WASHINGTON, Iowa — Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke acknowledged his involvement with a hacking group during a campaign trip in Iowa on Friday.
It was something “that I was part of as a teenager, not anything that I’m proud of today,” O’Rourke, 46, told reporters in Iowa. “That’s the long and short of it.”
According to a story first published in Reuters on Friday morning, in the 1980s O’Rourke was a member of the Cult of the Dead Cow, a group known for coining the term “hacktivism” and releasing tools that allowed less tech-savvy users to hack computers running Microsoft’s Windows operating system.
O’Rourke, who entered the crowded Democratic primary on Thursday after months of speculation, previously told reporters in Washington that he hadn’t seen the Reuters article.
The story says O'Rourke wrote online essays using the pseudonym "Psychadelic Warlord;" one essay, written when he was 15, was a piece of short fiction from the point of view of a killer who runs over two children with a car.
“As I neared the young ones, I put all my weight on my right foot, keeping the accelerator pedal on the floor until I heard the crashing of the two children on the hood, and then the sharp cry of pain from one of the two," the story reads. "I was so fascinated for a moment, that when after I had stopped my vehicle, I just sat in a daze, sweet visions filling my head.”
According to Reuters, fellow members of the hacking group kept O’Rourke’s involvement a secret for years — including during his Senate race against Ted Cruz in 2018.
O'Rourke is the second Texan to enter the race, joining former San Antonio mayor and U.S. housing secretary Julián Castro.