On September 15, the FBI announced the arrest of the individual charged for making a bomb threat against Boston Children’s Hospital in August. Before that, right-wing figures responsible for driving a harassment campaign against Boston Children’s Hospital claimed that the threat was a false flag orchestrated by leftists.
After the suspect’s identity was revealed, a search of the Federal Exchange Commission’s database revealed an individual matching the suspect’s name and location had made more than 230 contributions exclusively to three Republican sources — the Republican National Committee, the committee’s fundraising platform WinRed, and committees supporting the 2020 reelection campaign of Donald Trump.
During a press conference about the arrest, FBI Special Agent Joseph Bonavolonta stated that Boston Children’s Hospital had received “well over a dozen … distinct threats” following a harassment campaign. The criminal complaint included some transcript from the call, with the caller claiming there was “a bomb on the way to the hospital” and calling the staff “sickos.”
Up until just hours before the announcement, anti-LGBTQ figures including Chaya Raichik, who runs the Twitter account “Libs of TikTok,” and The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh had latched onto a quickly refuted report to claim the August bomb threat that followed in the wake of their harassment of the facility was a “false flag” and “leftist hoax.”
After Raichik, Walsh, and others targeted Boston Children’s Hospital in August, wielding misinformation about gender-affirming care to falsely claim the hospital was “mutilating children,” the facility was inundated with phone calls harassing clinicians and staff, including threats of violence. Users on far-right online forums threatened to “start executing these ‘doctors.’” Twitter users replying to Riachik’s own posts called for people to “take justice into your own hands.” The threats culminated in a bomb threat against the hospital on August 30.
The figures central to the harassment against Boston Children’s Hospital reacted to the bomb threat with “false flag” conspiracy theories
Some of those responsible for driving harassment against Boston Children’s Hospital promptly attempted to discredit the threat and claim it was a hoax. The morning after the threat was first reported, and then deemed a false alarm, Walsh claimed that there was “plenty of reason to wonder whether false alarm really means a leftist hoax” and that “there was never any threat.”
While pushing these conspiracy theories, right-wing media figures including Posobiec and The Babylon Bee’s Seth Dillon also claimed they were offering a reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. The day after the threat was made, Dillon claimed the bomb threat was likely perpetrated by critics of Raichik in a ploy to get her banned from Twitter and said he would give a reward.
Both Posobiec and Dillon leveraged their reward offers to attack those in the media reporting on the connections between Raichik’s harassment and the threats, particularly The Washington Post’s Taylor Lorenz.
Multiple other fringe media figures also echoed claims that the bomb threat was a hoax, including the Christian Post’s Brandon Showalter, who claimed on September 9 that the hospital was “making up a narrative,” and Infowars’ Owen Shroyer, who on August 31 suggested one of the doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital was responsible for the threat.
Libs of TikTok and others latched onto a failed attempt to discredit the hospital and police while ignoring a second bomb threat
On September 14, the Manhattan Institute’s Chris Rufo (a central figure in pushing false claims of “grooming” to attack LGBTQ people) cited a police report stating that the August 30 bomb threat was reported “secondhand” rather than through 911 to sow doubt that the threat was legitimate, reigniting conspiracy theories among Raichik and company.
Ignoring the numerous well-documented threats against the hospital, Walsh claimed that “no critic of gender ideology gains anything or has any incentive to make a threat.” Raichik likewise claimed that Rufo had shown “the Boston Police confirm[ed] they DID NOT receive a 911 call about a bomb threat at Boston Children’s Hospital.”
On the September 15 edition of Walsh’s podcast, which aired only hours before the FBI announced a suspect had been charged in relation to the bomb threat, Walsh said his “theory of the case is that this was not a conservative or critic of a gender ideology who called in the threat to Boston Children’s,” claiming that a “critic” of gender-affirming care would have “no motivation, no incentive to call in a bomb threat.”
Walsh then suggested that the bomb threat was a hoax perpetrated by “the left,” saying, “The first question you should ask yourself is, who benefits from this? Does the right benefit from a bomb threat to Boston Children’s? Do I benefit? Does Libs of TikTok benefit? Obviously not. The left reaps all the benefits here, because they can use this to deplatform or try to deplatform people like myself, which is exactly what they did and have been doing. So, hmm, I don’t know, that’s what — we have some dots there. Can we connect them?”
Anti-LGBTQ troll account Gays Against Groomers and right-wing blog Twitchy followed the lead of Posobiec and Dillon by using the story to attack Lorenz and others in the media, with Gays Against Groomers tweeting that the bomb threat was “all part of a coordinated media campaign, likely created by @TaylorLorenz.”
Users on far-right message board 4chan picked up Raichik’s tweet to spread antisemitic and anti-trans rhetoric and to claim the bomb threat was “fake.”
As extremism researcher Gerard Gill and psychologist Valerie Tarico have detailed, denial of responsibility is the final step in stochastic terrorism, or “the use of mass communications to stir up random lone wolves to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.”
On the day the arrest was announced, Rufo tweeted that he had been in contact with the Boston Police Department, which informed him the assertion that there was no 911 call was false. This post did not receive any retweets or replies from the accounts that had amplified his previous claim.
Following the announcement of the arrest, Walsh simply retweeted the announcement of the arrest made prior to the press conference, saying, “Good news. Glad they caught the person.” Rufo tweeted an announcement with the suspect’s name, this time including no additional speculation or commentary. Raichik said before the press conference that the arrest was “great news,” but as of noon Friday she had not tweeted anything about the revelations made about the threats against Boston Children’s Hospital, instead directing the attention of her 1.3 million Twitter followers to a controversy caused by Walsh complaining about the casting of The Little Mermaid and a teacher at a school district in Canada who appeared to be wearing an enormous prosthetic bust.