Local conservative couple were the faces of “Trump Dating”
*Editor’s note: As of Feb. 21, the morning after the article went to print, I noticed that the Trump Dating website has been updated to include “Lesbian Woman, Gay Man, Bisexual Woman and Bisexual Man” along with the “Straight Woman” and “Straight Man” option when signing up for a profile. The marital status has also been updated to “Single-Never Married, Single-Divorced, Separated, Widowed.”
Two familiar Triad faces went viral on Feb. 19, when articles about a dating website for Trump supporters were widely shared on social media. As reported by Newsweek’s “Trump supporters dating website welcomes married straight people,” the website Trump Dating has come under fire for allegedly discriminating against those seeking a same-sex relationship while allowing its members to identify themselves as being married or in a relationship. Newsweek’s Sofia Lotto Persio noted that the site only allows users to register as a “straight man” or “straight woman” seeking partners of the opposite sex, but wrote that “their relationship status, however, is not limited to single.” Users, as Persio reports, can list themselves as “happily married.” But what created local buzz was the couple in the accompanying photo: Greensboro residents Barrett and Jodi Riddleberger. However, as of Feb. 20, according to The Associated Press article, “Man featured on Trump dating site has child sex conviction,” “the site features a different couple.” Barrett Riddleberger, the CEO of xPotential Selling, Inc., was a co-founder of the political action committee Conservatives for Guilford County, which was instrumental in the 2015 election of Rep. Mark Walker, (R-NC 6th District). In a News & Record article published on Oct. 7, 2010, titled “Speakers snap at county board” Jodi Riddleberger was quoted as calling herself as the “Founding Mother” of C4GC. Below is the text that appeared under the photo of the Riddlebergers (before the photo was replaced) at the Trump Dating site:
FIND THE AMERICA FIRST PARTNER OF YOUR DREAMS! Dating in 2018 is more of a challenge than ever before, thanks in part to today’s polarizing political landscape. While searching for a potential partner on other dating sites, it’s not uncommon to see messages like No Trump supporters or Proud liberal. We’re wrecking the dating game and giving like-minded Americans a chance to meet without the awkwardness that comes with the first conversation about politics. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to already know that your date roots for the same team?
Despite their politics, the Riddlebergers seem atypical representatives of Trump Dating, as they are long past the dating stage in their relationship, did not meet on this or any other dating site, and are presumably not seeking other partners. When I spoke to him on Feb. 19, Barrett Riddleberger sounded abashed. “A friend of a friend asked me, and I said yes, never thinking it would get so much attention,” he said. “Obviously, I’m a Trump supporter. I’ve been married 22 years, and I love my wife, my marriage and my family.”
Barrett Riddleberger is 49, and Jodi Riddleberger is 41. They are members of Lawndale Baptist Church, where they met when he was 27, and she was 19. C4GC had its beginnings at the church, where Congressman Walker is a former Associate Pastor. Jodi Riddleberger has been an infrequent Op-Ed columnist for the News & Record. She received some local, and statewide notice for her Oct. 27, 2013, column “Academic freedom has limits,” which objected to her then 16-year-old son Addison allegedly having been required to read the essay “Cuss Time” by North Carolina author Jill McCorkle in an English class that Addison was taking at GTTC. In 2016, both Jodi and Addison Riddleberger were named in the Dec. 17, 2016, Daily Kos article, “GOP Congressional Intern in Fake News Business.” The entry attributed to “Gary in NY” begins, “Addison Riddleberger, who worked as an intern for Congressman Mark Walker (NC-6), supporter of the NC bathroom bill, along with Jodi Riddleberger owns thetruthdivision.com (according to their domain name registration listing Jodi as owner, using Addison’s email), a website that’s spreading fake news that I found shared on Facebook.”
The website mediabiasfactcheck.com lists The Truth Division as a “questionable source,” citing its “extreme” conservative slant and lack of credible sourcing, but does not classify it as “Fake News.” On Oct. 6, 2016, The Truth Division was registered in Jodi Riddleberger’s name and Greensboro address, with Addison Riddleberger listed as the contact for tech and administration email. Its domain registration at GoDaddy.com now lists the site as having a physical address in Scottsdale, Arizona, with the Administrative and Tech names listed as “Private.”
Ian McDowell is the author of two published novels, numerous anthologized short stories, and a whole lot of nonfiction and journalism, some of which he’s proud of and none of which he’s ashamed of.