Senator Mike Lee’s Twitter Reinstated After Being Suspended for Hours
Updated: 03/02/2023 10:23 AM EDT
Twitter suspended the personal account of Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) for several hours on Wednesday afternoon after moderators at the social media site flagged it as disingenuous.
“My personal Twitter account – @BasedMikeLee – has been suspended,” the conservative senator stated at 1:32 p.m. Eastern from his official Senate Twitter account. “Twitter did not alert me ahead of time, nor have they yet offered an explanation for the suspension. My team and I are seeking answers.”
Two hours later, Lee’s personal account posted a message expressing “[t]hanks to all who assisted in operation #Free@basedMikeLee.”
“His personal account (@BasedMikeLee) was incorrectly flagged as impersonation, which is not totally crazy, since it is based,” explained Twitter owner Elon Musk, who is known to engage in puns and wordplay, at 3:37 p.m. Lee retweeted Musk’s remarks with a joke and meme.
The sudden and unexplained suspension raised eyebrows, as it occurred during a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the Biden administration’s Justice Department, at which Lee aggressively questioned Attorney General Merrick Garland. The Twitter Files revealed federal officials regularly use a backend portal through which they request Twitter officials — many of whom are former government employees — shadow ban, suspend, or remove users’ accounts.
The suspension also came one day after Senator Lee got into a public spat with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida over the status of an American citizen currently imprisoned in Japan. On Tuesday, Lee said on the account that he would ask his colleagues to renegotiate the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) unless the nation transfers U.S. Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis to American custody. Alkonis remains in a Japanese jail after an automobile accident that killed two people, the details of which remain a matter of dispute between the two nations.
Over the years, Twitter has suspended the accounts of six sitting elected officials, two permanently: President Donald Trump and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). The other four suspensions — for Senator Steve Daines (R-Mt.), Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Rep. Barry Moore (R-Ala.), and Texas Rep. Briscoe Cain (R) — lasted between a number of hours and 141 days; all six have subsequently been reinstated.
All six were also pro-life Republicans, as is Senator Lee. The constitutionalist senator also offered a robust religious liberty amendment to H.R. 8404, the Respect for Marriage Act. The Senate rejected Lee’s constitutional rights protection in favor of a watered-down alternative en route to passing the marriage redefinition bill.
His conservative record, which earned him a % rating from FRC Action, “Twitter suspends the account of far-right MAGA Sen. Mike Lee, giving users a momentary reprieve from his insane and overtly fascist tweets,” said Occupy Democrats, a far-Left group closely aligned with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). “RT IF THEY SHOULD BAN HIM FOR GOOD!” The tweet has 624 retweets as of this writing.
The unexplained suspension set off alarms on Twitter among social conservatives. “YOU COME FOR THE KING YOU BEST NOT MISS @Twitter,” replied Jon Schweppe of the American Principles Project. “@elonmusk come get your boys.”
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.