Conspiracy theories tend to do well around President Donald Trump. If he doesn’t openly vouch for them and promote them on social media for his millions and millions of fans and followers, he neglects to disarm them publicly. He won’t even denounce the QAnon theory, which suggests that the country is being threatened by the Deep State, a group of “Satan-worshiping pedophiles who are plotting against Mr. Trump while operating a global child sex-trafficking ring,” as per The New York Times. “I’ve heard these are people that love our country,” he said of the QAnon conspiracists.
For some, Trump’s willingness to accept conspiracy theories means that he is able to consider all possibilities and not blindly follow the pack. For others, he is gullible and dangerous, using his voice to broadcast baseless claims and allegations with little or no evidence. While many of his supporters enjoy his shoot-from-the-hip style, his critics urge him to consider the evidence before entertaining (and sharing) a conspiracy theory.
So, with that in mind, we want to look at the facts and what they say about the strangest conspiracy theories supported by Donald Trump.
Rigging an election
On November 7th, Joe Biden was declared president-elect by the major poll forecasters and media outlets, but the man he unseated, Donald Trump, wasn’t about to go quietly. On numerous occasions during and since the votes were tallied, President Trump alleged that the election was rigged and fraudulent. In fact, he has been setting the stage for this fight for years — just in case he did actually lose. Now that he has, the conspiracy theory is in full swing.
Take the mail-in votes, for example. Recognizing the appeal they had for Democrat voters, Trump put blocks in place to slow the vote-counting process. According to The New York Times, this did two things: “claim an early victory on election night and paint ballots that were counted later for his opponent as fraudulent.” Then there’s the poll watcher issue. As Trump’s early lead evaporated, many Republican poll watchers became challengers, making things difficult for the election staff. Then the numbers of challengers grew beyond what was allowed, so election officials closed the doors, giving Trump more conspiracy ammo.
Then Trump launched a full-out attack on the Dominion Voting Systems machines used in some states. When a human error in Michigan’s Antrim County led to Biden incorrectly receiving some Trump votes, the president suggested the problem was widespread. He even suggested that Dominion deleted nearly 3 million votes. According to the BBC, this was based on an OANN claim that has no evidence to back it up.
Osama Bin doubled
In the days after the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, then-President Barack Obama sat down with 60 Minutes to explain why he decided not to release photographic proof that the terrorist leader had been killed. “It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence. As a propaganda tool,” he explained. “That’s not who we are. You know, we don’t trot out this stuff as trophies.”
For some, that explanation wasn’t good enough, and it fueled conspiracy theories that Bin Laden was still alive. In late 2020, conservative commentary news website DJHJ Media posted an article that alleged Bin Laden was alive and the Obama administration paid $152 billion “to Iran to cover up the deaths of Seal Team 6,” the team that perished three months after the Bin Laden mission. The information comes from an apparent CIA whistleblower, Allan Harrow Parrot, and it caught the attention of President Donald Trump, who retweeted the story.
When FactCheck.org reached out to Parrot to learn what evidence he had to back up his claims, his credentials had changed. “I’ve never been employed by the CIA,” he said. “I do not work for the CIA.” As for what he believes happened, Parrot said that the person killed was actually a Bin Laden body double. He just doesn’t have any evidence to prove it.
The Buffalo protestor
In the fight for racial equality and against police brutality in 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement took to the streets in huge numbers, protesting and drawing eyes to the cause. In an effort to weaken the movement’s efforts, many detractors have focused on riots and looting. Some, like Donald Trump, even divide the movement into factions: the peaceful protestors and the shadowy organization, Antifa.
Despite the president’s threats to classify Antifa as a terrorist organization, it’s unclear what or who Antifa even is, if anything at all. According to The New York Times, “Antifa is not an organization, and it does not have a leader, membership roles or any defined, centralized structure. It is a vaguely defined movement of people who share common protest tactics and targets.” That hasn’t stopped Trump from assigning people to the alleged group.
When police officers in Buffalo shoved 75-year old Martin Gugino to the ground in June 2020, fracturing his skull, the president blamed the elderly man and claimed he was a bad actor. “Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur,” Trump tweeted. “Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. … I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?” According to Gugino’s lawyers, however, that mystery device was just a cell phone.
The 'Clinton Body Count' theory
The arrest and suicide of Jeffrey Epstein brought out the tinfoil hats in abundance, as the financier had friends in high places. Afterward, Donald Trump gave his platform to the conspiracy theory that the Clintons were somehow responsible for Epstein’s death because the deceased had information on former President Bill Clinton, as per the now-deleted retweet. Trump also tweeted his dissatisfaction with the fact that “Trump Body Count” was trending on Twitter and not “Clinton Body Count.”
This wasn’t the first time the president played with this “Clinton Body Count” theory, one that claimed the Clinton’s were responsible for numerous deaths. Both Politifact and Snopes put these accusations to bed, but the president stayed on it. For example, he said the circumstances of the 1993 death of Clinton friend and White House aide Vincent Foster were “fishy,” according to The Washington Post.
