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Trump amplifies conspiracy theories from perch of presidency

17 Comments
By JONATHAN LEMIRE and JILL COLVIN
President Donald Trump arrives to speak during a visit to the Pennsylvania Shell ethylene cracker plant on Tuesday. Photo: AP

With a pair of weekend retweets, President Donald Trump amplified an unfounded conspiracy theory.

It was hardly the first time. His political career began the same way.

Trump has a long history of spreading falsehoods drawn from the conservative fringe. His unlikely rise to the White House was fueled in part by spreading the lie that President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., and he has trafficked in numerous others to malign his opponents and advance his own views.

Now he has used the power of the presidency to promote a baseless claim about the death of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, breaking another norm of the office and further sowing public confusion over the apparent suicide of one of the most high-profile inmates in the federal system. Epstein, who faced up to 45 years in prison on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges, was found dead in his cell in a Manhattan jail early Saturday.

Epstein had ties to prominent people around the globe, including Trump, who partied with him in the 2000s, and former President Bill Clinton. Within hours of Epstein's apparent suicide, Trump retweeted an accusation that tied both Bill and Hillary Clinton to the death, one of many conspiracies circulating on social media. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Trump defended the retweet on Tuesday, calling the original poster "a very respected conservative." He said he had "no idea" whether the Clintons were involved in the death, but continued to fan the theory, saying that the former president spent far more time on Epstein's private plane, and perhaps his private island, than known.

The Clintons have denied any wrongdoing. In a statement last month, Clinton spokesman Angel Ureña said the former president took four trips —one to Asia, one to Europe and two to Africa — on Epstein's airplane in 2002 and 2003. Staff and Secret Service detail traveled with Clinton on "every leg of every trip," Urena said.

Ureña also said Clinton had never traveled to Epstein's private island.

Trump has made a similar accusation before: that the Clintons had a hand in a high-profile suicide. He previously tweeted about the 1993 death of White House aide Vince Foster, calling it "very fishy." But there is no evidence of foul play.

As he was privately considering his own run for the White House, Trump began to try to stoke doubts about Obama's legitimacy as president. He began to get notice among hard-line conservatives in 2011 when he claimed that Obama, the nation's first African American president, was not born in the United States. Even after Obama produced his long-form birth certificate that proved he was born in Hawaii, Trump repeatedly voiced the belief, only fully backing off in the final stages of the 2016 campaign.

While bitherism was Trump's most infamous conspiracy theory, it was far from his only one.

He has promoted dozens of outlandish claims, many of which are so blatantly untrue that they have not required even a cursory fact check to disprove.

Among his claims:

— That Sen. Ted Cruz's father may have had a hand in President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

— That Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may have been murdered.

— That thousands of Muslims celebrated in U.S. cities after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

— That 3 million to 5 million votes were cast illegally in the 2016 election, none of them for Trump.

— That vaccines may cause autism.

— That global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

— That wind farms may cause cancer.

With the weight of the Oval Office behind these claims — some containing deliberate misinformation, others ignorance — the theories carry a degree of peril, according to presidential historian Julian Zelizer.

"We expect some semblance of truth from the Oval Office and sending out conspiracy theories like this is a whole new level of danger," Zelizer, a history professor at Princeton University. "People believe some of this, people can act on some of this. People can act violently, even, and part of that comes from a president dealing in untruths and conspiracies."

For his part, Trump sometimes says that a mere retweet absolves him of any responsibility.

Repeatedly, he claimed he was just passing on information to his Twitter followers — now over 63 million — while not recognizing the significance carried by words, distributed in any fashion, by the president of the United States or leader of the Republican Party. During the 2016 campaign, in just one example, Trump retweeted false crime statistics that dramatically overstated the number of white people killed by black people.

"Bill, am I gonna check every statistic?" he told Fox News host Bill O'Reilly then. "All it was is a retweet. It wasn't from me."

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

17 Comments
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The Right really don't like the media making factual lists of the ridiculous claims supported by their President, do they? But Trump's fact-free assertions are right there in this article, in black and white. Obama born in Kenya. Ted Cruz's father a murderer. Muslims in US cities celebrating 9/11. Vaccines causing autism. Global warming a Chinese plot. Etc., etc. And that's only a representative selection.

The rest of us worldwide, reading about the US President in our media, can't imagine the leaders of our countries would stoop so low as to tweet, or re-tweet, conspiracy theories or ridiculous hearsay claims about former leaders. It's just unimaginable. But Trump does it as a matter of course, and his supporters either defend him or deflect the criticism. Unimaginable. Until now.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Trump is the laughing stock of the world and is making America the laughing stock of the world. When will voters get rid of this peanut?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The media really doesn’t like the “Clinton curse” narrative do they? Too bad they didn’t spend as much energy dispelling the Trump-Russia “collusion” conspiracy theory

Maybe because Dump made his family and subordinates lie about a meeting a Dump Towers that he said he didn't know about. Then later caught lying until he finally admitted that it was all true.

The majority of the country knows that he is dishonest. The dishonesty is why the Trumpsters and GOP support him.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Trump is the first American president to become a conspiracy theorist and legalese that brand of craziness.

