vulture investigates

How Patti LaBelle’s Alleged Nephew Broke Twitter

Patti LaBelle, pictured here in simpler times with Dan Purdy, a.k.a. Byl Holte, a.k.a. William Holte. Important to note that in the caption of this Instagram photo, LaBelle refers to Purdy as “my nephew.” Photo: Instagram

With the election over and somewhat behind us, perhaps you believed we could all move on and find some small shred of peace in our lives, but alas, Twitter has already uncovered a vast conspiracy involving former Pennsylvania Republican congressional candidate Dean Browning and, for some reason, Patti LaBelle’s nephew (whose real name is probably William Holte, but who, it seems, has several aliases).

It all began, as it so often does, with a Republican rage tweet. “What Trump built in 4 years, Biden will destroy in 4 months,” Browning, who ran for Congress earlier this year and lost, tweeted. A Twitter user replied to Browning’s tweet, criticizing Browning’s defense of Trump. Browning replied to this tweet, writing, “I’m a black gay guy and I can personally say that Obama did nothing for me, my life only changed a little bit and it was for the worse. Everything is so much better under Trump though. I feel respected — which I never do when democrats are involved.”

Twitter users then logically assumed that Browning, who is both white and straight, had made the mistake of not signing into his sock-puppet account before tweeting about his experiences as a “black gay guy.” Browning addressed this by tweeting, “Regarding the tweet that is going viral from my account — I was quoting a message that I received earlier this week from a follower. Sorry if context was not clear. Trump received record minority votes & record LGBTQ votes. Many people won’t say it vocally, but do in private,” to which everyone responded with this old but accurate meme.

But what does all of this have to do with Godmother of Soul Patti LaBelle? We’re getting there. Internet sleuths began to comb through Browning’s Twitter history, searching for his fake-Black-Trump-supporter-sock-puppet account. Eventually, they narrowed in on a Twitter account by the name of Dan Purdy, whose avatar was a cartoon Black man and who frequently posted replies in support of Browning (he also tweeted things like “black women will be the death of America”). Shockingly, the Dan Purdy account then posted a video of “Dan Purdy” himself responding to the controversy (the Purdy account has since been suspended, but Twitter users re-uploaded the video). “Hey guys, my name is Dan Purdy, and I am indeed a gay black man,” the man says in the video. “The message that you saw on Dean’s Twitter was posted — I don’t actually know how it was posted, but I did send it to him because I had a problem with how people of my race and sexual persuasion are treating Donald Trump.”

Purdy concludes the video by assuring viewers that he is “not a sock puppet” and “not a bot.” But Twitter users quickly began to piece together that Dan Purdy is not the real name of the man in the video. They matched Purdy’s cartoon avatar to a Facebook user named Byl Holte, who is a self-proclaimed “anti-feminist TV critic.” Sleuths then noticed that Byl Holte’s Facebook username is “william.m.holte.” A quick Google search reveals “William Holte” to be a one Miss Patti LaBelle’s son. A LinkedIn search confirms that “William Holte” (alias Byl Holte) works in landscaping in Pennsylvania, and his profile picture matches the face of the man in the Dan Purdy video, as well as the pictures on the Byl Holte Facebook account.

An extra wrinkle in all of this, however, is that William Holte is not actually LaBelle’s biological son, but her nephew, whom she adopted after the death of her younger sister, Jacqueline Holte, in 1989 (LaBelle also adopted William’s sister, Stayce). In addition to an Oprah interview confirming the adoption of her sister’s children, a quick search through LaBelle’s Instagram account confirms William’s identity — LaBelle has posted photos of William captioned, “my nephew,” and tagged an account called “byl322.” The latter account also posted a photo captioned “Me and Aunt Patti” last year.

To recap: William Holte is Patti LaBelle’s nephew and adopted son; William Holte is also Byl Holte, and the man in the Dan Purdy video. The question remains, however: How did William Holte’s “I’m a black gay guy” message end up on Browning’s Twitter? Moreover, did the Dan Purdy account truly belong to William Holte — or was it actually Browning, who just called in a favor from Holte after embarrassing himself online? Was the true sock puppet account the friends we made along the way? If only we knew. One thing is for sure, however: The legendary Patti LaBelle does not deserve to have her good name dragged through the mud in this way. So perhaps we should all just log off Twitter, listen to this song, and go to bed.

How Patti LaBelle’s Alleged Nephew Broke Twitter