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How Devin Nunes turned Twitter parody accounts into a political 'weapon' — against himself

Kate Irby, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Devin Nunes in a recent court filing referred to the parody social media accounts that taunt him on Twitter as a "weapon."

His lawsuit against them gave them even more ammunition to turn on him and other Republicans.

They're using it.

In recent weeks the anonymous authors of parody Twitter accounts known as Devin Nunes' Cow and Devin Nunes' Mom have employed their now-massive followings to promote Democratic candidates around the country and to solicit campaign donations through the Democratic fundraising machine known as ActBlue.

They could become formidable assets for Nunes' challenger, Phil Arballo, too. In fact, the cow has already endorsed the Fresno Democrat.

Andrew Janz, local prosecutor and a Fresno mayoral candidate who ran against Nunes in 2018, said he believes the parody accounts will have a "huge" fundraising impact for Arballo's campaign, capturing both local and national appetites to boot Nunes from office.

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"I think if these had been around during my election it absolutely would've boosted my fundraising further," said Janz, who raised more than $9 million in his 2018 campaign. "This is just a political stunt by Nunes, and I think we've capitalized on it."

Nunes filed a lawsuit in Virginia in March that accused the two parody accounts, Republican political strategist Liz Mair and the social media giant Twitter of defaming him in the lead-up to the 2018 midterm election. Nunes won the contest against Janz by 5 percentage points.

Nunes is suing McClatchy, the parent company of The Fresno Bee, in a separate lawsuit he also filed in Virginia. McClatchy has not yet been served with the complaint. The company intends to fight the lawsuit.

Nunes also is suing four Californians in Tulare County Superior Court alleging they conspired against him last year by challenging his characterization of himself as a farmer in materials sent to voters.

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