News & Politics

Lauren Windsor Is Not the Female Borat, Thank You Very Much

But her hidden-camera videos of politicians are getting a lot of attention.

Lauren Windsor. Photograph by Sye Williams.

Lauren Windsor wasn’t sure why her phone was blowing up during a work trip last December. As executive director of the political-strategy group American Family Voices and the creative force behind an internet video show called The Undercurrent, Windsor was in Georgia to shoot footage of herself attending various political events. She had recently tweeted a video she’d made of Senator Tommy Tuberville admitting he planned to contest the Electoral College results on January 6, and also a photo of her with David Purdue, who Windsor said told her the same thing. It turned out Donald Trump had just shared the video and picture—and thanked Windsor by name.

What Trump probably didn’t realize is that, although in the video Windsor seemed like a MAGA supporter, she’s actually a liberal activist who was in disguise, recording right-wing figures without their knowledge. If you’ve read a story in the past year about a GOPer saying the silent part out loud, Windsor might have been behind it. Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin copping to his hard-line views on abortion? That was Windsor. Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson saying Trump lost his state fair and square? She scored that one, too.

Windsor grew up in the Nashville suburbs, where she got interested in politics and feminism as a kid. In middle school, she flexed her Title IX rights by joining the otherwise all-male wrestling team. (She ended up with a winning record.) She got into grassroots reporting as part of the Occupy movement in 2011, pitching her show while getting an associate’s degree in broadcast journalism.

These days, Windsor splits time between DC and Los Angeles, but often she’s on the road, pretending to be a Trumpie while looking for damning material to share. She sees her tactics as distinct from right-wing agitators like those with Project Veritas, who attempt to worm their way into their political opponents’ lives to capture embarrassing footage. “I talk to politicians at events,” she says. “I don’t embed in organizations. I think that’s morally reprehensible.” She considers her work to fall somewhere between journalism and activism, saying she has ramped up the undercover work in the last year only because of threats to democracy from the right. Windsor also solely targets people in the public eye—never low-level staffers.

She doesn’t go after just Republicans, either. Recently, she’s been trying to question Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who hasn’t been doing much public talking. “I wouldn’t go undercover if she would just hold a town hall,” Windsor says. A recent attempt at an undercover interview with Sinema at Reagan National resulted in a stonewall.

Windsor is a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen—whose in-disguise interviews of people such as Rudy Giuliani have made headlines—but she sees her work as more earnest. “People like to say I’m a female Borat,” she says. “I love Borat, but I’m not doing the work for comedic value. Are some of the questions funny? Maybe. But I consider the work to be very serious.”

This article appears in the November 2021 issue of Washingtonian.

Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.