Today the New York Times does what numerous other publications have tried and failed to do, they’ve gotten the guys behind Christwire to come clean.
Christwire has lately reached new levels of popularity, in part thanks to an Aug. 14 column, “Is My Husband Gay?” Written by Stephenson Billings, the piece is a 15-point checklist to help wives diagnose possibly closeted husbands. “Gym membership but no interest in sports” is one warning sign. So is “Sassy, sarcastic and ironic around his friends” and “Love of pop culture.” “Is My Husband Gay?” was picked up on The Huffington Post and mentioned by Ryan Seacrest on his radio show; so far it has been viewed 8.3 million times. Oh, by the way: Christwire is all one big joke. Not the readership — which hit a high of 27 million page views in August — but the content, the opinions and the fake authors who write the stuff. (There is no “Stephenson Billings.”) Neither of the two founders is a conservative Christian. They are just like-minded 28-year-olds who met on the Internet, have never seen each other in person, and until this week had never given their real identities to a reporter. Bryan Butvidas is a software developer who works out of his house in Southern California. Kirwin Watson is a former Pepperdine student who moved back home in Kansas, where he now works “on the patient-care staff” of a local hospital. According to phone interviews with both men, they met online in 2005, when both were contributing to the news aggregator Shoutwire.com.
I’ve exchanged some emails with the guy writing as Stephenson Billings, who remains anonymous in the Times article. Last week another well-known New York publication wrote me several times in an attempt to divine Billings’ true identity, asking me if he ever “broke character” during our email exchanges.