President-elect Donald Trump’s false claim that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally” can be traced to conspiracy theorist and Trump ally Alex Jones. But multiple media reports on Trump’s falsehood failed to report the connection, which is only the latest in a growing list of conspiracy theories espoused by both Jones and the president-elect.
Trump made his claim in response to ongoing vote counting showing former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton amassing a popular vote lead of over 2 million votes.
Trump’s lie echoes a story from Infowars, the conspiracy-laden website run by Jones. Jones has promoted numerous outlandish conspiracies, including the allegation that the American government was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Oklahoma City bombing, and that the Sandy Hook school massacre was a “false flag” event involving actors and green screens.
An Infowars story headlined “Report: Three Million Votes In Presidential Election Cast By Illegal Aliens,” which cites a tweet from “Greg Phillips of the VoteFraud.org organization,” is the basis of Trump’s fraudulent allegation.
Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson then published an article on Phillips’ tweet that baselessly claimed, “Virtually all of the votes cast by 3 million illegal immigrants are likely to have been for Hillary Clinton, meaning Trump might have won the popular vote when this number is taken into account.” As The Washington Post explained, Infowars was vital in bringing the conspiracy theory to a wider audience -- the Jones-led website's story on Phillips’ tweet was linked near the top of the Drudge Report on November 14.
In a YouTube video entitled “Proof Donald Trump Won The Popular Vote” released following the Infowars report, Jones himself claimed “it is uncontrovertible (sic) fact that three million illegals voted” in the election and “tens of millions of people were on the voter rolls who were dead and at least four million of them voted as well,” and concluded, “Donald J. Trump didn’t just win the Electoral College in a landslide, he also clearly won the popular vote.”
In covering Trump’s allegation (and often uncritically echoing it), multiple media outlets failed to make the connection between Trump and Jones and the other conspiracy theorists pushing this baseless story.
The New York Times acknowledged that Trump’s claim was “baseless” but did not make the connection between the president-elect and conspiracy sites or Jones.
The L.A. Times pointed out there is “no evidence” to back up Trump’s claim, but did not point out the false story’s origins.
NBC News omitted references to Infowars and Alex Jones in their report on Trump’s remarks.
Trump adopting a conspiracy from Jones and Infowars is not out of the ordinary. The relationship between the politician and the conspiracy theorist has flourished for months.
Trump appeared on Jones’ radio/internet show in December of 2015 and praised him for his “amazing” reputation. Trump’s informal adviser, Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone, has been a regular contributor to Jones’ radio program for months and the two have made joint appearances at pro-Trump events.
Throughout the campaign, Trump echoed Jones’ conspiratorial rhetoric as Jones said he was in contact directly with Trump, giving him advice.
In an October speech attacking “global financial powers” while using anti-Semitic tropes and dog whistles, Trump was parroting an argument that Jones has used for years.
After Jones said Trump should begin complaining the election was “rigged,” Trump began making similar complaints on the campaign trail.
When Trump alleged that President Obama was “the founder of ISIS,” he was echoing Jones, whose website once wrote that “the Obama administration has been backing ISIS since the beginning.”
After Trump delivered his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Jones saw so much of his rhetoric included that he bragged on his radio show that Trump was “totally synced” with him and his conspiratorial world view. Following Trump’s victory, Jones claimed that Trump called him to “thank” Jones’ audience and promised to appear on his show in the near future.
This latest outburst shows that the two men remain in sync, and it’s time for the media to let the public know who is pulling the next president’s strings.