #BanMoates pic.twitter.com/6NTnHoyCnS
— Hadassah Cohen (@hadassahacohen) September 7, 2018
One of the women Thomas met was a 17-year-old named Hadassah Cohen, who is a young conservative writer who joined Twitter in May 2018. Cohen said that soon after joining the website, Moates followed her account and gave her a shout-out on his own much larger account, resulting in her profile gaining new followers. She said she messaged Moates to thank him for the digital name-check, but that the conversation quickly entered inappropriate territory. Moates had asked Cohen to text him, but Cohen originally declined because as a young woman on Twitter she had already been subject to men messaging her with what she describes as “ulterior motives.” She said she opted to exchange messages online instead.
Cohen said that Moates added her to a group chat over the summer with no stated purpose, only to reveal more than a week later that the handful of conservatives in the chat had been drafted to work on his latest project, a right-leaning pro-Trump news site. In a podcast, Moates described Cohen as an “intern”—a title Cohen refutes. She said that she was an unpaid writer for Moates’ site, and was once even told she had been made the site’s editor-in-chief.
Cohen alleges that Moates once told her that she “couldn’t possibly be telling the truth that I was a proud virgin, that I had indeed never kissed a boy, because I was too gorgeous for that.” She was 16 years old at the time.
“I didn’t know what to say. I think I was kind of dumbfounded,” Cohen said. “I tried to shrug it off.”
On Twitter, Cohen posted screenshots informing Moates that she was a minor and shared email notifications of direct messages she received of Moates telling her: “I don’t believe for one minute you are as innocent as you put off.” Cohen also said that Moates asked a co-worker of hers if she thought Cohen would date him. Cohen also said that Moates “continuously” called her at odd hours of the night, which prompted her mother to contact one of Moates’ female colleagues.
In one instance, Cohen said that Moates had begged her late at night to call him and comfort him after people online had called him a Nazi. After she called him, she says he started complaining about various conservative writers that he didn’t like.
Moates also sent the group chat that included Cohen and the other conservative writers for his website animated graphics of two women kissing during a conversation in which Cohen joked about being a lesbian.
And this. pic.twitter.com/UkksGQoKks
— Hadassah Cohen (@hadassahacohen) September 3, 2018
Cohen also said that Moates had told her that she could talk with him about sensitive issues regarding dating and romance, and proposed that the two play a game of “20 questions.”
“It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out he wanted me to ask him questions of sexual nature,” Cohen said. “He continued to harp on me about how I didn’t have a boyfriend, how I hadn’t kissed anyone, and that it was my fault that I didn’t have a boyfriend.”
In the same podcast with Higbie, Moates accused Cohen of trying to “smear” him without providing “the full context” of the remarks he made to her. Speaking to Higbie, Moates cited the First Amendment in defense of his remarks, noting that Cohen continued to work for him after he made those remarks as if that proved his innocence.
“This was supposed to be light humor, you getting along with people, you know, the free exchange of what used to be protected under the First Amendment sort of thing?” Higbie asked Moates.
“Right,” Moates answered.
Moates added, “She worked as an intern for the organization long after this conversation took place.”
Cohen said that during the summer, she had brought up her experiences with Moates during a work conference, at which Moates called her a liar.
“That made me angry. Angry enough to the point where I knew more was going on and I had to start searching,” Cohen said.
Another conservative woman, Kylie Thomas, posted a screenshot to Twitter in which Moates tells her “maybe if I get you drinking I can get that date.” (Kylie Thomas was not underage at the time Moates messaged her; she was 20.)
Moates admitted to Higbie on the podcast that the message about alcohol may have been phrased poorly, but said that because the young woman to whom he sent that message had reportedly experienced multiple instances of sexual harassment at her college, her interpretation of his messages “speaks to her state of mind.”
“If you have a history of this, maybe you’re the one who’s overreacting,” Moates said on the podcast.
As similar stories began leaking out across Twitter, Moates said that “a group on young ladies” had decided to “gang up” on him, comparing their complaints to claims made by former Trump political aide Omarosa Manigault’s claims after she left the White House. On September 4, Daily Beast reporter Lachlan Markay said Moates had told him that he planned to file libel lawsuits against “a bunch of conservative women accusing him of sexual harassment.”
Just had a fun conversation with @freedom_moates, who said he plans to file libel lawsuits against a bunch of conservative women accusing him of sexual harassment. He was also adamant that unsolicited comments about how beautiful a woman is are definitely not sexual harassment.
— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) September 4, 2018
Cohen said she wasn’t afraid of a lawsuit because she had documentation and multiple corroborating witnesses to back up her claims.
Purity Thomas said that the group of young women affected by Moates had approached numerous conservative outlets and writers with their stories but that the outlets had turned them away, citing Moates’ threat of a lawsuit. One of those outlets, Thomas said, was The Daily Wire.
Thomas said, “We decided we should take it to conservative media. I mean, this is a conservative guy being inappropriate to conservative girls, so we have the conservatives handle this. This is their job, right? You would think. They need to man up and own one of their people.”
In Thomas’ post, she had written that Moates had posted inappropriate photos of The Daily Wire’s Kassy Dillon, who is currently a staff writer at Ben Shapiro’s publication. Dillon confirmed this to us and in a tweet aimed at Moates, but declined to comment for this article.
You took a picture of my butt and posted it on Twitter and still haven’t apologized. You can keep your compliment. https://t.co/oWLpagdvhm
— Kassy Dillon (@KassyDillon) April 18, 2018
Earlier this year at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, Moates had taken a candid photograph of Dillon from behind while he was sitting on the floor, posted the photo to Twitter, and tagged white nationalist podcaster Nick Fuentes in the post. Talking to Higbie on the September 5 podcast, Moates defended posting the photo of Dillon and went on to attack Dillon for purportedly “violating multiple ethical guidelines” of journalism.
In a statement sent to Right Wing Watch by email, the Daily Wire’s Jeremy Boreing said that he was “aware that there are accusations that have surfaced on Twitter against Michael Moates” but that he had been concerned “about having Daily Wire involved in pursuing the story because originating an investigation into claims of this sensitive and incendiary a nature requires an investigatory and legal infrastructure that is beyond our current construction.” For that reason alone, Boreing said, he told the writer who brought the story to his attention that it “would be better pursued by another publication and not to do so on our platform.”
His statement continued, “To be clear, this instruction had nothing to do with Moates himself, neither Ben nor I recall ever having met, or even heard of, Moates before the allegations began to surface on Twitter. It also has nothing to do with any opinion about the veracity of the claims themselves. We have none. It is certainly not the position of myself, Ben, or any of the editors at the site that this is a ‘hit piece.’ As I said, we have no opinion about the story at all other than that it is a serious one that merits a deeper and more sensitive probe than we are constructed to provide.”
This article has been updated.