Image credit: Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea - Reuters
"My name is Andrew Tate, four-time kickboxing world champion, multi-millionaire and all round nice guy. I was one time the most googled man on the planet for basically saying that 'water is wet.'"
If you believe Andrew Tate's account characterization of himself, he is the image of what many young men aspire to become. Wealthy, outspoken, and self-made through a combination of intelligence and determination. You might also believe that his recent arrest was the result of retaliation from "the matrix," powerful entities determined to silence voices promoting masculinity and self-sufficiency and that he is guilty of nothing but free speech.
These are the narratives that Tate and his supporters have shared repeatedly throughout his time in the public spotlight. They are key to his brand, his success, and the defenses now being offered on his behalf across social platforms. However, an objective view of Tate's past is key to understanding his rise as a public figure, the narratives he puts forward, and the allegations that have been leveled against him following his arrest in December.
Who is Andrew Tate?
Andrew Tate is a British-American social media influencer who exploded in popularity over the last year. Raised primarily in Luton, Andrew Tate was first known for his career as a kickboxer and a stint on the 17th season of Big Brother in 2016. His time on the series was cut short when footage emerged of him hitting a woman with a belt. Producers removed him from the show, citing "information that had come to light," though Tate subsequently claimed the actions shown were consensual.
Following his retirement from professional kickboxing, Tate relocated to Romania along with his brother Tristan. In a since-deleted YouTube video, he stated this decision was "probably 40 percent" due to a desire to avoid criminal repercussions of potential sexual assault allegations. Tate qualified this statement by stating, "I'm not a rapist, but I like the idea of just being able to do what I want. I like being free."
While the scale and nature of his business dealings have not been independently confirmed, he has claimed that a great deal of his apparent wealth is derived from an adult webcam business he started while he was still residing in the United Kingdom. According to reporting by The Times, police sources have claimed that women working in this enterprise were branded with tattoos reading "owned by Tate." In public, he has stated that female victims of rape ought to "bear responsibility" for the actions of their attackers and told his followers that women, like children and dogs, ought to be obedient because "you can't be responsible for something that doesn't listen to you."
In a since-deleted course, sold as a blueprint for those seeking to run similar enterprises, Tate describes this endeavor as "effectively taking girls, teaching them how to make unlimited money from home, and making sure they give it all to you."
Further detail is provided on an archived version of his website, which states, "MY JOB WAS TO GET WOMEN TO FALL IN LOVE WITH ME. Literally. That was my job. My job was to meet a girl, go on a few dates, sleep with her, test if she's quality, get her to fall in love with me to where she'd do anything I say, and then get her on webcam so we could become rich together."
On January 4, VICE reported Tate was arrested in the U.K. in 2016 under suspicion of sexual assault and physical abuse while running this business. U.K. Police gave the case to the Crown Prosecution Service, who declined to bring the case to trial.
In recent years, selling online courses appears to have been a major source of income for the Tates. Tate's audience is largely made up of young men and boys seeking to emulate his hyper-masculine image and outwardly opulent lifestyle, and the videos feature the Tates speaking aggressively at the camera, offering advice or aphorisms.
Tate's most widely known offering, "Hustler's University," operated an affiliate marketing program. This incentivized social media users to create accounts specifically designed to share affiliate links and content relating to the Tates. As a result, throughout 2022, users on social media were bombarded with Tate content. TikTok's powerful recommendation algorithm and short-form video format lends itself well to the often brash and attention-grabbing content posted by his fans and affiliates. By the end of August, Hustler's University had attracted over 129,000 subscribers.
Commenting on his message and appeal to young viewers, Hannah Rüschen, a Policy Officer at the NSPCC, is quoted by The Guardian as saying, "viewing such material at a young age can shape a child's experiences and attitudes, resulting in further harm to women and girls in and out of school and online."
Banned from social media
In August 2022, Andrew Tate's accounts were permanently suspended on numerous social media sites, with companies like Meta citing breaches of their community standards policy. Commenting on their decision to remove Andrew Tate from their platform, a spokesperson from TikTok stated, "misogyny is a hateful ideology that is not tolerated on TikTok." Tate had already been barred from Twitter for a number of years; this ban was lifted in November following Elon Musk's purchase of the platform.
Despite Andrew Tate losing access to his social media accounts, he remained a fixture on TikTok in particular. As his ubiquity on the platform was due to others uploading content featuring him, it is unclear whether his ban significantly affected the volume of related videos seen by TikTok users.
In the months following Tate's social media bans, he and his brother remained active in appearing on podcasts and live streams hosted by other content creators. This helped ensure he remained culturally relevant to his audience and provided content that was frequently recorded and shared widely on social media.
Andrew Tate's prior history of conspiratorial content
Andrew Tate has a pronounced history of incorporating conspiracy theories into his content. He has often discussed "the matrix," a shadowy group preventing people from attaining the self-sufficient masculinity and affluence idealized in his content. He has claimed that statistical analysis proves the 2020 American presidential election was stolen, stated that elites are trying to destroy traditional family structures, and alluded to baseless New World Order narratives.