Expect more, much more Trump fake news.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

He's still trying to distract from his fails in El Paso and Dayton, charges of racism, and to keep the focus off his relationship with Epstein. He has to turn up the volume with each new stunt.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

isn't there anything better to put in the features section

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It’s sad to see people unable to criticise the politician they like even when he sinks into conspiracy theory trash again. You are allowed to pick out the obvious appalling behaviour.

Dangerous partisanship.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Serrano

Booming economy

1) LOL! The U.S. economy is delivering bad news to the White House. Second-quarter growth was only 2.1% and is not likely to return to 3% on a sustained basis. Significant wage increases, booming corporate profits, and double-digit stock grains SPX, -1.53%  are not likely in the months leading up to the presidential election.

Record low unemployment numbers

2) LOL! Under President Obama, the employment rate dropped from 10% to less than 5%.

Unemployment is rising in eight Trump states, and polls show some have turned on him

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/06/21/unemployment-rising-in-8-states-that-voted-for-trump.html

Millions off welfare

3) LOL!

Donald Trump: King of white welfare

https://www.rawstory.com/2019/05/donald-trump-americas-king-of-white-welfare-and-lord-of-the-great-grift/

ISIS in Syria and Iraq decimated

4) LOL!

Report: ISIS Surges as U.S. Withdraws From Iraq and Syria

https://www.usnews.com/news/world-report/articles/2019-08-07/isis-surges-as-us-withdraws-from-iraq-and-syria-report

Drawing down troops in Afghanistan and Syria

5) LOL!

Trump is repeating in Syria Obama's mistakes in the Middle East (meaning Pres. Obama reduced troops)

https://www.stripes.com/opinion/trump-is-repeating-in-syria-obama-s-mistakes-in-the-middle-east-1.561801

Trump's announcement, which took even his most senior advisers by surprise, will reduce American influence at a critical stage in the Syria conflict and render unattainable his administration's stated goals: an "enduring" defeat of ISIS, a change in the behavior of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and a reduced Iranian presence in Syria.

LOL! Look at number 4 again!

Getting Mexico to do more to help protect our southern border than the Democrats

6) LOL!

Mexico Agreed to Take Border Actions Months Before Trump Announced Tariff Deal

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/08/us/politics/trump-mexico-deal-tariffs.html

I could go on. I'll take results over some inaccurate statements.

LOL! More like you will take lies over reality. HAHA!

Thank you Pres. Obama!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Serrano

Booming economy

August 14th, 2019:

The Dow plunges 800, recession fears rise

https://www.yahoo.com/finance/news/stock-market-news-august-14-2019-124723731.html

LOL!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You are allowed to pick out the obvious appalling behaviour.

That's the line between bias and extreme-partisanship. One who is biased, as most of us are, can and will still call out their own side when it's called for. One who is an extreme-partisan will not.

Extremism is never healthy, and usually dangerous.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

trump is the greatest joker on earth.no wonder, trump is called the trumpet in america.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Serrano

Just because you want U.S. troops to remain the Middle East forever doesn't mean the're going to, Silvafan.

LOL! Thats is the only thing that you could respond to because you couldn't deny the truth in all five points.

HAHAHA!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Drawing down troops in Afghanistan and Syria

5) LOL!

Trump is repeating in Syria Obama's mistakes in the Middle East (meaning Pres. Obama reduced troops)

https://www.stripes.com/opinion/trump-is-repeating-in-syria-obama-s-mistakes-in-the-middle-east-1.561801

Trump's announcement, which took even his most senior advisers by surprise, will reduce American influence at a critical stage in the Syria conflict and render unattainable his administration's stated goals: an "enduring" defeat of ISIS, a change in the behavior of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and a reduced Iranian presence in Syria.

Just because you want U.S. troops to remain the Middle East forever doesn't mean the're going to, Silvafan.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

He's still trying to distract from his fails in El Paso and Dayton,

You got a wild imagination there, expat.

charges of racism

Yeah, he's been a "racist" ever since he ran for president. Always will be, according to liberals.

and to keep the focus off his relationship with Epstein. 

Yeah, he's not the one who flew on the Lolita Express multiple times.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Among his claims: That...

Among his accomplishments:

Booming economy

Record low unemployment numbers

Millions off welfare

ISIS in Syria and Iraq decimated

Drawing down troops in Afghanistan and Syria

Getting Mexico to do more to help protect our southern border than the Democrats

I could go on. I'll take results over some inaccurate statements.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

He said he had "no idea" whether the Clintons were involved in the death, but continued to fan the theory, saying that the former president spent far more time on Epstein's private plane, and perhaps his private island, than known.

"no idea"?

Wonderful job JONATHAN LEMIRE and JILL COLVIN of the AP. That only quote from Trump in the entire article "no idea" sure sounds like a grand conspiracy theory. I see a Pulitzer in your future, that is l, after you graduate high school.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

The media really doesn’t like the “Clinton curse” narrative do they? Too bad they didn’t spend as much energy dispelling the Trump-Russia “collusion” conspiracy theory.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

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