After a Utah man was shot and killed by the FBI following a months long investigation into threats against President Joe Biden, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and other public officials, some extremist right-wing media figures are now spinning the incident to claim the federal government is willing to kill any critic of Democrats.
In the early morning hours of August 9, the FBI served warrants at the home of Craig Deleeuw Robertson, who was killed by an agent. According to CBS News, charging documents against Robertson alleged that he made multiple explicit “online posts” that “showed an intent to kill Mr. Biden,” who was scheduled to appear in Utah later that day. The charging documents reportedly claim Robertson also wrote about fulfilling a “dream” of killing Bragg, the New York DA who earlier this year indicted former President Donald Trump. NBC News reported that the FBI alleges Robertson’s social media posts also “mentioned many other politicians, including New York Attorney General Letitia James, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and California Gov. Gavin Newsom.”
There is a significant lack of information regarding Robertson’s death so far. NBC reports that the raid is “under review by the FBI’s Inspection Division,” and according to CBS, “authorities have not publicly confirmed the man who was killed is the man named in the complaint.” And any government killing is worth giving heavy scrutiny to, regardless of the circumstance. There are reasonable questions here and the FBI must answer them or be held accountable.
Some right-wing media figures, however, have already jumped to extreme fearmongering about the incident to claim the Biden administration is intentionally using deadly force against Democrats’ online critics.
“Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander wrote on Telegram: “The FBI is now killing online critics of Biden. This is all by design."
On his Real America’s Voice show, neo-Nazi collaborator Jack Posobiec said, “This looks like a show of force. This looks like a message. This looks like a message being sent to the people of this country — threaten us and we’ll show up at your home at 6:15 in the morning and take you out. That’s what it looks like, folks.”
On Fox News, Laura Ingraham said the killing “kind of amounts to a smear” with the “implicit” message to “millions of Americans who may have supported President Trump or other conservatives implying that they can’t be trusted or, I don’t know, is it when in doubt, shoot first, ask questions later?”
Other far-right figures posted similar comments about the incident on social media, writing that the FBI had shot Robertson “in cold blood because he criticized Joe Biden online,” and claiming that the government “basically said that they wanted to kill a Biden critic to set an example.” On GETTR, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon simply wrote, “In Cold Blood,” and linked to a tweet from Posobiec.
This commentary is reminiscent of the radical right’s reactions to the Ruby Ridge incident of 1992, an 11-day standoff in Idaho between federal agents and the family of Randy Weaver, a Christian fundamentalist affiliated with the far-right white separatist movement. The standoff resulted in the deaths of Weaver’s wife, son, and a federal marshal.
On the August 10 edition of his show THOUGHTCRIME, Charlie Kirk specifically invoked Ruby Ridge and the deadly 1993 siege on a cult compound in Waco, Texas, saying “We know from Waco and Ruby Ridge that there's some really bad people that could be in the FBI. We know that.”
Rudy Ridge became a critical political touchstone among far-right activists and inspired acts of domestic terrorism, including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing which killed 168 people, including 19 children, and injured 759.
In a 2017 interview with ABC News, Jess Walter, a reporter who covered the incident of Ruby Ridge, explained, “The fallout from Ruby Ridge was [that it] sort of mainstreamed some of those really right-wing conspiratorial beliefs and, in many ways, when you have conspiracy buffs saying the government’s out to kill you, and then a case like that happens, it just continues to reverberate and echo.”
“Right-wing media starts in the era after this,” the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Heidi Beirich also noted. “All of this builds out of the rage that was symbolized with this event.”