On December 27, Andrew Tate, an American-British kickboxer-turned social media influencer, tweeted to his more than 3.3 million followers a video of what he said was a Russian “Christmas advertisement.”
Tate’s tweet instantly went viral, and the video gained nearly 3 million views and more than 30,000 likes and retweets.
In a caption to the video, Tate wrote:
“Russian advertisement depicts Putin as Santa Claus, using magic to save a child from having gay dads, wearing pink and LGBT indoctrination. Russia believes the proxy war against NATO is necessary to preserve Christian values and fight satanism which controls the West.”
That characterization of the video is misleading.
In fact, the video is a Russian propaganda stunt that promotes Russian President Vladimir Putin’s self-projection as the defender of traditional and Christian values. It romanticizes the Kremlin’s record of homophobia and legalized discrimination and criminal prosecution, societal harassment and ostracism of LGBTQ+ people in Russia. It also amplifies the Kremlin’s anti-West narrative that misrepresents democracies as evil and demoralizing forces.
Moreover, Tate’s caption to the video amplifies Russia’s disinformation messages, including the above-mentioned glorification of homophobia. Tate also seems to be tweeting straight from the Kremlin’s propaganda playbook, which presents Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine as a proxy war with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and, on a larger scale, against Western countries, which he said are controlled by “outright Satanism.”
At least one other account used the exact same language as Tate’s when tweeting the Russian propaganda video.
Polygraph.info established that the video was created by the Russian state-linked channel Signal operating in the messaging platform Telegram. Signal first advertised its new ad to its more than 700,000 followers on December 21
In August, a Polygraph.info investigation of an anonymous propaganda video promoted on Twitter by the Russian embassies in Spain and India determined that it, too, was produced by the same Signal group that authored the Santa Putin advertisement. The August ad, titled “Time to move to Russia”, promoted the benefits of the Russian lifestyle versus a European lifestyle and also became a viral social media phenomenon, despite, or maybe because of, its caricaturist depiction of Russia.
“Signal’s production team envisioned what an ideal Christmas could be in the liberal agenda-engulfed Europe. Share this clip with European friends!” Signal wrote in a caption.
The "Santa Putin" video immediately made a cross-platform social media splash, The Daily Mail reported on December 22.
The video shows what seems to be a gay family with a child writing a wish letter to Santa on Christmas Eve. After the child falls asleep, a Putin doppelganger Santa arrives and transforms the house and the family into a “traditional” household with male-female parents, festive decorations and masculine gifts for a child whose gender is now defined as a boy.
Tate’s dissemination of the Russian homophobic video is not out of character. He was suspended from Twitter and other social media platforms in 2017, specifically Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, for violating terms of service, which the social platforms said included promoting radical anti-gay sentiments and advocating violence against women.
Despite being officially absent from these networks, Tate has developed a massive fan base, becoming a phenomenon on TikTok. His suspension from Twitter was revoked, and his account was reinstated after the platform was taken over in November by American business mogul Elon Musk.
Tate is also a self-proclaimed admirer of Putin. During public appearances in Romania, where he has reportedly resettled, he has condemned Europe for “caring less about their own people than for [a] foreign country at war,” referring to Ukraine. He also justifies the Russian invasion.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights verified 6,884 civilian deaths, 429 of them children, in Ukraine in the 10 months since Russia invaded. Another 10,947 people were injured. The actual numbers are much higher, the U.N. said, but impossible to verify due to the ongoing hostilities.
At the time this fact check was published, news broke in Romania that Tate had been detained on suspicion of rape and human trafficking.