Reddit was abuzz with the news that President Donald Trump had removed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replaced him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Tuesday morning, with four posts on the site’s front page discussing the move within hours of its announcement. The top “Hot” post as of this writing, with 50,500 upvotes read, “Trump sacks Rex Tillerson as state secretary.” It linked out to a BBC News article.
Another top post, “Redditor suggests Rex Tillerson will be fired over his recent condemnation of Russia. 6 hours later Tillerson is sacked,” linked to a comment on the World News subreddit Monday. Indeed, many speculated on what tiff may have precipitated Trump’s decision; the prevailing theory was that Tillerson’s hard-line stance on Russia may have rankled the administration, as he broke from the White House on Monday in explicitly blaming the country for poisoning an ex-spy in the U.K. and has previously ascribed to the allegations of Russian meddling in the election. As one user posted, “Yesterday Tillerson said that the poisoning of the ex spy in the UK was clearly an act by Russia and would have repercussions. So now Tillerson has been fired. It’s literally that simple.” There was no evidence that was the case as of Tuesday, and the timeline for his firing remained unclear. There are reports that Tillerson received warning of the decision on Friday. Because of the conflicting timeline, others believed in Trump’s explanation that their disagreement over the Iran motivated the firing.
Another popular post linked to one of the president’s tweets from December.
The discussion on r/The_Donald, a forum where the president’s most bellicose fans congregate, had a decidedly more optimistic tone. Based on the three posts on the forum’s “Hot” page discussing the move, it appears that most posters harbored no ill will against Tillerson, though they shed few tears at his departure. Posters also celebrated Gina Haspel’s nomination as the first woman to become director of the CIA, citing it as proof that accusations of sexism against Trump are unfounded. One person, pantomiming a Trump opponent, wrote, “B…B…B..BUT MUH NARRATIVE THAT TRUMP IS SEXIST!”
Trump’s decision to install Pompeo as the new head of the State Department, however, kindled the most debate. One of the “Rising” posts on the subreddit trumpeted the fact that Pompeo had graduated at the top of his West Point class and promoted him as the right fit to take on North Korea, though his detractors were concerned about his connections to the “deep state” considering his tenure at the CIA.
Reddit has recently emerged as yet another social media platform that found evidence of Russian meddling during the 2016 election. Users amplified tweets associated with Russian trolls by posting them onto Reddit forums, particularly in r/The_Donald where divisive messages from fake accounts like @TEN_GOP received thousands of upvotes. Though Reddit claims to have removed a few hundred suspicious accounts, it’s hard to tell if Russian trolls still have any influence on the conversations that take place on the platform.