All In Segment On Trump’s “Obsession” With Conspiracy Theories And How It Can “Inform The Policy”

Benjy Sarlin: “If You Can Find A Conspiracy Theory Behind Something, He'll Just Leap To It”

From the May 5 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:

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CHRIS HAYES (HOST):We talked earlier in the show about Donald Trump's changing positions, but one area where he’s been really quite consistent is in his flirtation with, openness towards and sometimes seemingly outright belief in a variety of debunked, implausible, and, or, preposterous conspiracy theories. This is a man who effectively launched his political career with a sustained public campaign alleging the President of the United States was actually a secret Kenyan whose true birth certificate had been hidden away by a shadowy cabal involved in a decades-long cover-up. 


HAYES: Benjy, you had a piece about this, about the kind of obsession that he seems to have with conspiracy theories. 

BENJY SARLIN: That's right. This is something that's been going back years. If you can find a conspiracy theory behind something, he'll just leap to it and one of the most famous examples that's talked about less is that it's not just that he wants to build a border wall with Mexico or kick out all the immigrants, it's that the reason he thinks we need this is because there's a shadowy plot by the Mexican government to push criminals and, quote, unquote, rapists into America. There's is just no factual basis for this. And the source Trump cited when pressed in a debate was, quote, border patrol people that he had talked to at the border. That’s it. So this gets to a deeper thing. It's not just that Trump has all these -- often very race-baiting -- conspiracy theories, it's that it speaks to what he considers a credible source. He tweeted, for example, that a quote, extremely credible source, called him up and told him that Obama’s birth certificate was a fraud. After he shared fake statistics claiming that black people were killing white people at incredible rates he said, “I retweeted an expert,” when he was asked on Fox News about it. The expert was @SeanSean252 on Twitter, and he just kept insisting that this was a credible source. Presidents have to make decisions often between intelligence sources, between advisers, about what they can trust, what's credible, and this really throws that into question in a way that's never been true of a major party nominee. 


HAYES: Benjy, how much of this do you think is actually held views of Donald Trump? I mean, there's lots of things he does that I feel are performance or schtick or essentially playing for, what I think frankly he views as the rubes. This seems to me like fundamental to his character. Like before he was ever in public life, he was into this stuff. 

SARLIN: Well to some degree it almost doesn't matter how much he believes it or not. You know? We can only go by what he outright says. But I will say there are cases where it seems to really inform the policy. 


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