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After Libs of TikTok posted, at least 21 bomb threats followed

The FBI and local law enforcement said bomb threats across the country have tied up government resources even when they turn out to be hoaxes.
Image: Chaya Raichik
Chaya Raichik, creator of LibsofTikTok, at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland last March.Michael Brochstein / Sipa USA via AP file

Last March, police in Coralville, Iowa, investigated a bomb threat targeting a junior high school. Authorities brought in specially trained dogs to sniff for explosives and started looking into why someone might try to target the community’s teachers and students.

Law enforcement quickly determined that the threat was a hoax. Detective Hanna Dvorak from the Coralville Police Department arrived at a theory.

“It appears this all stems from a post made earlier this week by Chaya Raichik and her ‘Libs of TikTok’ account,” Dvorak wrote in a report to her superiors.

Raichik, 29, is not accused of making any bomb threats in Iowa or anywhere else. But about a day and a half before authorities responded to the threat at Coralville’s Northwest Junior High, Raichik posted that the school offers a “pornographic” book in its library that “teaches kids about gay sex.”

“These are the books they’re giving your kids to read in school,” she wrote on the social media platform X. People have frequently targeted the book in question, “This Book Is Gay,” a coming-out guide for LGBTQ teens, with book bans going back years.

The Coralville detective wrote in her report that one of Raichik’s supporters could have had a role in the bomb threat.

Coralville was not alone. Officers and government officials in four other jurisdictions — Burbank, California; Minnetonka, Minnesota; Oklahoma City; and Tualatin, Oregon — told NBC News they believe Raichik sparked threats in their localities with her posts on social media that digitally heckle people such as drag performers, LGBTQ teachers and doctors who treat transgender patients. The name "Libs of TikTok" is a reference to the people Raichik mocks on social media — "Libs" being short for "liberal."

While the direct inspirations for the threats are not known, the timing suggests that Libs of TikTok posts have been used to pick targets.

NBC News identified 33 instances, starting in November 2020, when people or institutions singled out by Libs of TikTok later reported bomb threats or other violent intimidation. The threats, which on average came several days after tweets from Libs of TikTok, targeted schools, libraries, hospitals, small businesses and elected officials in 16 states, Washington, D.C., and the Canadian province of Ontario. Twenty-one of the 33 threats were bomb threats, which most commonly targeted schools and were made via email.

NBC News emailed Raichik on Monday seeking comment on the threats. She did not respond directly, but said in a post on X that NBC News was working on a “hit piece.”

“They do it to try to paint me as an extremist to discredit me. This ‘b*mb threat’ narrative is really getting old,” she wrote, adding a yawning-face emoji.

NBC News identified the threats in a review of local news sources, social media posts and interviews with experts and victims.

The 33 threats drew both local and national resources. Law enforcement agencies in at least 13 jurisdictions reported receiving FBI assistance to find the responsible person or people. A police spokesperson in Burbank said he believed the FBI still has an open investigation into an incident there.

In an emailed statement, the bureau said it has, in general, observed an increase in threats of violence targeting institutions like hospitals and schools.

“As a country and organization, we have seen an increase in threats of violence targeting government officials and institutions, houses of worship, schools, and medical facilities, just to name a few. The FBI and our partners take all threats of violence seriously and responding to these threats ties up law enforcement resources,” the FBI press office said.

“When the threats are made as a hoax, it puts innocent people at risk, is a waste of law enforcement’s limited resources, and costs taxpayers. The FBI and our state and local partners will continue to aggressively pursue perpetrators of these threats — real or false — and hold them accountable,” the bureau said.

The FBI did not respond directly to questions about Raichik or the status of cases related to the 33 threats.

Prosecutors have pursued charges in only three of the 33 instances NBC News reviewed: At least three people have been charged with threatening Boston Children’s Hospital or Boston doctors, a juvenile was arrested after being accused of making a threat at an Oregon middle school, and five members of the white nationalist hate group Patriot Front were convicted of conspiring to riot at an Idaho Pride event.

The charging documents associated with those prosecutions did not mention either Libs of TikTok or Raichik.

A member of the white nationalist group Patriot Front is searched by police after being arrested outside of Mceuen Park in Coeur d' Alene, Idaho
A member of Patriot Front is searched after being arrested in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on June 11, 2022.John Rudoff / Reuters file

Of the 33 instances, law enforcement or school officials in four jurisdictions said, there were indications — such as email addresses with a non-U.S. domain — that the threats could have come from people in foreign countries.

Raichik, the founder of the Libs of TikTok social media brand, has become an internet celebrity among some conservatives for her willingness to criticize teachers, doctors and other professionals who are LGBTQ or who are accepting of LGBTQ people. Raichik often posts their names and photographs alongside accusations of wrongdoing to X, where she has 2.8 million followers.

Konstantine Anthony, a City Council member in Burbank, said he received violent threats by email less than an hour after Libs of TikTok posted a video of him. The video showed Anthony, who at the time was Burbank’s mayor, getting spanked by a drag queen at a political fundraiser, and Libs of TikTok’s post said it happened “in front of children.” Anthony said no children were present. He was clothed and laughing in the video.

Anthony told NBC News that based on the timing, he believes he and his City Hall staff received at least two bomb threats “as a direct result of Libs of TikTok.”

A spokesperson for the Burbank Police Department said the police had referred the threats to the FBI, which was investigating them.

