Edgar Welch, arrested on Sunday after firing a military-style rifle inside the Washington, D.C., pizzeria Comet Ping Pong, told The New York Times via video chat on Wednesday that he drove up from North Carolina to get a "closer look" at the restaurant at the center of the false "Pizzagate" conspiracy theory and had no intention of firing a shot. "I regret how I handled the situation," he said. "I just wanted to do some good and went about it the wrong way." Internet articles led him to believe that the pizzeria was the center of a child sex ring run by associates of Hillary Clinton, but "the intel on this wasn't 100 percent," he said, adding that just because there were no children "inside that dwelling," it doesn't mean there is no Pizzagate pedophile ring.
Welch, a 28-year-old father of two, says he doesn't believe in conspiracy theories, but listens to Alex Jones, who regularly spreads conspiracy theories on his radio show and websites. Jones is "a bit eccentric," he said. "He touches on some issues that are viable but goes off the deep end on some things." The Pizzagate myth, built through creative interpretations of emails hacked from John Podesta and released by WikiLeaks to harm Clinton's presidential campaign, is spreading outside of D.C., roping in not just late-night comedian Stephen Colbert but also the Austin pizzeria East Side Pies.
The owners of East Side Pies became aware of Pizzagate through some strange comments on the restaurant's Facebook page, then were pointed to Reddit threads linking their pizzeria to the fake story. The Austin American-Statesman's Matthew Odam runs down a few of the red herrings:
The online posts have made wild and baseless accusations about East Side Pies. They interpreted the restaurant's logo as a symbol of the "Illuminati," questioned the meaning of photos of pizza-eating children on East Side Pies' Facebook account, inferred that a picture of staffers with former Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell was proof of nefarious political ties, and claimed co-owner Michael Freid, an alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America, had "connections to the CIA." [Austin American-Statesman]
Owen Shroyer, who makes videos for Alex Jones' Infowars and hosts his own podcast, posted a 2.5-hour video detailing his own nutty investigation of East Side Pies on Saturday. Austin police and the FBI are investigating the threats and vandalism of a pizza delivery truck. Peter Weber