Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN
Far-right media figures, message boards, and fake news sites are using the Department of Justice inspector general report on the Hillary Clinton email probe to bring back the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory. The false claim reviving the conspiracy theory has since made its way to some radio stations, where the hosts have entertained it as real.
On June 14, the Justice Department’s inspector general released the findings of his review into how the FBI handled the probe into former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. The report criticized the handling of the probe and former FBI Director James Comey’s conduct, but it did not disagree with the agency’s decision to not call for charges against Clinton.
Since the report was released, far-right message boards and figures and fake news sites have falsely claimed that two pages in the report proved that Clinton was involved in child sex trafficking because they had the phrases “Hillary Clinton & Foundation,” “Crime Against Children,” and “sexual exploitation of children” mentioned, even though there is no indication that the phrases are related in the report. The claim is a clear reference to the debunked conspiracy theory known as Pizzagate, which claimed that Clinton was using a Washington, D.C. pizzeria as a front for a peodphila ring and which eventually caused a gunman to open fire inside that restaurant. Some of those using the report to push that false claim played a major role in initially spreading the conspiracy theory in 2016.
True Pundit -- a dubious site known for numerous false stories that counts Donald Trump Jr. as a fan and played a major role in spreading Pizzagate -- published a piece with the headline “IG Report Confirms True Pundit BOMBSHELL on Hillary’s Emails; Details Comey Was Briefed on Clinton-Linked ‘Sex Crimes Against Children’ Evidence on Weiner Laptop.” The article claimed the report vindicated the site’s November 2016 piece that spread the hoax (former national security adviser Michael Flynn shared that piece on Twitter in 2016). True Pundit’s latest piece has been promoted on social media by various people including prominent conspiracy theorist Liz Crokin, with the hashtags “Pizzagate” and “QAnon”; Matt Crouch, a far-right figure who is being sued by the former family spokesperson of slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich; Marco Gutierrez, who ran “Latinos for Trump” during the 2016 campaign and is a former Republican congressional candidate; veteran and author Boone Cutler; and Infowars’ Jerome Corsi, despite Infowars previously apologizing for spreading Pizzagate. The article was also promoted on the Pizzagate forum of far-right message board Voat.
YourNewsWire, a fake news site that also prominently pushed Pizzagate in 2016, published a piece headlined “IG Report: Hillary Clinton Ran Child Sex Ring,” which was spread by at least one YouTube video that had ads, meaning the account was able to make money off of the fake story. Another fake news site, Neon Nettle, also published a piece headlined “IG Report: Hillary Clinton Has Committed 'Sexual Crimes Against Children,'” which was shared in Facebook groups dedicated to Pizzagate and “QAnon” conspiracy theories. Another fake news site, Conservative Daily Post, also claimed the report “confirms Clinton links to ‘crime against children.’” Those stories carried ads, meaning they were making money off of the false claim.
Additionally, the false claim has been spreading on a “QAnon” subreddit, where it was cited as proof that “Pedogate is real,” and 4chan's “politically incorrect” message board (common known as /pol/). Followers of the “QAnon” conspiracy theory on Twitter also shared it, some of whom also connected it to Pizzagate. Radio host and white nationalist Hal Turner also posted it on his website.
The false claim also made its way from the internet to some radio stations, where hosts entertained it as real. On California talk station KSCO-AM, hosts responded to a caller pushing it by saying, “That hasn’t been discussed in the mainstream media,” and that “all of that is starting to maybe surface.” The hosts told the caller that he had made a “tremendous contribution.” The caller urged the hosts to check out Before It’s News, a site that also pushed Pizzagate, to which one of the hosts said she knew the site and would “check it out.” On Texas talk station KCRS-AM, hosts also responded to a caller pushing it by saying, “Oh, and they’re not going to say anything about that,” later adding that the IG report was “damning for FBI, for liberals, for so many folks” due in part to “saying something about the Clinton Foundation and how they were abusing children.” And on Massachusetts talk station WRKO-AM, a host responded to a caller saying the IG report showed “evidence that the Clinton Foundation committed crimes against children” by saying the caller was “on fire.”