The sports radio guy -- the one with the lower voice, it's either Drew or Marc -- sounds incredulous and a little pissed off. He's describing a conversation he had earlier with a person he believes was the Super Bowl Truther -- an "independent journalist" who snuck into the Super Bowl and briefly commandeered the microphone during Malcolm Smith's postgame press conference so that he could make a demonstrably incorrect statement about the true perpetrators of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Either Drew or Marc pretty clearly can't believe this jerk. In a minute, they will play "The Star-Spangled Banner" as a lead-in to their interview because they think Mills will hate it.
"I call the phone," Drew or Marc tells those listening to his afternoon show on WMGC, the ESPN Radio affiliate in Detroit, "and this woman picks up and goes 'SPACE STATION.' That's what she said: SPACE STATION." Which sounds crazy, but is less so when you consider that Space Station is the name of the production company run by Matthew Mills, who is not the same guy who bum-rushed Malcolm Smith's press conference but was about to go on the air, live, with Drew and Marc on 105.1. (Editor's note: That link no longer contains audio of the interview, presumably because WMGC finally realized their dumb mistake.)
This Matthew Mills is a doting father of two with decidedly non-controversial views on September 11; he is a video producer with an Emmy and three Webby awards to his name. The information above is right there in Mills' bio on Twitter, above tweets that are mostly about things happening in his Brooklyn neighborhood and the movies he liked most at Sundance, where he was last month with a film he produced called We Always Lie To Strangers. The movie is about Branson, Mo., not a goonish Illuminati-related vision of September 11. This Mills watched the Super Bowl in his Brooklyn apartment -- "on tape delay," he says, "I had to catch up on DVR after I put the kids to bed." He has the same name and lives in the same New York borough as the Super Bowl Truther, and they have similar hairlines, but otherwise have nothing else in common. (One other thing that separates them, in the interest of disclosure: I've known the Matthew Mills who did not rush the stage during Malcolm Smith's presser for 10 years or so.)
On Monday, he was interviewed by two different large sports radio stations in the midwest -- WMGC in Detroit, and 830 WCCO in Minneapolis -- that both thought he was the other Matthew Mills.
The other Matthew Mills woke up on Monday morning to do the things he usually does on Mondays, and found that he'd had a good night on social media. "I had, like, 30 hits on Twitter. Notifications," Mills told me, "and usually that's maybe two or three. And then I looked and it's all people I don't know being like 'Great job last night' and 'We've got your back.'" By lunchtime, his Twitter account -- which is very clearly the account of a Brooklyn dad who works in video production and not that of a podium-rushing Truther -- had gained 100 new followers. By Tuesday morning, he -- or, anyway, Matthew Mills -- had 300 new followers.
As a joke, Mills had changed his photo on Facebook to a screengrab of Truther Mills at the podium. The phone calls that came in from radio producers were entirely in earnest. "In both cases, the producers called and were like 'Hey, is this Matthew Mills?' And I was just like, 'This is Matthew Mills.'" In both cases, that was enough to get Mills the non-truther on the air.
On his first appearance, with WCCO, Mills did the first portion of his interview as the Matthew Mills the host and producer believed him to be. "The guy was so fucking nice, though," Mills said. "It just broke my heart. So, finally I did break character." The host was amused, the producer was not, and Mills had a funny thing to put on his tumblr. Then the second call came in.
Something about the WMGC call rubbed Mills the wrong way -- the way they said "hey, great job last night" and the way their vetting of him began and ended with a confirmation that he was in fact named Matthew Mills. "I don't know what it was," he says. "They were a little too slick. And they made it sound like I called them up, which obviously I didn't. So I was like, 'okay, it's on, now."
Mills was uniquely suited to pull this sort of thing off. He comes from a radio family -- his father did a radio show in Denver for 30 years, and his mother did Detroit morning news radio for 15 years. ("She was one of Purtan's People," he told me, "which might mean something to somebody, I don't know.") His sister is a DJ at a Top 40 station in Grand Rapids. He has radio experience himself.
But even he was somewhat surprised by the character he created, entirely on the fly, for his Super Bowl Truther character. Mills' imitation of his namesake is haughty and cocky and dickish; he is a fan of short answers and "met with Pete Carroll before the game" and has little patience for "sheep" or "the media." Drew or Marc asks him how the power elite keeps so many people quiet, and Mills' answer is "Scientology." They ask how he wards off the mind control efforts he sees everywhere, and his answer is a terse, "Helmet." Here, listen to it.
There was no sense during the interview that the hosts thought they were talking to anyone but The Super Bowl Truther. After Mills hung up -- his last words on the air are "I'm going to Sochi" -- the two conjecture about the number of security checkpoints he must have eluded. "Sure brings in the texts," one of the hosts marveled afterwards, then read one. "'How bad does Matt Mills need his ass beat?'" On Tuesday, though, their post about the interview was updated. "If indeed it was fake, then @spacemanmills is a liar!"
That is not quite how Mills thinks of it. There are probably some points to be made about proper vetting and best journalistic practices and the rush to be first on things that don't matter in the first damn place; Mills understands all these points and brought them up in our conversation. He joked that because he had been nominated for, but not won, an Emmy Award for sports, he was seeking revenge on sports media. The new Twitter followers he's content to let slough themselves off. "They're going to get really bored with the pictures of my kids," he said.
These weren't the reasons why he went on the radio as the other Matthew Mills. That, he mostly did because he thought it would be funny to do. And also because they called him first.