Konstantine Anthony in Burbank, Calif.
Konstantine Anthony in Burbank, Calif., on March 15. Tommaso Boddi / Getty Images file

Anthony, a Democrat running for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, blamed Raichik for turning him and others into targets. He said he received harassing messages and threats by email, voicemail, social media and even handwritten letters.

He said he saw increases in the number of threats after subsequent tweets by Raichik. 

Libs of TikTok has now taken on a large and growing role in the nation’s culture wars. It provides ammunition to conservatives by collecting and posting examples of what it considers far-left ideology, such as TikTok videos of teachers discussing race or screenshots from gender clinic websites. Elon Musk, who restored Libs of TikTok on X after it was suspended under previous ownership, frequently shares the account’s posts on his own X profile, and the account’s followers on X include a number of politicians such as Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Former President Donald Trump hosted Raichik for dinner at his Mar-a-Lago estate in January 2023. Tucker Carlson, then a Fox News host, featured her on his show in December 2022. Raichik claimed to be at the Jan. 6, 2021, riot outside the U.S. Capitol, though not in the building, according to The Washington Post.

On Jan. 23, Raichik was appointed to the Oklahoma Department of Education’s Library Media Advisory Committee by Superintendent Ryan Walters. At least one lawmaker has referred to the bomb threats when contesting Raichik’s appointment to the committee.

Ryan Walters
Oklahoma Public Instruction Superintendent Ryan Walters during inauguration ceremonies in Oklahoma City on Jan. 9, 2023.Sue Ogrocki / AP file

The threats have been taking up government resources and been highly distracting.

In response to the threats, some schools canceled classes for days, while others stayed open following quick sweeps from law enforcement.

Superintendent Sue Rieke-Smith dealt with two separate bomb threats in October after Libs of TikTok tagged Oregon’s Tigard-Tualatin School District. The account shared a video showing a school fight involving a person who some people said appeared to be a trans student.

The school district determined, with assistance from the FBI, that the threat was not credible, said district spokesperson Traci Rose.

Rieke-Smith said that social media accounts cross a line when they criticize kids or inspire threats.

“I think there should be consequences when social media is used inappropriately and a community is harmed,” she added. She said she had even raised her concerns with Oregon’s governor in a recent conversation.

Chief Greg Pickering of the Tualatin Police Department said he assigned a small team to investigate the threats.

“It takes time to vet those threats,” he said in a phone interview. “There’s a ton of due diligence.”

His department arrested a juvenile for making one of the threats on Snapchat. No one has been charged with the other bomb threat, made via email. Pickering said he believed that Libs of TikTok inspired the threat.

Raichik has said that she doesn’t support threatening the subjects of her posts, and that she is not responsible for how people respond to her content. She’s said that she has faced threats herself. When USA Today wrote about the threats, she posed with a copy of the article, smiling, and made it her profile photo on X.

Chaya Raichik at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
Chaya Raichik at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington on March 2. Zach Roberts / NurPhoto via AP

She continues to post the identifying details and images of her subjects. She has rarely criticized the threat-makers or urged them to stop. She told The Washington Post in September 2022, when the newspaper was reporting on threats against children’s hospitals: “We 100 % condemn any acts/threats of violence.”

Raichik has at times mocked the idea that she could influence people making threats, once joking that maybe she was also responsible for natural disasters.

But some of her followers take her posts as an invitation. People have replied with the phone numbers of schools, the names of teachers and school board members and requests for Raichik to provide more details so that users can take action.

“Need to post the school name so calls can be made,” one user replied to a recent Libs of TikTok post on X. Raichik did not respond.

Vice News reported Oct. 4 that at least 11 schools or school districts that were targeted by Libs of TikTok in the prior month received bomb threats days later.

Libs of TikTok is part of a right-wing ecosystem on social media that has targeted transgender people, drag performers, LGBTQ advocates and others in recent years.

“There are forces at work in our country that have fostered this sort of behavior, and that just needs to stop,” said John Sasaki, a spokesperson for the Oakland Unified School District in California.

One of the district’s elementary schools was targeted by Libs of TikTok for hosting an event to bring together Black, Asian and Pacific Islander, and other families of color. In August, Libs of TikTok called the event racist against white people.

The next day, Aug. 29, someone emailed a bomb threat to the school’s principal, Sasaki said. The school canceled classes for the day and sent home its 570 students as police responded.

Sasaki said the district deployed counselors and other school staff to the elementary school the next day.

For other school districts, the threats that followed a Libs of TikTok post have meant more than a one-day evacuation. Oklahoma’s Union Public Schools was the target of bomb threats for six days in August — a series that began one day after an Aug. 21 Libs of TikTok post criticizing an elementary school librarian. The librarian had said online that she emphasized social justice in her teaching.

Chris Payne, a spokesperson for the district, said the local police, with assistance from the FBI, investigated, but he wasn’t aware of any charges. He said he was told by law enforcement that many of the messages appeared to have come from outside the country.

In September, police in Salem, Massachusetts, said they responded to three hoax bomb threats in seven days against the city’s elementary school. Three days before the first threat, Libs of TikTok posted about the school.

“The frequency of school threats which turn out to be hoaxes has dramatically increased in the last two years and presents a quandary for school personnel and public safety alike,” Salem Police Chief Lucas Miller said in a statement.

He added that his department had to balance competing factors: taking all threats seriously while also considering the “mental trauma inflicted upon school children who are exposed to repeated police emergencies.”