The entertainer was an influential part of the MAGA movement
Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway, sister of Rochelle “Silk” Richardson, died earlier this week. As entertainers and online political influencers Diamond and Silk, the siblings — born 10 months apart in 1971 — saw their fame grow as they lent their support to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
The children of small-time evangelical pastors from Fayetteville, North Carolina, the pair grew up in poverty and describe the experience in their autobiography, an unusual work written in a call-and-response style, with Silk’s dialogue, often merely a “that’s right” or “mm-hmm,” appearing in italics in response to Diamond’s plain-text narration, which mirrors their real-life dynamic (Diamond was the more loquacious of the two).
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By the time they appeared on the political scene in 2015, they had turned their attention to content creation, producing videos for their YouTube channel. When they started uploading videos in 2012, the pair were registered Democrats and posted content reflective of generic social justice concerns, though they noted in their book that incidents like the exposure of former NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezal’s white racial identity gradually pushed them to the Right (they offered a commonsensical take on Dolezal following her outing in 2015, arguing that she should be able to identify however she wanted).
However, it was their enthusiastic support for Trump that earned Diamond and Silk widespread notoriety. Much like Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, who campaigned with Republican nominee John McCain in 2008 after famously jousting with Barack Obama over his tax plan, the pair spoke for disaffected voters who were struggling with their prior party identification, or who simply felt that no party represented their interests.
Although never formally affiliated with Trump — a point of contention when they testified before Congress on the censoring and “shadowbanning” practices of social media platforms — they campaigned on his behalf and received some small payments, aggressively promoting a “Ditch and Switch” outreach programme to get disgruntled Democrats to change their party affiliations so they could vote for Trump in states that limited primaries to registered Republicans.
After Trump’s election, they remained prominent, appearing regularly on Fox News shows and hosting a streaming show for the network that ran from 2018 until March 2020, when their comments about the reporting of Covid-19 death statistics resulted in their sacking and led to their migration to the far-Right Newsmax network.
Most notably, Diamond and Silk were early critics of the sort of social media censorship about which Matt Taibbi and other reporters have later offered concrete evidence. The sisters claimed that Facebook had taken various steps to throttle the growth of their fan page, which now has 2.4 million followers. The company repeatedly denied this, including during CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s participation in 2018 congressional hearings on social media censorship. There, Zuckerberg was asked by Louisiana Congressman Billy Long if he could identify the women in a poster supplied by his team. “I believe that’s Diamond and Silk,” he replied. “Out of two billion Facebook users, Mark Zuckerberg knew who Diamond and Silk were,” the pair wrote of the experience.
At their best, Diamond and Silk were idiosyncratic everywomen able to speak truth to power; they’d often split the difference on various social issues, such as condemning protesters on both sides at the Charlottesville riots in 2017 while also arguing that Confederate statues belonged in museums rather than public squares. At their worst, they were cornball comic relief, low-information jesters to whom the Left could point as emblematic of the Right’s clownish anti-intellectualism.
What is undeniable is that they were a memorable part of the shambolic, anything-can-happen MAGA energy that propelled an irreverent Donald Trump through the formerly staid Republican primaries in which, at one point, a Jeb Bush triumph seemed inevitable.
Now, with much of that establishment rallying around Ron DeSantis, the vibe is shifting and the window Diamond, Silk, and other untraditional characters forced open on behalf of Trump has begun to close. Diamond might have died only this week but it feels like a lifetime ago that she was politically relevant.