Right-wing YouTuber Tim Pool’s plan to found a media company is allegedly collapsing amid infighting over footage of the Jan 6. Capitol riots and allegations he held a cat hostage for leverage over one of his partners in the venture, the Daily Beast reported on Wednesday.
Pool first came to prominence in the Occupy Wall Street era and bills himself as a liberal journalist, but a rational and cool-headed one so alienated and disgusted enough by illiberal leftists that he voted for Donald Trump. As one might expect, in practice, Pool seems to act very much like a professional panderer parroting whatever pet grievances a certain segment of extremely online right-wingers are nursing at any given time, be it “Cancel Culture,” whether or not clowns are racist, or how the media is a bunch of hysterical elitists. Pool spent most of the Trump presidency insisting that the Donald was a strategic genius whose every move was designed to goad liberals into politically damaging overreactions and predicted his victory in the 2020 elections, later promoting hoaxes alleging mass Democratic voter fraud and insisting Trump’s loss is actually very damaging for Democrats.
This grift has proved very lucrative for Pool; he’s hawked merch like survival rations to gullible conservatives and, according to the Beast, owns “a million-dollar mansion in the Maryland woods, complete with a podcast studio and a skate park.” More recently, he’s tried to pivot his career as a podcaster/streamer into founding a larger media operation, which would be a big switch from mostly reading other people’s content in an angry voice and is where the apparently very lengthy and headache-inducing dispute over the cat comes in.
Pool and his now-former partners in the venture, Emily Molli and former Vice editor-in-chief Rocco Castoro, raised $US1.2 ($2) million from investors on crowdfunding platform Wefunder to build a “decentralized news network” named Subverse — later redubbed SCNR — that would be heavily tied to Pool’s 1.24 million YouTube subscribers, 800,000+ Twitter followers, and nearly 170,000 followers on Facebook. Molli, the startup’s chief content officer, is the owner of the aforementioned cat, while Castoro apparently helped lend the venture some Vice-style energy.
According to the Beast, Molli and Castoro promised backers in November 2020 that SCNR would “yank what you thought you knew straight out your nose like Tutankhamen’s brain.” They added that backers displeased with a lack of YouTube updates that “YouTube sucks a fat one,” and said that complaining through Wefunder is the behaviour of a “ding-dong.”
Yet at some point last fall, the relationship between Pool and his compatriots reportedly went south; the two bickered with Pool over who had access to “various internal systems,” according to the Beast, and launched their own investigation that Castoro claimed dug up evidence Pool was involved in some kind of unspecified, shady digital plot. The Beast wrote that the SCNR update from November appeared to mock Pool’s fans and imply he wasn’t paying attention to the project. On Jan. 6, the day of the Capitol riots, Castoro tweeted an image of “IP logs and domain names” that somehow implicated Pool in something:
In response to questions about why Pool appeared to have a diminished role in the site, Castoro and Molli told Pool’s fans to email their “glorious leader.”
“Say a little prayer, maybe he’ll see it!” they wrote.
[…] Castoro began posting cryptically about his investigations into Pool on Twitter, taunting Pool, who was ostensibly still his business partner. The fight climaxed on Jan. 6, as Molli prepared to cover protests outside the U.S. Capitol. As Molli filmed the protests that would soon culminate in a riot, Castoro, in Los Angeles and increasingly alienated from Pool, tweeted a cryptic message he now claims would prove that he was aware of some scheme of Pool’s… It’s difficult to discern the meaning of Castoro’s tweet, which consists of screenshots of IP logs and domain names.
Molli was on site at the Capitol, covering the situation, which was devolving into an attempted pro-Trump coup that eventually claimed five lives. According to the Beast, Pool texted her that “Rocco is posting insane shit and private details,” and that someone who sounds like Pool left a voicemail ordering her to leave events in the Capitol and return to his Maryland residence:
“You need to call me back right now,” a person whose voice closely resembles Pool’s said in the message, which was shared with The Daily Beast. “I don’t know what you did, but this is beyond serious.”
Pool continued, without naming exactly what he was angry about.
“I don’t know what’s going on, other than what the fuck did you do?” Pool said. “You need to call me back right. This one’s on you. Whatever ends up happening, I had nothing to do with it.”
Note that Pool is a prolific interviewer of far-right personalities, including InfoWars conspiracist Alex Jones and the chairman of the neo-fascist, street-brawling Proud Boys group, Enrique Tarrio. Molli and Castoro wrote in a California state labour complaint that Pool demanded Molli return footage she had filmed of Capitol rioters, including of “several Pool associates” like Jones. On Jan. 6, Pool removed the pair’s access to the SCNR YouTube channel; the next day, he fired them, according to the Beast.
“We can only assume he did not want something specifically that was happening at the Capitol to be filmed by Emily that day,” Castoro wrote.
A messy situation, and one that was sure to draw bad blood over the future of SCNR and those who had equity in it. That brings the situation back around to Molli’s cat, which the Beast reported she had left with Ian Crossland, a Pool podcast co-host who “eventually joined a rotating cast of Pool associates living in the Maryland mansion.”
Molli showed the site text messages that Crossland had then refused to act as an intermediary for the cat’s return, writing she “will have to run everything by Tim.” She told the Beast she didn’t want to go to Pool’s house because she was convinced Pool would demand she turn over footage. Molli added she was reluctant to send anyone to Pool’s Maryland skater palace, as he owns multiple guns, is “terrified of cities, because he thinks antifa is going to attack him,” and the idea of encountering him or going to his house “freaks a lot of people out.”
Molli did finally email Pool asking if she could have friends pick up the cat at his house and pay for a vet visit so the cat could be cleared for an aeroplane ride home. According to the Beast, Pool said he “will not reply to further emails” and directed her to instead go through SCNR’s attorney.
It gets weirder from there; the Beast reported the lawyer working on the SCNR, Wylie Stecklow, refused to assist:
“To the extent your question involves a cat or pet, I can affirmatively set forth that I am not representing anyone regarding a cat or pet,” Stecklow wrote in a Feb. 22 email to Molli and Castoro.
“Clients, like cats, come in all stripes,” Stecklow told The Daily Beast. “I did not represent any cat as I do not have the requisite experience to represent cats.”
Eventually, Molli contacted the Washington County, Maryland, sheriff’s department, where a lieutenant negotiated a compromise in which Pool would take the cat to a local shelter and one of Molli’s friends could pick the pet up.
Pool told the Beast the Jan. 6 text messages were related to an “internal corporate legal dispute” that would soon be resolved, that “I live in the DC area, the political hotspot, and am not worried about antifa,” and that his involvement with cat issue was never more than minimal.
“The Sheriff asked about Ian returning the cat and that was it,” Pool told the site.
Things sound like they’re going just great over there, just like it is at other prominent conservative ventures including Parler, the MyPillow guy’s new social media site, and the Office of Donald J. Trump.