November 17, 2018

The First Fake News

“Several prominent conservatives initially responded to a wave of mail bombs sent to President Donald Trump’s critics last week with literal disbelief. “Fake bombs, fake news,” Lou Dobbs, a Fox Business News anchor, wrote on Twitter. “Who could possibly benefit from so much fakery?” On Twitter last Wednesday, Turning Point USA’s Candace Owens opined that “the only thing ‘suspicious’ about these packages is the timing” and suggested it was a leftist plot to win the midterms. She deleted those tweets, and two days later hosted an event with the president.

The bombs targeted the Obamas and the Clintons, multiple black lawmakers, top Democratic donors, former intelligence officials who have criticized Trump, and CNN—all of whom Trump and other top Republicans have regularly attacked. But many on the right refused to draw the obvious connection. “Republicans just don’t do this kind of thing,” Rush Limbaugh asserted on his radio show on Wednesday. Dinesh D’Souza, a conservative filmmaker, posted a fake Peanuts comic on Twitter that mocked the bomb’s purported origins. “Why do you say they were Democrat bombs?” Lucy asks. “Because NONE of them WORKED,” Linus replies.

Conspiracy theories have long flourished on the nation’s political fringes. Infowars’ Alex Jones and other right-wing conspiracy theorists have posited that the U.S. government orchestrated the September 11 attacks and that gun-control advocates carried out school shootings to further their agenda. Trump himself became a leading figure on the American right by questioning whether Barack Obama was born in the United States. But last week’s wave of outright denial by conservatives was still stunning by modern standards.”

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