Paul Vallas blames unnamed hackers for his Twitter account’s likes of offensive posts

Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas on Friday blamed unnamed hackers for his Twitter account liking offensive tweets over the past several years as he faced criticism from rival candidates over the social media posts.

The comments came after a Tribune review this week found that Vallas’ Twitter account, @paulvallas, had liked a series of tweets that used racist language, supported controversial police tactics like “stop-and-frisk” or insulted Mayor Lori Lightfoot in personal terms.

Vallas earlier this week disavowed the tweets as “abhorrent” and said his campaign was investigating. But in an interview with CBS-2 Chicago on Friday, Vallas said it was “obvious we got hacked,” and in a statement a campaign spokesperson late Friday said there was “unusual activity on the account as recently as last night.”

“The campaign is working to identify who is responsible for ‘liking’ these tweets,” the statement said. “Because the account pre-dates and was re-purposed for the current campaign, numerous volunteers have had access to the account in recent years, including some who are not currently associated with Paul or the 2023 campaign. The scope of the challenge was reflected in the fact that we have seen unusual activity on the account as recently as last night even after an initial round of curative steps including changing passwords for security purposes. As a result, the campaign is investigating a possible breach of the account as well.”

Many of the likes from his Twitter account came from comments that were made in posts on Twitter over a series of months.

Since losing his first bid for Chicago mayor in 2019, Vallas has been a prolific poster on social media. His Twitter account in that time favored posts that speak about race or employed homophobic language.

At least three of the posts under his Twitter’s “likes” referred to Lightfoot — a lesbian who is the first openly LGBTQ mayor of Chicago — as “Larry.” “I bet larry lightfoot is with his family today,” one user wrote last June in response to Vallas giving a shoutout to police officers and other first responders for Father’s Day.

Other tweets liked by the account mocked Lightfoot’s physical appearance or described her as “beyond human” or called her other names. Another post the Vallas account liked said Lightfoot hired Chicago police Superintendent David Brown only because he is Black.

“While I had nothing to do with liking these posts, our campaign takes responsibility and apologizes, and we want it to be clear that we have already taken immediate steps to restrict access to the account to prevent anything like this from happening again,” Vallas said in a statement earlier in the week. “We are working on identifying who is responsible for liking these tweets as many volunteers have had access to the account in recent years, including some who are no longer with the campaign, and will take immediate action in removing them from our campaign if they are still involved.”

Lightfoot on Friday said the Vallas Twitter account’s activity showed Vallas was giving “voice to, and a platform to, the most venomous, hate-filled tweets sent by people who don’t share our values of a diverse, multicultural city.”

“Every single time he gets caught … he says, ‘What? Oh not me. This time, it was somebody else. Not my fault,’” Lightfoot said. “Well, at some point, you’ve gotta say, ‘Come on, Paul. Come clean. Tell the truth about who you are.’”

Tribune reporter A.D. Quig contributed.