Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Department of Housing and Urban Development has linked to parody HUDNews tweets since 2011

Since July 2011, nearly every U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development news release has contained a link to the @HUDNews Twitter account, but the account is a parody. The account also appears to have been active since Sept. 18. Screenshot via Twitter

Update 7:10 p.m.: It appears that I caught the attention of the parody account, but nothing from HUD so far.

@HUDNews sent out a reply to me at 6:39 p.m., though the timestamp before I signed in showed at 3:39 p.m., possibly meaning that the person behind this is on the West Coast.

The first @HUDNews reply read:  " you all witness to affirmative action in action!"
The second tweet was Bradenton Housing Authority related probably just to get my attention, and it just doesn't make any sense at all given the situation here:

"Way to get whitie Bradenton Housing Authority! Keep suing the crackers. Just tell the dumb cops you were seeking reparations for slavery!"

Earlier: After diving into the challenges and dysfunction of the Bradenton Housing Authority, I didn't think it could get any worse until I visited the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development online newsroom.

The federal agency provides millions of dollars to the Bradenton non-profit to offer affordable housing in low-income neighborhoods. Poverty is not a situation to poke fun at, but someone who has an ax to grind against HUD thought it would be hilarious to make fun of  people who need help.

Since July 14, 2011, nearly every HUD news release includes a closing pitch line to tell the public and the news media to follow HUD on Twitter @HUDNews. The problem is that HUD's verified Twitter account is @HUDgov. It's not just that the parody account is linked in hundreds of news releases over the past two years, it's that it's spelled out to tell people to visit HUDNews:

HUDgov's latest tweet on Oct. 1 said that the account would be inactive for awhile because of the federal government shutdown and that they wouldn't be answering questions either. 

The parody account is full of racist tweets and photos. What's more interesting is that the Twitter account appears to be created on Sept. 18 and has only sent 70 tweets, making it seem like maybe this is a hack job and not some intern who thought he or she would be funny or get back at the boss or Congress.

The first tweet on Sept. 18, the day before HUD seized documents at Bradenton Housing Authority offices, told people to get a free HUD attorney and sue mean white people to get money. Let me be clear that I doubt the two are connected. It's just weird that the dates are close, but probably more weird that this was near the deadline of the Oct. 1 federal government shutdown.

The National Weather Service's Anchorage, Alaska, office was a bit more cheeky when someone there sent out a coded message that read "Please Pay Us." The HUD one isn't even a cruel prank. It's just downright disrespectful.

Most tweets sought to stereotype residents living in housing authority neighborhoods including one of a picture of black people with arrows drawn accompanied by the tweet:

 "Another chaotic scene erupted at the Taylor Services when the crowd waiting for Section 8 housing vouchers got rowdy. " 

I put out a call to HUD spokesman Jerry Brown in hopes for an explanation, but I'm sure he has more things to worry about and questions to answer about what's happening in Washington and perhaps in Bradenton, too. 

I'm eagerly awaiting a news release from HUD or the Office of Inspector General to tell us the result of the raid on the Bradenton Housing Authority. Until then, it appears that both HUD and BHA have some embarrassment to deal with.

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