There are few things the MAGA crowd loves more than a black Republican. The meteoric rise of Candace Owens and the embrace of Kanye West, despite his Hollywood A-list status, are symptomatic of a group desperate to prove it isn’t racist.
Over the past few months, the conservative sections of social media have become fixated on the #WalkAway campaign, urging Democrats and minorities to take off their blinders and join the Republican party. Late last month, it seemed that the Republican party had added a black college student named Quran to its ranks.
She tweeted, “I will not hide any longer,, the left has made us feel as if us black republicans should hide!! but not anymore!! #BlacksForTrump #WalkAway #maga” and attached a photo of herself in a red bucket hat emblazoned with the famous “Make America Great Again” slogan.
The tweet went viral, and she got a momentary blast of internet fame, but then things went awry. Quran’s parents disowned her, kicked her out of the house, and refused to pay her college tuition.
To make ends meet, Quran set up a GoFundMe, asking for financial support from her newfound Republican fanbase. “[I]f you can find it in your hearts to help this young, black republican pay for school it would be appreciated 🇺🇸,” she tweeted. According to subsequent tweets, she ordered a new iPhone XS Max. She had apparently raised enough money for “my tuition, rent, and 17 iphones [sic] now.”
And then the tables turned. Less than three hours after claiming to have been disowned by her family, Quran revealed that the text messages and the MAGA hat were a ruse to scam desperate, insecure Republicans.
“[H]ot take: stealing from republicans isn’t bad because republicans arent ppl,” she wrote the next day.
The applause started rolling in. Everyone loves a good scam and she seemed to be scamming the right people. Screenshots of her tweets went viral on Twitter as other users aggregated the narrative. A friend texted me a link to a Tumblr photoset that gathered more than 126,000 notes over the weekend. A rumor started circulating that she’d raised more than $150,000.
Unfortunately, I have to be the buzzkill and report that the rumors of Quran’s take are highly exaggerated. Over the phone on Saturday, Quran admitted that she didn’t raise much of anything, and that she’d refunded what she had received. “That’s between me and the IRS,” she said coyly when I asked how much she’d gotten.
Asked for a ballpark figure, she quickly admitted she hadn’t scammed anyone. “That’s the thing though: I didn’t,” she confessed. “I just felt really weird about taking their money. This could go south really fast, I just decided to refund everyone and give their money back. I think it was like maybe $200 at that point.” Email screenshots she provided back this claim up. GoFundMe refunded at least $90 (one $50 donation and two for $20).
GoFundMe’s terms of service say that fraudulent fundraisers are against the rules, but hers would seem to fall into a gray area. She may not have been kicked out by her parents (her mom didn’t mind the fake texts) but Quran said she would have used the money to pay tuition, just like the fundraiser promised.
“I just honestly didn’t want to take their money. Yeah, I can’t pay for school but I don’t want Republican money to pay for it,” she laughed. “I just want everyone to think I’m the finesse queen, which I am.”
Quran is taking the semester off from Howard, an HBCU where she studies art history, but she had returned to the school to visit her friends for homecoming. It was there that she found the MAGA hat, an odd find on campus, and decided to take a picture with it to make fun of other black people who had #walkedaway, so to speak. She says she just wanted to troll and get into Twitter fights, but instead, “It was just straight Republicans all in the comments who were so proud of me. It was weird. It was very unnerving.”
So Quran discussed it with a friend and she decided to use the attention to her advantage. “A lot of Republicans have this idea that everyone thinks Republicans are mostly racist and they’re really desperate to get that stigma off of them. I just felt like capitalizing on that,” she said.
“I was at 900 likes. I told my friend, ‘I feel like this is gonna blow up. Let’s try and get some money off these dumb, rich Republicans,’” she recalled. Thus, the GoFundMe was born.
So, who got scammed in this situation? A few Republicans got scammed out of money, and thousands more got exposed as overeager to accept new black members to the party in order to prove they’re not racist. Did the Trump Train get scammed? Yes.
Still, Quran didn’t actually raise the tens of thousands of dollars that people want to believe she did. It’s a great viral story with all the touchstones — trolling, deceit, racists getting exposed, someone getting rich — but it’s not true. Are people who are quick to fall for viral hoaxes getting scammed? Yes.
Quran told me that she’d shut down the fundraiser and refunded all the money, and provided email screenshots confirming as much. Yet she also tweeted a screenshot of a recent order she’d placed for a new iPhone XS Max. Am I, a humble reporter, getting scammed? The doubt lingers …
Luckily for Quran, the kerfuffle provoked the Twitter fights she was hoping for when she took the MAGA-hat selfie. “There are the people who support me for being a black Trump supporter, there are the people who are asking me why, and then there’s the other people who saw obviously it was a troll,” she said of the people messaging her on Twitter.
“I can look in my DMs right now: ‘I can’t believe you finessed Republicans.’ ‘A true hero.’ ‘Sis, I stan you so much.’ ‘You’re a genius.’ ‘LMFAO, get that bread, boo. Keep scamming til the day you die.’”
She says her only regret is that she wishes a better photo of her had gone viral.