Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ
The day after he was sworn in, the president of the United States sent his press secretary to lie to the White House press corps about the attendance at his inauguration. President Trump apparently believes that up to 5 million people illegally voted and is reportedly initiating an investigation into nonexistent voter fraud based on the story of a German golfer who was stopped from voting while people “who did not look as if they should be allowed to vote” were allowed to cast ballots. Trump is spending a considerable of time watching cable news and issuing policy statements based on what he sees. His aides reportedly “talk about taking away his telephone or canceling his Twitter account,” worry that he has become fixated on his popularity and personal slights, and say he is “at his most self-destructive when the stakes are high.” A constitutional crisis seems imminent.
Donald Trump has spent his 12 days in office demonstrating that he is temperamentally unfit for the job, and driving me to check Nukemap to determine if my Washington, D.C., apartment is in the blast zone in the event that he triggers a nuclear apocalypse, either accidentally or out of pique.
There’s too much crazy shit happening to keep track of it all. But let’s take a moment to reflect on the fact that Alex Jones, the nation’s leading conspiracy theorist and an ally of the president, appears to be on the verge of getting White House briefing room access for his conspiracy website.
“I know I can get White House credentials, we've already been offered them, we're going to get them, but I've just got to spend the money to send somebody there,” Jones said in a video posted to his YouTube account last week. “Might be good to put a few reporters there, it's just all a money issue.”
After we reported Jones’ comments, a White House press aide issued a non-denial denial, telling BuzzFeed News that Jones himself “is not credentialed” and that the “White House press office has not offered him credentials.” Jones then claimed he had been taken out of context and was just considering applying for credentials.
But on Tuesday, Jerome Corsi -- Infowars’ newly-minted Washington, D.C., bureau chief and the author of the birther tome Where’s The Birth Certificate? -- announced that he had submitted the pertinent information to the White House to receive credentials. According to Corsi, the “White House press office today didn’t think there would be any problem in Infowars and Alex Jones and me getting press credentials.”
Here’s a brief list of Jones’ panoply of horribles:
Jones has repeatedly claimed that the 9/11 attacks were an “inside job” perpetrated by the government and that Osama Bin Laden worked for the CIA. He alleged the Oklahoma City bombing was a “staged event” by “criminals in Washington” to get sympathy to pass President Clinton’s policy agenda. He claimed mass shootings in Sandy Hook, Aurora, Columbine, Tucson, San Bernardino, and Orlando were false flag events. And Jones said the Boston Marathon bombing was “staged” and the bombers were “recruited by globalist intelligence agencies and set up horribly.”
He’s also pushed fringe conspiracy theories about how government elites are trying to manipulate or control the world through other covert actions. Jones claimed the government is secretly encouraging “homosexuality with chemicals so that people don't have children.” He’s claimed vaccines are part of a covert population-control program to give the country cancer or autism. And he also said the government is controlling weather through a “weather weapon,” spraying chemicals into the air for “genocide and population reduction,” and that the singer Beyoncé is a CIA operative who's been deployed to cause mayhem in cities.
His Infowars website, which presumably would receive the press credential, is a trash heap of paranoid conspiracy theories and fake news. And Corsi has a long history of pushing conspiracy theories, including reports on how President Obama is secretly gay, Muslim, and foreign-born to an Indonesian father.
This wouldn’t be the first time that a conspiracy theory-touting website has been granted access to the White House -- the right-wing radio host and gadfly Lester Kinsolving spent years reporting from the briefing room for WorldNetDaily, the internet home of birther lies and Corsi’s previous employer.
But Kinsolving never had the relationship or mind meld with a president that Jones and Trump share.
Trump appeared on Jones’ radio show in December 2015, praising the host’s “amazing” reputation and promising, “I will not let you down.” In the subsequent 13 months, Jones has repeatedly spoken of conversations he says he had with Trump. The now-president frequently echoed Jones’ conspiracy theories during the campaign, to the point where Jones remarked that it is “surreal to talk about issues here on air and then word for word hear Trump say it two days later.”
Top Trump ally Roger Stone, who has his own long history of pushing conspiracy theories, became Trump’s envoy to the program. He made regular appearances on Jones’ show, working to cultivate his audience for Trump; he now occasionally guest-hosts on the network. Stone has called Jones a “valuable asset” who can “rally the people around President Trump’s legislative program.”
After Trump’s election, Jones said he had received a call from the president-elect to thank him for his support. Walking the streets of Washington, D.C., before the inauguration, he remarked, “It’s like Alex Jones is the president.” The next day, he declared that “the message we heard in this [inauguration] speech has been my message for over a decade.”
Letting Infowars into the White House would provide the Trump administration an ally -- if a volatile one -- in the press room, one it could count on not to push stories damaging to the president. Jones himself has indicated that this is part of the plan, saying yesterday that “just by being there” in the White House they would be able to move news organizations that publish mainstream news stories “out of the way."
If Jones and Corsi are right and Infowars is on the verge of receiving White House credentials, we will have seen the next step in press secretary Sean Spicer’s effort to flood the press briefings with sycophants and pro-Trump propagandists. Laura Ingraham’s LifeZette, Breitbart.com, One America News Network, and Newsmax have all had opportunities to ask questions last week.
In the video in which he first suggested a White House press credential was imminent, Jones stood with other Trump media allies like Newt Gingrich and Sean Hannity in calling for delegitimizing and diminishing the access of critical news outlets in order to make room for journalists who support the Trump line. “What’s CNN doing in the front row, when Spicer keeps going to them?” Jones asked. “You should see Breitbart and Drudge, and also just reporters that are known to tell the truth from mainstream, whatever, promoted and put up to the front of those briefings, to bring up real questions, not just a battle where they're just attacking with fricking lies.”
Trump wants an army of Jeff Gannons in the White House press room. That team is starting to assemble.