“He had intimate knowledge of what was going on,” Trump said of Foster. “He knew everything that was going on, and then all of a sudden he committed suicide,” insinuating that there was more to the story. But that, according to the five official investigations into Foster’s death, medical and forensic investigators, and psychologists, is exactly what happened (via The Washington Post). “Foster was being treated for depression” when he killed himself. He was found with the suicide weapon and note that read, in part: “I was not meant for the job or the spotlight of public life in Washington.”
Made in the USA
For years, Donald Trump fed the Barack Obama birther theory that claimed the former president was born in Kenya and, therefore, an illegitimate leader. Even though the White House released the birth certificate, Trump suggested that the documents were faked. “He has what’s called a certificate of live birth,” he said on the Today Show. “That’s something that’s easy to get. … it’s not the equivalent. … I saw his. I read it very carefully. It doesn’t have a serial number, doesn’t have a signature.”
Well, according to FactCheck.org, the certificate of live birth Obama provided is a legitimate birth certificate. It’s just the name Hawaii uses. Furthermore, it has both a signature and a serial number (certificate number). But Trump wasn’t done. He alleged that Obama’s grandmother confirmed her grandson was born in Kenya in a taped interview. “She said, ‘Kenya. He was born right here,'” he told CNN, “Then they started screaming, ‘no, no, no, you mean Hawaii.'”
But the call didn’t go anything like that. Even in the suspiciously edited version, it’s the interviewer, Ron McRae, who says Kenya. The grandmother simply misunderstands and confirms that she was present at the birth. In the full interview, she quite clearly explains that he was born in Hawaii. Though Trump eventually came around and admitted that Obama was born in America, he blamed Hillary Clinton for starting the rumor, another claim with no legitimate proof, according to The Washington Post.
A picture is worth a thousand theories
Senator Ted Cruz went to bat for President Donald Trump during the impeachment process, and he even backed the man’s invalid claims of a rigged election, but it wasn’t all that long ago that he and Trump were at odds, battling for the chance to represent the Republican party. During that time in 2016, it was Cruz who took the brunt of the president’s baseless allegations. In an interview with Fox News, Trump suggested that Rafael Cruz, Ted’s preacher father, was caught consorting with President John F. Kennedy’s killer before the shooting.
“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald before Oswald’s being — you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said during the phone interview. “What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. I mean, they don’t even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it.” Here, Trump is referring to a National Enquirer claim that Cruz’s father was the unidentified mystery man photographed alongside Oswald months before the JFK shooting.
According to the Miami Herald, the allegation is shoddy at best. While both Rafael and Oswald were pro-Fidel Castro at one point, there is no evidence that their paths ever crossed. As for the photographic proof, the National Enquirer used the owner of a digitizing photo service in California who claimed, “There’s more similarity than dissimilarity.”
In a 2015 talk about wanting to put surveillance in “certain mosques” to combat terrorism, Donald Trump suggested that these measures were needed because there was a problem on American soil. “Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down,” he said to a crowd in Alabama (via The New York Times). “Thousands of people were cheering. So something’s going on. We’ve got to find out what it is.”
When questioned about it on This Week, as host George Stephanopoulos said that police stated that those were merely groundless internet rumors, Trump doubled down. “It was on television. I saw it,” he said. “There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down.” According to PolitiFact, FactCheck.org, and The Washington Post, however, there were no such celebrations, just urban myths being bandied about.
Shortly afterward, Trump tweeted out a story from The Washington Post, which mentioned “a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks.” According to FactCheck.org, neither of the original reporters were able to verify those claims, and “a number of people” is well short of “thousands and thousands.” Yet still, Trump demanded an apology for people doubting him.
The magical cure
In March of 2020, President Donald Trump first introduced the general public to the drug hydroxychloroquine. He suggested that it might be a “game changer” at the time. In May, he revealed that he was taking the drug as a precaution, despite the FDA specifically warning against that. A month later, the National Institutes of Health halted the clinical trials, stating that the “drug was very unlikely to be beneficial to hospitalized patients with COVID-19.”
Then, in late July, a video began circulating of a group of alleged physicians from America’s Frontline Doctors touting a cure for COVID-19. “The virus has a cure, it’s called hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax,” one of the doctors claimed. “You don’t need masks. There is a cure. I know they don’t want to open schools. No, you don’t need people to be locked down. There is prevention and there is a cure.” They provided no proof.
According to the BBC, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube were quick to take the video down before it did too much harm and gave people the wrong idea, but they weren’t fast enough. Trump got it and retweeted it. His son Donald Trump Jr. was suspended from Twitter for 12 hours for spreading the misinformation. The following day, Trump questioned why the video was taken down, saying, “Many doctors think it’s extremely good, and some people don’t. Some people — I think it’s become very political.”
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