conspiracist in chief
September 2, 2020

President Trump told Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Monday that people "in the dark shadows" were controlling Joe Biden and that "thugs" wearing "black uniforms with gear and this and that" had flown to Washington, D.C., over the weekend to cause damage. "Lacking details, the fantastical tale took on the wild, conspiratorial tone of a subversive Reddit subchannel or a foreign government's disinformation campaign," David Nakamura notes at The Washington Post.

Trump's tale is "almost too stupid to fact-check," CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale said Tuesday. "I mean, when you have Fox's Laura Ingraham telling you it sounds like a conspiracy theory, it's probably a conspiracy theory."

Trump elaborated Tuesday, changing some significant details.

Not only were the uniformed antifa "looters" now traveling from Washington "to wherever," not to Washington, the details were secret because Trump hadn't gotten permission from the purported first-hand witness, not because they are "under investigation." The president's story, in fact, closely resembles a Facebook post from an Idaho man who falsely claimed June 1 that a plane full of black-clad Seattle antifa guys had landed in Boise to attack downtown and residential areas.

"It turns out there's a strong possibility the president got suckered by a months-old internet rumor that's been making the rounds among right-wing paranoid Facebook users," MSNBC's Chris Hayes said Tuesday night. NBC News reporter Ben Collins detailed the flood of social media rumors that have drawn heavily armed groups to downtowns across the country to battle antifa attacks that never materialized. "Look, its really easy to laugh at this whole idea that, like, antifa is taking over an airline," wearing identifying tattoos and dressed in uniform, Collins said, "but this is corrupting the intelligence pipeline to the president."

If Trump "really wants to quell the unrest, he can start by dealing with facts and not these conspiracy theories," Collins said. White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews told the Post that Trump is merely raising questions about "who may be funding travel and lodging for organized rioters," and "an investigation is underway." Peter Weber

June 9, 2020

President Trump has made his first comments about the Buffalo, New York protester shoved by police, and it's loaded with unfounded conspiracy theories.

Two Buffalo police officers have been charged with felony second-degree assault after they shoved 75-year-old peace activist Martin Gugino to the ground last week, leaving him bleeding on the sidewalk. But Trump, after watching a segment from the right-wing One America News Network, has decided without proof that Gugino "could be an antifa provocateur" who was "appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment."

The OANN segment stems from a far-right blog that started pushing its own interpretation of the incident over the weekend. There's no proof that Gugino was trying to black out police communications or even that he identified as "antifa." Antifa is a shortening of "anti-fascist," and, contrary to what Trump and other conservatives have suggested, is a loose designation for people who oppose fascism and oppression, with no leader or organizational structure.

Gugino is still in the hospital after hitting his head on the sidewalk. A Buffalo News story about Gugino revealed he is a longtime peace activist from about 15 minutes outside Buffalo. Kathryn Krawczyk

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