An HHS official is a Pizzagate conspiracy theorist who said “African-Americans are way more racist than” whites and Islam is a “fucking cult"
UPDATE: Following the publication of this article, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told Media Matters in an updated statement that Ximena Barreto “has been placed on administrative leave while the matter is reviewed.”
UPDATE 2: Trump administration declines to fire HHS official Ximena Barreto over bigoted and conspiratorial remarks
As a fringe right-wing political commentator, Ximena Barreto claimed that “African-Americans are way more racist than white people,” labeled Islam “a fucking cult” that has “no place” in the United States, pushed the false Pizzagate conspiracy theory, and attacked the “retarded” 2017 Women’s March. In December, she became a deputy communications director at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Media Matters found out about her federal employment because she was recently added to ProPublica’s Trump Town database, which includes personnel records for thousands of appointees in President Donald Trump’s administration. As the project notes, the administration has often hired people who “have little-to-no government experience.”
Barreto (who also goes by the surname Barreto-Rice) was a right-wing pundit who used the screen name “RepublicanChick” on her personal website and social media. She regularly posted commentary on Periscope and briefly co-hosted a YouTube show called The Right View by Deplorable Latinas. She also said she helped Trump’s California efforts during the 2016 election.
A biography of Barreto on her now-defunct website stated: “Growing up in Colombia during the drug wars, which deeply impacted her life at a young age, Ximena witnessed blatant corruption and extreme violence, lost family members, and came to understand the importance of law and order. After moving legally to the United States, Ximena began comparing the social issues between Colombia and the USA, which played a big role in her engagement in political activities as an American.”
A spokesperson for HHS stated that the department “has no comments on any statements she may have made before joining HHS.” The spokesperson also said that “Mrs. Barreto-Rice provides specialty media support including: Spanish media, outreach, and other general press related responsibilities. ... In addition to her seven years of media experience, Mrs. Barreto-Rice brings a unique background to the position.”
Media Matters reviewed Barreto’s commentary -- some of which is no longer publicly available but has been cached through content archives -- and found she has made vitriolic and conspiratorial remarks about Pizzagate, black and Muslim Americans, and the media, among others. Here are some of her worst remarks:
“We’ve got to use all of our efforts into Pizzagate and not let that one die”
Barreto has repeatedly pushed the false Pizzagate conspiracy theory that claimed prominent political figures were trafficking children through a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant. She tweeted in November 2016 that efforts by supporters of former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to trigger a recount were “a hoax so we get distracted from #PizzaGate.”
She appeared in a November 30, 2016, Periscope video in which she also said (starts roughly 1:45 into the video) the presidential recount effort is an attempt to distract people “from Pizzagate.” She later claimed that former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is also tied to Pizzagate. “A lot of people are connected to it,” she remarked.
Near the end of the video, Barreto told viewers: “Don’t listen to the recount and relax. We’ve got to use all of our efforts into Pizzagate and not let that one die because that’s what the mainstream media is trying to get distracted from. So check all the Pizzagate stuff.”
“African-Americans are way more racist than white people”
In her November 30, 2016, Periscope video (starts roughly 8:00 into the video), during a discussion about “fucking reverse racism,” Barreto said: “African-Americans are way more racist than white people.”
She continued shortly after: “I’ve been attacked by more African-Americans on Twitter than white people, in all honesty. … They’re the most racist people I ever met.” She then said that she’s been insulted and called slurs by African-Americans.
“Islam has no place” in this country; Islam isn’t a religion but “a fucking cult”
During her November 30, 2016, Periscope, Barreto said (starts roughly 7:26 into the video) that Islam advocates for “killing other people and abusing women; that’s not a religion, that’s a fucking cult. Like, I’m serious. Like, that’s not religion.” She also said during a June 12 video that Islam is "just a cult. All the practices are cult-like, all that they do.”
During a December 4, 2016, Periscope video (starts roughly 8:00 into the video), she wondered aloud whether there are members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S. government -- a common conspiracy theory among anti-Muslim right-wing media. After someone asked if there’s a Muslim Brotherhood plan in the United States, she replied: “Well, how many of them are in the government already, you know? Like in Congress?”
In a May 25 post on the now-defunct website Borderland Alternative Media, she suggested that practicing Islam should not be allowed in the United States:
The atmosphere created during the Obama administration encouraged criminal behavior, lawlessness, and violence, has badly harmed our country. In addition to his disastrous domestic policies, Obama ended up further destabilizing the Middle East by pulling troops out of Iraq, after being advised not to. Pulling the troops prematurely lead to the creation of ISIS, a group that has claimed numerous terrorists attacks, who are honestly not much different from the guerrillas and the drug lords: they are all thirsty for blood, power and total control. All the while, Obama and other political elites (both Democrat and Republican) flooded our country with Islamic refugees, many of whom have engaged in terrorism and sworn allegiance to ISIS. Now, these terrorists seek to destroy Western civilization and America itself; having been enabled to grow stronger and becoming emboldened under the weak Obama administration.
How did we go from being enraged after 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombing, San Bernardino, the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando (just to name a few) to liberals caring and worrying about the feelings of terrorists? Recently, one of the reporters at “The View” complained about President Trump calling terrorist losers, saying that “wasn’t presidential.” Yes they are losers, they kill children! If we call them monsters we are actually EMPOWERING them because they know we fear them, we need to start calling them for what they really are COWARDS, and LOSERS. I don’t consider myself an expert on Islam, however many take the Koran by heart- a book that calls for the death of non believers and that threatens our way of life. Now, liberals are wearing hijabs in marches all while turning their backs to real oppression, such as the brutality of Islamic law against children, women and the LGBT community.
This isn’t about feelings, it’s about common sense and basic survival. We have become too soft, we have allowed radical leftist rhetoric to infiltrate our education system. A few weeks ago, San Diego Unified School District approved “Sharia compliant curriculums” in classrooms. We are appeasing the savages that want us dead, and that we have fought for over 700 years! Islam has NO PLACE in our education system (or country) and it’s shameful to see them involved in writing curriculum while Christianity is banned. It’s a sin. Whatever happened with separation of church and state? Apparently that only applies to Christianity.
Other vitriolic rhetoric
Barreto claimed during a September 18, 2017, appearance on The Hagmann Report that the “main goal” of “the media and the Democrats is to cause a civil war because at the end they’re gonna end up profiting from it.” During that program she also said: “We think fake news in English is bad, but Spanish is even worse,” pointing to alleged coverage of President Trump on Univision and Telemundo.
Barreto has tweeted that "#LiberalismIsCancer" and "#FeminismIsCancer and an excuse for women to disrespect men and act insane"; falsely claimed that President Barack Obama pushed millions of “illegals” to vote in 2016; said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards has done “the work of the devil”; and complained of the 2017 Women’s March: “It’s retarded that they’re marching in a country where we have rights. Like, what do you think other countries where women don’t have rights are thinking about us right now?”
Video by John Kerr.
(Note: Barreto's Periscope-hosted videos were removed after this piece was published. Media Matters subsequently uploaded the original videos and changed the original links.)