President Trump told Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Monday that people "in the dark shadows" were controlling Joe Biden and that "thugs" wearing "black uniforms with gear and this and that" had flown to Washington, D.C., over the weekend to cause damage. "Lacking details, the fantastical tale took on the wild, conspiratorial tone of a subversive Reddit subchannel or a foreign government's disinformation campaign," David Nakamura notes at The Washington Post.
Trump's tale is "almost too stupid to fact-check," CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale said Tuesday. "I mean, when you have Fox's Laura Ingraham telling you it sounds like a conspiracy theory, it's probably a conspiracy theory."
Trump elaborated Tuesday, changing some significant details.
Trump is peddling a conspiracy theory about some kind of Antifa plane. In his two tellings of this baseless story in a matter of hours, the destination city has already changed. pic.twitter.com/nP8S4Te9HP
— The Recount (@therecount) September 1, 2020
Not only were the uniformed antifa "looters" now traveling from Washington "to wherever," not to Washington, the details were secret because Trump hadn't gotten permission from the purported first-hand witness, not because they are "under investigation." The president's story, in fact, closely resembles a Facebook post from an Idaho man who falsely claimed June 1 that a plane full of black-clad Seattle antifa guys had landed in Boise to attack downtown and residential areas.
"It turns out there's a strong possibility the president got suckered by a months-old internet rumor that's been making the rounds among right-wing paranoid Facebook users," MSNBC's Chris Hayes said Tuesday night. NBC News reporter Ben Collins detailed the flood of social media rumors that have drawn heavily armed groups to downtowns across the country to battle antifa attacks that never materialized. "Look, its really easy to laugh at this whole idea that, like, antifa is taking over an airline," wearing identifying tattoos and dressed in uniform, Collins said, "but this is corrupting the intelligence pipeline to the president."
If Trump "really wants to quell the unrest, he can start by dealing with facts and not these conspiracy theories," Collins said. White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews told the Post that Trump is merely raising questions about "who may be funding travel and lodging for organized rioters," and "an investigation is underway." Peter Weber
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