Throughout the years, Tate has made numerous appearances on the conspiracy news site Infowars, most recently being interviewed by Alex Jones, who he has described as "one of the greatest men on the planet." He has also been interviewed and described as a friend by Mike Cernovich, who is most notorious for promoting the "pizzagate" conspiracy theory that preceded Qanon and led to a man entering a Washington, DC restaurant with a firearm.
Tate has also been vocal in his skepticism relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and the motivations of public health authorities. In a clipped interview shared on TikTok, he minimized the dangers of COVID, saying it was "99.9 percent" survivable, and explained public health measures as a sinister conspiracy: "they came along and did it because they were told to, by someone above the government, because the government isn't even in charge of anything."
Romanian police raid Andrew Tate's house in April
The arrest of Andrew and Tristan Tate in December was preceded by a police raid on April 11. Romanian outlet Gandul reported that it was sparked by reports of an American and a Romanian woman being held in the Tates' house. An American State Department official subsequently confirmed concerns relating to the abduction of an American citizen but did not provide specifics. Although the Tates were not arrested, Romanian authorities confirmed an ongoing investigation.
Keen to downplay the incident in the months following their release, the Tates denied wrongdoing in the following months. Their explanations for the event have varied over this period, however. In August, Andrew told Fox News's Tucker Carlson that he was the victim of "swatting," an action where police are sent to people's homes under false pretenses as an act of harassment. Recounting this version of events, he told Carlson, "I was not arrested. What happened is I suffered from a case of swatting. It's very popular with people who are large on the internet."
Alternatively, Tate has described the raid as being sparked by one of the alleged victim's boyfriends seeing them at their house on social media. According to Tate, this prompted her to lie and report to him that she was being held at the house against her will.
The arrest of Andrew and Tristan Tate
Andrew Tate and his brother were arrested on December 29 in Romania. While authorities did not name the pair in their subsequent statement, they reported that two British citizens had been arrested alongside two Romanians due to allegations of offenses relating to human trafficking and rape. They went on to claim that they had identified six victims who had allegedly been sexually exploited by this "organized criminal group."
When approached by The Daily Mirror, a spokesperson for Andrew and Tristan Tate stated that they could not comment on specifics but claimed that both the brothers "have the utmost respect for the Romanian authorities and will always assist and help in any way they can."
All four of the individuals arrested in connection with this investigation will spend thirty days in custody after a Romanian court ruled to extend their detention on December 30. Each of them has taken action to appeal this decision, according to a spokesperson for Romanian law enforcement.
Conspiratorial narratives surrounding the arrest
There have been numerous unfounded claims circulating online pertaining to the arrest of the Tate brothers and the motivations of authorities in this case. Much of this has been the result of the narratives Andrew Tate has himself put forward. During his arrest, Tate was recorded stating, "the matrix has attacked me." According to data from Crowdtangle, content featuring Tate and "the matrix" between December 29 and 30 jumped from 684 to 30k impressions across Facebook and Instagram.
Tate's invocation of "the matrix" following his arrest is in line with his response when he has faced backlashes in the past. Last year, he repeatedly framed himself as the target of powerful, unnamed individuals when facing backlash, at one point going as far as claiming, "Strike one is they try and shut you up and discredit you, which I have just been through, strike two is they try and put you in jail for no reason, and strike three is they kill you."
According to the fringe rightwing news site Infowars, Tate's arrest occurred because "sex operatives set him up with phony criminal charges for the arrest." The site's founder, Alex Jones, dedicated a prolonged segment on his show on this theme, stating his belief that Tate's legal woes are the result of his receiving "the Julian Assange treatment."
Despite the claims made by Tate and his attempts to attribute his experiences to conspiratorial machinations, no evidence has surfaced that suggests either his recent arrest or prior difficulties with social media platforms and law enforcement have been the result of any such effort.
Another false narrative that took hold after Andrew Tate's arrest was that it was triggered by a Twitter argument and an unfortunately placed pizza box. On December 29, responding to climate activist Greta Thunberg, Tate posted a video of himself eating pizza and smoking a cigar, talking about his car collection.
As previously covered by Logically, the media outlet Pop Crave tweeted, "Andrew Tate reportedly inadvertently tipped off Romanian authorities of his presence in Romania with his response video to Greta Thunberg. The pizza boxes shown in the video are from the Romanian chain Jerry's Pizza." This narrative gained significant traction on the platform among both supporters and detractors of the Tates to the point that Twitter owner Elon Musk tweeted, "Sometimes it's just better to make pizza at home."
Twitter detectives attempted to prove the pizza box's significance, pointing to an article in Gandul that said law enforcement used social media evidence to prove the Tates were in Romania. Despite the popularity of this narrative, the pizza box had nothing to do with his arrest. A spokesperson for Romanian law enforcement denied that the video played a role and described the pizza box story as "funny."
But there is no "matrix" trying to silence Andrew Tate. Tate was arrested following monthslong criminal investigations. He has a long history of misogynistic statements and actions, including alleged crimes. He is still in custody, and we will know more at the end of January.