Right-wing conspiracy theorist Ximena Barreto finally leaves HHS after outlets document her toxic rhetoric

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Ximena Barreto, a right-wing commentator with a history of pushing conspiracy theories and bigoted rhetoric, has finally resigned from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Barreto joined HHS in December 2017 as a deputy communications director. Media Matters first reported on April 9 that Barreto (who also goes by the surname Barreto-Rice) frequently made toxic remarks as a conservative pundit. She promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, claimed that “African-Americans are way more racist than white people,” and labeled Islam “a fucking cult” that has “no place” in the United States, among other remarks.

Here is a video from Media Matters’ John Kerr of some of her worst remarks:

Hours after Media Matters’ report, HHS issued a statement saying Barreto “has been placed on administrative leave while the matter is reviewed.”

Media Matters originally found out about Barreto’s federal employment because ProPublica added her name to Trump Town, its database of Trump administration political appointees.

CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, Chris Massie, and Nathan McDermott reported on April 13 that Barreto “shared an image in 2017 that said ‘our forefathers would have hung’ Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for treason,” “repeatedly used the hashtag #BanIslam and twice shared conspiracy theories about the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich,” among other conspiracy theories.

The Trump administration decided to allow Barreto back to work in early May but said she would “not to return to the public affairs department and will serve in a different role where she will work to complete several projects.”

On June 21, Mediaite’s Caleb Ecarma reported that Barreto attacked CNN for purportedly conducting a “smear campaign” against her (CNN did not smear Barreto). Mediaite also “conducted an extensive review of her social media posts and found that the HHS appointee pushed the baseless Pizzagate conspiracy theory even more than previously reported,” finding that she tweeted variations of the conspiracy theory “at least 17 times.”

On June 22, CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reported that a copy of Barreto’s resume -- which was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request -- showed that “she listed her previous conspiratorial work on her resume as a qualification for the communication position.”

Politico’s Dan Diamond reported on July 27 that she “was escorted from Health and Human Services Department headquarters Friday, according to an individual with knowledge of the situation. Barreto resigned, the individual said.”

There are numerous other people who have served in the Trump administration and have pushed toxic conspiracy theories and/or bigoted rhetoric.