A decision by Twitter censors to suspend the account of U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) for posting a photo of himself and his wife, Cindy with a pronghorn she shot in eastern Montana caused an immediate uproar, resulting in Twitter owner Elon Musk stepping in to resolve the situation and restore the senator’s account Tuesday.
Friends and supporters of Daines were furious that Twitter locked the senator’s account because he posted the image, using the excuse that it violated Twitter standards because it allegedly depicted “graphic violence.” For Daines supporters, it was nonsense.
In an email exchange with Liberty Park Press, the senator’s press secretary Rachel Dumke wrote, “The Senator thinks it’s preposterous that a picture of him and his wife hunting—an activity that is engrained in the Montana way of life—would be against Twitter rules. Our team has reached out to Twitter and they let us know that until the picture is removed, he will be suspended.”
But when Musk personally stepped in, it didn’t take long for the issue to take an about face.
“I am grateful Elon Musk reached out to me to resolve this issue,” Daines said in a statement to the media, “and am glad that he recognizes that free speech is a bedrock of our country, and acted quickly to reinstate my Twitter account after being made aware of its suspension. The initial ban over the profile photo of my wife and me after a successful Montana antelope hunt was disappointing given the fact that it is no different than photos Montanans share on social media every day. It’s our Montana way of life and we are proud of it. I am glad Elon Musk recognizes this. The rest of the country benefits from the acceptance of diverse thoughts and values, including Montana values.”
But it didn’t happen until after Daines got a tidal wave of support from some powerful allies, including Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Mike Rounds, Eric Schmitt, Jim Risch and Lindsey Graham, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte and U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, and many other notables, including Donald Trump, Jr., who is an active hunter and outdoorsman.
Ridiculous. My friend @SteveDaines is in @Twitter jail for posting this pic w/ his wife Cindy.
If you don’t like hunting, fine, don’t go. But don’t censor others who disagree.
And I’m pretty sure this is a formal job responsibility for a senator from Montana!#FreeSteveDaines pic.twitter.com/t6VdYNYe5u
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) February 7, 2023
According to Dumke, the hunt occurred in eastern Montana and the image was taken by Daines’ daughter.
So far, the only comment from Daines was, “My wife is a great shot. What can I say?”
Daines’ supporters are doing most of the talking via their own Twitter messages.
Cruz, for example, observed in a tweet, “Ridiculous. My friend @SteveDaines is in @Twitter jail for posting this pic w/ his wife Cindy. If you don’t like hunting, fine, don’t go. But don’t censor others who disagree. And I’m pretty sure this is a formal job responsibility for a senator from Montana!”
A while later, Cruz was back joking, “Steve Daines told me he was aiming for the balloon, but hit an antelope instead.”
Media watchdog Brent Bozell at the Media Research Center, wrote, “Bring back Senator Steve Daines’
Twitter account @elonmusk. No Member of Congress should be banned from Twitter if you believe in free speech.”
Sen. Graham’s message was more serious: “Under current law, there is no effective regulatory body protecting consumers against social media abuse and they cannot be sued because of Section 230. Senator
Steve Daines’ Twitter account being locked is the latest example in a series of absurd outcomes. Help is on the way.”
In a tweet from Musk Tuesday morning, he said “This is being fixed. Policy against showing blood in profile pic is being amended to “clearly showing blood without clicking on the profile pic”. The intent is to avoid people being forced to see gruesome profile pics.”
Musk says @SteveDaines Twitter account photo issue is being fixed https://t.co/OAIE5LQLqC
— davidshepardson (@davidshepardson) February 7, 2023
This is liable to take quite a bit more damage control, however, as many Daines supporters have been posting their own successful hunting images in solidarity with the senator. Twitter is not likely to make the same mistake again.