Who is Andrew Tate? Influencer dubbed 'king of toxic masculinity' arrested in Romania

In this grab taken from video released by Observator Antena 1, Social Media personality Andrew Tate is led away by police, in the Ilfov area, north of Bucharest, Romania, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Romanian news outlets are reporting that divisive social media personality Andrew Tate has been arrested on charges of human trafficking and rape. The reports say Tate and his brother Tristan were detained late Thursday. Romania's anti-organized crime agency said two British citizens and two Romanians are accused of being part of an organized crime group, human trafficking and rape. (Observator Antena 1 via AP)
Online personality Andrew Tate is led away by police in the Ilfov area, north of Bucharest, Romania, on Thursday. (Observator Antena 1 / Associated Press)

Social media influencer Andrew Tate made headlines twice this week: first on Wednesday, when he beefed on Twitter with Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, then on Thursday, when he was arrested in Romania on human trafficking charges.

But even before Tate's arrest, the social media influencer and former kickboxer built a colossal following online as an apparent men's self-help guru.

Tate has described himself as a misogynist; an admirer dubbed him "the king of toxic masculinity." His lengthy interviews with podcasters are often edited down and widely shared by both his supporters and detractors, honing in on a laundry list of sexist comments toward women including victim blaming and encouraging violence toward women.

Some critics who have tuned in to Tate's long history of hateful speech were not surprised by this week's arrest, instead seeing it as a possible situation of words meeting actions.

Who is Andrew Tate?

Born in the U.S. and raised in both the U.S. and England, Tate's first claim to fame came as a kickboxer. During his professional career, which started in 2007, Tate won multiple world titles within the International Sport Kickboxing Assn. while fighting out of the U.K.

Tate moved to Bucharest, Romania, in 2017, where he fought his last series of fights before retiring in 2020.

Tate's fame grew in 2016 while he was a contestant on the British version of reality TV show "Big Brother." His brief stint on the show was colored by controversy. First, a series of homophobic and racist tweets surfaced. Then, a video that appeared to show Tate hitting a woman surfaced, leading to his removal from the show after only six days. Tate later claimed the violence was consensual.

How did he tangle with Thunberg?

Tate's arrest comes shortly after an online beef with climate activist Greta Thunberg. On Dec. 27, Tate tweeted at Thunberg, bragging about his "33 cars" with a photo of himself filing up a Ducati sports car at a gas pump, and asked her to "provide your email address so I can send a complete list of my car collection and their respective enormous emissions."

After Thunberg clapped back with a spicy tweet of her own, Tate responded by posting a video that showed him seated at a table with a pizza box from a Romanian chain, Jerry's Pizza. It was widely speculated online that Romanian authorities used the video to prove Tate was in the country to execute their raid, but investigators have since dismissed the notion that the video played a role in the arrest.

Why is Tate so popular online?

Tate commands an immense online following with 3.7 million followers on Twitter. Before he was kicked off various social media platforms, Tate had 4.6 million followers on Instagram and more than 740,000 followers on YouTube, according to a Rolling Stone report.

A man in a leather jacket interacts with a woman and another man during a TV taping
Andrew Tate at the "Big Brother" house in England in 2016. (Karwai Tang / WireImage via Getty Images)

His notoriety online is often fueled by opponents' intense criticism of his various statements. But he also boasts a passionate fan base of mostly young men. He has dined with far-right figures and expressed his support for former President Trump.

Tate has found a home among what is commonly referred to as the "manosphere," an anti-feminist movement that the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as "thick with misogynistic attacks that can be astounding for the guttural hatred they express."

While some followers may seek Tate for his advice on relationships or fitness, many have made their own followings by editing down and sharing clips of Tate's hateful comments. The clips are often accompanied by titles and captions that praise Tate for "owns" or "destroying" his detractors.

When describing the appeal of the manosphere to young men, YouTuber and culture critic F.D. Signifier said it appeals to men who are frustrated with the "existential dread" of "patriarchy under capitalism" and may turn to figures such as Tate for answers. The interest, he said, often begins with someone "wanting to build some muscle or learning to talk to girls or searching for their favorite anime character and end[s] up arguing for things like enforced monogamy, sex redistribution or that women should be denied the right to vote."

What has Tate said online?

As a part of a two-hour interview in 2021 on the podcast "Anything Goes With James English," Tate said, “You can’t slander me because I will state right now that I am absolutely sexist and I’m absolutely a misogynist, and I have f— you money and you can’t take that away.”

In a separate video, Tate complained that "women are failing in their role," which he said should be to cook for a man and give birth to children. Elsewhere, he lectured a room full of young women that their career aspirations don't matter and that the "happiest women" have children and a man who is paying their bills.

During a July interview on the Barstool Sports podcast "BFFs," Tate said he believes men should have authority over women, likening them to a house or a car. Tate attempted to clarify his views later in the interview. “I’m not saying they’re property,” he said. “I am saying they are given to the man and belong to the man.”

In another video, Tate said he sleeps next a machete. He said if a woman accuses him of cheating on her, “It’s bang out the machete, boom in her face and grip her up by the neck."

How have social media companies handled Tate?

In August, Tate was banned from YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. The companies cited violations of their dangerous individuals and hate speech policies in their decisions to remove him from their platforms.

“Misogyny is a hateful ideology that is not tolerated on TikTok,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement. “Our investigation into this content is ongoing, as we continue to remove violative accounts and videos and pursue measures to strengthen our enforcement, including our detection models, against this type of content.”

Tate was permanently banned from Twitter in 2017 for violating its terms of service, but was reinstated last month after Elon Musk took over the platform and granted clemency to a host of silenced users.

Why was Tate arrested in Romania?

Romanian authorities arrested Tate, along with his brother Tristan Tate and two Romananian individuals, on Thursday in an investigation that includes human trafficking and rape charges. The arrests were first reported by Romanian news publication Libertatea.

The detainment was to last only 24 hours, but a judge granted the request of prosecutors to extend their detention up to 30 days, according to a BBC report.

"The Matrix sent their agents," a tweet from Tate's account said Friday.

Investigators on Romania's organized crime and terrorism task force did not name Tate, but said in a statement they had identified six possible female victims who were recruited by British citizens who lured them in with promises of marriage and cohabitation, but later used physical and mental violence to force them into homes where they were filmed having sex.

The allegations also include the rape of one victim.

“No matter what the judge decides [on the longer detention], we will take further action in investigating this crime,” Ramona Bolla, a spokeswoman for Romania's Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism, told the Washington Post in a Friday phone interview.

Tate's home in Romania had previously been raided in April as a part of an investigation that stemmed from reports of an American woman being held captive at Tate's house, the Daily Beast reported.

Police found an American woman and a Romanian woman in the house during the raid, according to a report by Romanian newspaper Gândul.

Tate appeared to respond after the April raid with an Instagram picture showing him smoking a cigar in a mock interrogation room with fake police officers. The caption read, “Officer...l think we can all agree that b— love to lie.”

In the past, Tate said “40 percent” of why he moved to Romania was for what he believed to be more lax laws against sexual assault, according to a deleted YouTube video that was reposted to Reddit. In the video he derides the #MeToo movement, saying it gave women the right to "destroy the safety of men" with false accusations.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.