Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea/Reuters
Sports cars, a pizza box, Greta Thunberg, Romania, sex-trafficking and a highly controversial internet celebrity. If you’ve heard someone talking about any of these things this week, chances are you also wanted to ask them: Who, exactly, is Andrew Tate?
The man at the center of it all has long been a magnet for such a question. He’s been described as the “King of Toxic Masculinity,” one of the “internet’s most controversial figures” and “the Top G.”
And in the latest news, Reuters and Romanian media outlets say he has been arrested on charges of human trafficking, rape and forming an organized crime group.
Let’s dig into it.
First, here’s a quick overview of Tate’s rise to fame
Tate, a British citizen born in the US, first became an international name through his career as a kickboxer, winning several world titles.
In 2016, he tried his hand at reality TV, but was kicked off the British version of Big Brother over a video of him hitting a woman with a belt. Tate said the video was a “total lie” that had been edited to make him look bad.
On social media, Tate became a vocal supporter of former President Trump and was spotted around Washington, DC, with prominent conspiracy theorists and on right-wing talk shows like Infowars.
After styling himself as a self-help influencer for men, he was banned from Twitter in 2017 for saying women should bear responsibility for being sexually assaulted. His Twitter account was reinstated this November after Elon Musk took ownership of the platform.
At various points, Tate has been banned from YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok for similarly misogynistic remarks.
Tate has said women belong in the home, shouldn’t be allowed to drive a car and are man’s property. He said he prefers to date 18- and 19-year-old women because they’re more impressionable.
These days, Tate claims to be making millions and peddling his life philosophy to thousands through an online course and community called “Hustlers University.”
For $49 a month, anyone can earn thousands per month through skills like copywriting and buying NFTs plus recruiting others to the community for a commission fee. An ad for the course claims that Hustlers University has over 168,000 active students, some as young as 13.
His polemic style is particularly popular among Gen Zers. One survey conducted by the investment bank Piper Sandler this fall found that Tate ranked as the favorite influencer among those under 18.
An investigation from The Guardian discovered that hundreds of Hustler University members repackage Tate clips on platforms like TikTok every day.
This summer, while he was banned from top platforms, his name was searched more frequently than Donald Trump’s or Kim Kardashian’s.
Why is everyone talking about Tate now?
Tate and his brother, Tristan, were reportedly detained in Romania late Thursday evening on charges of human trafficking and rape.
Romania’s anti-organized crime agency released a statement saying four suspects — two British citizens and two Romanians — had recruited women into their scheme, then sexually exploited them by forcing them to perform in pornography with the intention of financial gain.
The statement did not name Tate directly, although an accompanying video of the arrest appeared to show Tate, who is British, being led away in handcuffs. Romanian authorities and spokespeople for Tate have not responded to NPR’s requests for confirmation.
Romanian media reports said Tate had been detained for questioning, and Reuters reported that it had confirmed the incident with Tate’s lawyer.
OK, so what does Greta Thunberg have to do with it?
Tate had already been in the public eye this week after picking a seemingly random Twitter fight with Thunberg, the 19-year-old climate activist.
On Tuesday, he posted a photo of himself standing next to a Bugatti, captioned with the text, “Hello @GretaThunberg. I have 33 cars. […] Please provide your email address so I can send a complete list of my car collection and their respective enormous emissions.”
The next day she tweeted back, “Yes, please do enlighten me. Email me at email@example.com.” More than 3 million users liked the post.
Tate then posted a video of himself sitting in a paneled roomwearing a Versace robe, smoking a cigar, describing Thunberg as a bitter “slave of the matrix” who is trying to “convince you to beg your government to tax you into poverty to stop the sun from being hot.”
Midway through the video, he gestures off camera, asking someone to bring him pizza. “Make sure that these boxes are not recycled,” he quips as he sets the two pie-carrying parcels down on the table so the blue and red branding of “Jerry’s Pizza” is clearly visible to the camera.
When the video of his alleged arrest began circulating, some local and international journalists said that the boxes, which came from a local Romanian pie joint, were just the proof local authorities needed to confirm Tate was in the country.
Several have since walked back that claim, saying they merely made an assumption. Romanian authorities have not responded to NPR’s request for more information.
But that uncertainty did not stop Thunberg herself from weighing in.
“This is what happens when you don’t recycle your pizza boxes,” she tweeted.
this is what happens when you don’t recycle your pizza boxes
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) December 30, 2022
What happens next for Tate?
Tate, who moved to Romania five years ago, said in a YouTube video that “40%” of his motivation for moving was because the police were less likely to look into sexual assault allegations.
Local media reports confirmed by various US outlets claim that Romanian police raided Tate’s Romanian residence once earlier, on April 11, after claims that an American woman was being held captive at the house.
In their statement about the latest raids, Romanian authorities said the suspects would be detained for 24 hours questioning.
On Friday morning, Tate appeared to tweet about the incident, using a reference to The Matrix that’s become a signature of his Hustlers University philosophy.
The Associated Press reported a Bucharest judge extended Tate’s arrest warrant by 30 days. He’ll be held in detention while authorities investigate, but the decision could be appealed at any time, said a spokesperson for the Romanian anti-crime agency.