In the last five years, Charles Harder has built a career challenging and beating media companies. Once a Hollywood-based celebrity lawyer who represented the likes of Lena Dunham and Sandra Bullock, the Harder Mirell & Abrams LLP partner is now more commonly known as the attorney who secretly took money from billionaire Peter Thiel to represent former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan in an invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker Media.
After winning that case and sending Gawker into bankruptcy, Harder built up a powerful group of clients, among them the late Fox News founder Roger Ailes and Melania Trump. Working on behalf of the first lady for the past year, Harder has been quite busy. He demanded that People Magazine retract details from a story in which a reporter detailed being sexually harassed by President Trump, he sued and settled with the Daily Mail over a story that suggested that Melania Trump once worked as an escort, and he threatened a YouTube user who posted a video suggesting that the Trumps' son, Barron, may be autistic. The video was later removed.
A little-known Twitter account suggests Harder may be working on something more with the first lady. Since July of last year, a Twitter user with the name @CharlesJHarder has been musing about First Amendment law, his work with the White House, and other topics to about 50 followers.
“To the cyberbullies on Twitter and all other social platforms: the future First Lady and I are working on a way to end your hate speech,” the user wrote in a now deleted tweet from Dec. 10, 2016. BuzzFeed News has periodically taken screenshots of @CharlesJHarder’s account as tweets have frequently been deleted from it.
Harder's tweets suggesting a plan to deal with cyberbullying are of particular interest following a series of Twitter messages from President Trump last week in which he attacked media outlets and Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski. In one tirade on the social network, the president lambasted Brzezinski as "crazy" and "low I.Q." and taunted her about some alleged plastic surgery.
The spitefulness of the president's tweet — which recalled past attacks against other prominent women, including journalist Megyn Kelly — led reporters to ask the White House about Melania Trump's preelection promise to address online abuse. The first lady pledged that she would commit to fighting cyberbullying in a preelection speech on Nov. 3, but has provided little information on how she will go about that campaign.
Stephanie Grisham, a spokesperson for Melania Trump, told BuzzFeed News that the first lady "continues to be thoughtful about her platform,” and promised an announcement of some sort “in the coming weeks.” Asked about the deleted tweets from @CharlesJHarder on cyberbullying, Grisham noted they were written before Donald Trump took office.
"He is not a [White House] employee, so I would have no idea what that was about, nor would it be appropriate for me to try and speculate," Grisham wrote in an email.
Reached by phone and asked to confirm his ownership of the @CharlesJHarder Twitter account, Harder told BuzzFeed News "I can't say anything right now, I'm busy and I'm neck-deep in a bunch of stuff," before abruptly ending the call.
Despite Harder's reply, there is plenty of evidence suggesting the unverified Twitter account is his. The account says it tweets from a location in Los Angeles, where the lawyer resides. It also features a profile photo of Harder that cannot be found anywhere else on the web using a Google image search. In other now-deleted tweets, the user discussed details about Harder's family, including a mention of his Japanese-American in-laws.
Other tweets from the @CharlesJHarder account address the user's views on free speech. In one deleted message from Dec. 10, the user noted that he did not read notifications because "99% of it is cyberbullying and I refuse to be a victim of the hate speech."
“The 1st Amendment does not protect a lot of things: defamation, speech to defraud, shouting fire! [sic] if no fire, hate speech, cyberbullying...” read another message from Dec. 10, which is still live today.
In February, following an episode of The Rachel Maddow Show during which the host discussed the Hulk Hogan–Gawker trial, @CharlesJHarder unleashed a long tweetstorm noting that Hogan accepted outside money from Thiel to "even the playing field."
The @CharlesJHarder account , which follows three people — Melania Trump, Michelle Obama, and Taylor Swift — has deleted all tweets since Dec. 10. While other messages have been more personal or lighthearted, including praise of former Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, the tweets that are still viewable evince a person looking to pursue action.
“If a media company is going to pathologically defame people, invade their privacy rights, break the law, and ruin people’s lives in the name of the 'First Amendment,' and for the purpose of making millions of dollars, and the sadistic thrill of hurting people then eventually someone is going to come along and put a stop to it,” the account wrote across a three-tweet message.
Ryan Mac is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on the intersection of money, technology and power.
Contact Ryan Mac at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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