George Papadopoulos enjoys Greek food, traveling, and spending time with his family. He even finds time to contribute to the Wall Street Journal. But Papadopoulos doesn’t meet with shady professors to establish back channels with the Kremlin. He doesn’t advise politicians. And he doesn’t dig up dirt on presidential candidates.
That’s the other George Papadopoulos, the former advisor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign who burst into the headlines. He pleaded guilty Monday to lying to the FBI about his dealings with the Russians. That Papadopoulos is probably going to jail while this Papadopoulos is going on vacation right now. But don’t try telling that to Twitter.
When news broke Monday morning that Trump advisor had been in contact with the Russians for months, an online mob unleashed their fury at the only Papadopoulos they could find — a mild-mannered certified public accountant from the greater Detroit area. It’s been a classic case of mistaken identity ever since.
@SlickMagnum told Papadopoulos he was “going to jail for a very long time dude.” Another astute political commentator on Twitter, @Bobvulfov, couldn’t “wait to watch u try to wriggle out of this one.” Dozens of other digital accessors followed and a viral star was born.
“For the nth time, I am NOT Trump's foreign policy adviser!” the innocent Papadopoulos tweeted. “I have NO association with the Trump camp! NONE!” A good sport, he lightened up as the mentions continued, curating some of the more explosive responses he’s gotten.
But just like the Papadopoulos who recently pled guilty to federal charges, he wasn’t immediately available for comment. A call to his fee-only financial planning firm goes straight to voicemail. “Thank you for calling George Papadopoulos,” a recording of a cheery woman says. “Leave your name, number, and we will get back to you.” When asked by email if he ever worked with Moscow to destabilized American elections, the innocent Papadopoulos emerged from the avalanche of Twitter mentions just long enough to answer a few questions.
Had he boarded the Trump train as an advisor? "I have never advised a presidential candidate," he said. "I have not been asked and I have not pursued it." Had he ever met a shady professor with connections to the Kremlin? "Doesn't each US college have a professor like that?" he quipped.
Apparently this isn't the first time he has been asked these questions though. Back when the guilty Papadopoulos joined the Trump campaign in 2016 as an advisor, he had to redirect a couple wayward reporters. Of course, none of that compares to what happened Monday. "It has been an unbelievable stream of action on social media," he says, "I am trying to make the best of it and have some fun along the way. But it is very tiring to keep up!"
Judging from his account, the guiltless Papadopoulos is doing just fine in that regard—even if half of Twitter wants to send him to prison for having the wrong last name.