Michael Flynn Jr. accompanies his father, Michael Flynn, at Trump Tower on Nov. 17, 2016. | AP
The son of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s pick for national security adviser, embraced a baseless conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton on Sunday after a man who claimed to be investigating the hoax fired a rifle inside a pizza parlor in Northwest Washington, D.C., on Sunday.
The man, 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch of Salisbury, North Carolina, entered the restaurant, D.C. police said, to “self-investigate ‘Pizza Gate’ (a fictitious online conspiracy theory).” After firing his gun inside the establishment, he was arrested and charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. No one was injured.
The baseless online conspiracy theoryin question, spread by supporters of President-elect Donald Trump, holds that the pizza shop, Comet Ping Pong, is actually a front for a child sex ring led by Clinton, the Democratic nominee.
The conspiracy theory got its start when emails from Comet Ping Pong’s owner James Alefantis were hacked from the Gmail account of Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta and released by WikiLeaks.
The New York Times reported: “While Mr. Alefantis has some prominent Democratic friends in Washington and was a supporter of Mrs. Clinton, he has never met her, does not sell or abuse children, and is not being investigated by law enforcement for any of these claims.”
The younger Flynn, who has served as his father’s adviser, linked to the account of Jack Posobiec, whose Twitter account describes him as the special projects director of a group called Citizens4Trump.
Posobiec said Welch’s actions were a “false flag,” and claimed he was an actor carrying out an elaborate conspiracy to discredit sites that spread the fabricated #PizzaGate accusations.
“Planted Comet Pizza Gunman will be used to push for censorship of independent news sources that are not corporate owned,” he tweeted.
For weeks, Comet Ping Pong has been the victim of false news stories about Clinton trafficking children in the local D.C. restaurant’s back rooms. The stories appeared on Facebook, in addition to such dubious outlets as The New Nationalist and Alex Jones’ Infowars.
Since then, a hashtag, #PizzaGate, has been used to defame the restaurant. The owner and employees of the pizzeria have also been victims of harassment. Scurrilous and defamatory posts continue to appear on Twitter on a daily basis even as D.C. police have said the restaurant is not under investigation.
The restaurant, located near Politics & Prose bookstore on a commercial strip in Washington’s Northwest section, announced last week that there will be visible police or private security presences at music shows hosted there.
“Comet Ping Pong, like any respectable venue, is dedicated to creating a safe and inviting space for all of our concert-goers,” a statement on the restaurant’s Facebook page reads. “There have been no hostile situations at the venue, and we do not anticipate any altercations as much of the harassment has occurred online, but as a precaution we now have security and police present at every show.”
After Welch’s arrest, Twitter users pointed to a Nov. 2 tweet by Flynn, in which he tied Clinton to “sex crimes with minors.”
“U decide – NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary Emails: Money Laundering, Sex Crimes w Children, etc…MUST READ!,” Flynn tweeted just days before the Nov. 8 election, linking to an article on the website “True Pundit.”
The article, which does not mention Comet Ping Pong, alleges that sources in the New York City Police Department had found new evidence linking “Clinton herself and associates” to a series of crimes, including: “money laundering, child exploitation, sex crimes with minors (children), perjury, pay to play through Clinton Foundation, obstruction of justice” and other unspecified “felony crimes.”
No such evidence ever surfaced, and the FBI said that its review of the emails found nothing to alter its recommendation that Clinton not be prosecuted.
Days later, on Nov. 4, the retired lieutenant general tweeted the hashtag #spiritcooking, referring to a conspiracy theory tying Podesta to satanic rituals.
By POLITICO STAFF