Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=181551
Story Retrieval Date: 10/21/2014 8:38:21 PM CST

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Twitter profile pictures.

The real Rahm Emanuel (left) met the satirist behind a fake Twitter account Wednesday.


With donation on behalf of tweeting alter-ego, Emanuel fulfills first campaign promise

by Randy Leonard
March 02, 2011


Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel came through on his first campaign promise today, making a donation in the name of Dan Sinker, the Columbia College media instructor who for months was the virtually unknown mind behind the fake Twitter account MayorEmanuel.

With expletive-laced strings of satire, all 140 characters or fewer, Sinker spoofed adventures along Emanuel’s campaign trail, interlacing true Emanuel events such as a visit to Google’s Chicago office (which in Sinker’s world ended in a Segue jousting competition) with completely fictionalized imaginings (Emanuel visiting with deceased Chicagoans while tripping on spoiled baby food he ate because he got stuck in a box while playing hide and go seek in the crawlspace of his house, where he was living because the upstairs was occupied, of course).

“I can't possibly articulate how nervous I am right now,” Sinker tweeted from his own account Wednesday evening just before an interview on WLS 890AM’s Roe & Roeper show. “God. Here goes nothing, right?”

The real Mayor-elect Emanuel was gracious as the two were interviewed together.

“Many times he’s expressed my sentiments exactly,” Emanuel said.

“f* you right in your f*ing face-hole,” was the first tweet in late September, according to an online compilation of the MayorEmanuel tweets.

“When it started it was a way to make some friends of mine laugh,” Sinker said Wednesday. But the day after the first tweets, MayorEmanuel had more than 1,000 followers, Sinker said.

Emanuel said he learned of the fictionalized alter-ego when people who knew him asked him about it.

Sinker would tweet on his train ride to the city from his home in Evanston, he said. Just a few friends and his wife knew.

Public school teacher Seth Lavin figured out Sinker’s identity but kept it a secret.

Sinker was listed as MayorEmanuel’s third follower but he denied any knowledge when asked by a Medill reporter in January if he knew who was behind it.  

“I wish! Found early though, through Twitter search for possible candidates,” Sinker had tweeted.

As the Feb. 22 election drew closer, media coverage of the MayorEmanuel feed intensified. In late January, Politico reporter Molly Ball tweeted to ask MayorEmanuel what the chances were for an interview.

“Somewhere right between f*ing slim and f*ing none,” Sinker responded on the fake account.

The Huffington Post, New York Times and the Chicago Tribune all followed with stories of their own. And soon MayorEmanuel had more than 20,000 followers, three times as many as the real Emanuel.

In the days before the election, Emanuel offered to make a $2,500 to $5,000 donation, if the anonymous tweeter would reveal himself.

“I swear to f*ing god, I will donate $2,500 to the charity of your choice if you can come and fix this motherf*ing radio,” the fake candidate tweeted from Axelrod’s imagined Civic in retort.

“I always knew the story was ending with the election,” Sinker said Wednesday. But when Emanuel offered the donation, the teacher immediately thought about an organization that could use the money.

On air Wednesday Emanuel presented the $5,000 check for Young Chicago Authors, a creative writing program for Chicago Public Schools students. The donation was matched by Causes.com, and hosts Roe Conn and Richard Roeper both agreed to pitch in $1,000 each.

“I want to support what he’s doing for our kids,” Emanuel said.

Sinker said he has not had time to let the organization know about the donation.

“As far as I know, this is a surprise to them,” he said.

Asked in the meeting if there was any confusion about which of the two were the real Emanuel, Sinker said, “I think it’s pretty clear who’s who at this point.”

Emanuel said reading the Twitter feed was an outlet for him and speculated that his infamous temper may be harder to control without it.

The mayor-elect laughed off any anxiety over the satire.

“Compared to everything else, this was easy,” he said.