You can find conspiracy theorists on street corners, call-in radio shows and social media.
Soon, you might be able to find one in the Oval Office.
Generally, presidential candidates tend to shy away from conspiracy theories. They involve a mixture of paranoia and gullibility that seems ill-suited for someone seeking access to America’s nuclear codes.
But Donald Trump is a different kind of candidate. He has embraced a wide range of fringe conspiracy theories.
Nevertheless, Republicans are rallying to his side and polls show him reasonably competitive with likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Here are the views of a man who might be the next president.
Asbestos is really safe
There are mountains of scientific evidence that asbestos is extremely dangerous to humans. It causes cancer and kills more than 12,000 people every year.
Trump, however, considers the substance a safe and effective fire retardant.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2012
Trump has called the idea that asbestos is unsafe a “great con” propagated by the mob, presumably so they could make money on asbestos removal.
There is no drought in California
Donald Trump told an audience in Fresno that “there is no drought” in California. According to Trump, the state has plenty of water but it’s being held hostage by environmentalists in government. The idea that the government is engineering the drought was popularized by professional conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones.
California, in fact, is facing a severe drought of historic proportions that covers nearly 95% of the state.
The state is drier than it has been in at least 500 years.
Climate change a hoax invented by the Chinese
Donald Trump has repeatedly called climate change a hoax, often implicating the Chinese.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
In fact, a recent study confirmed 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and is being driven by human activity.
There were “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the 9/11 attacks
Trump has repeatedly claimed that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey were cheering as the World Trade Center came down on 9/11 and he watched them do it on TV.
Vaccines cause autism
Trump has been outspoken in his belief that childhood vaccines are linked to autism, including at a recent GOP debate.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2012
Massive combined inoculations to small children is the cause for big increase in autism….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2012
If I were President I would push for proper vaccinations but would not allow one time massive shots that a small child cannot take – AUTISM.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2014
Obama was born in Kenya
Trump spent much of 2011 and 2012 raising questions about the legitimacy of Obama’s birthplace, feeding into conspiracy theories that he was born in Kenya and ineligible to be president.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2012
He continues to raise doubts about Obama’s birthplace to this day. Asked last June on CNN if Obama was born in the U.S., Trump said he still wasn’t sure.
Obama was born in Hawaii and claims to the contrary have been repeatedly and definitively proven false.
Obama is really a Muslim
Donald Trump has also repeatedly suggested that Obama, who is a Christian, is actually a secret Muslim. Trump connected this to the birth certificate controversy, saying he was hiding his real birth certificate because it said he was a Muslim.
Another one of his proof points was a statement Madonna made at a concert.
Does Madonna know something we all don't about Barack? At a concert she said "we have a black Muslim in the White House."
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2012
She was being sarcastic. There is no actual evidence to support the claim.
Nevertheless, fully two-thirds of voters today with a positive opinion of Trump believe Obama is a Muslim.
Obama never attended Columbia University
Obama received his undergraduate degree from Columbia University. Trump has publicly suggested that Obama never attended.
In 2011, Trump told a conservative conference that “the people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.”
The Clintons may have murdered Vince Foster
In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Trump called the death of Vince Foster, a close friend of the Clintons, “very fishy.” Foster committed suicide in 1993.
There is a long-running conspiracy theory that Bill or Hillary Clinton murdered Foster because he knew too much.
This theory was investigated and debunked by Ken Starr, a noted Clinton antagonist.
Scalia was murdered
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in February. He suffered from several chronic conditions and the judge who pronounced him dead said he died of “natural causes.”
Trump immediately speculated that he was murdered. “I’m hearing it’s a big topic, that’s the question. And it’s a horrible topic, but they say they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow,” Trump told right-wing radio host Michael Savage.
Law enforcement told the judge that there were “no signs of foul play.”
Ted Cruz’s dad involved in JFK assassination
As the Republican primary whittled down to a race between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, Trump accused Cruz’s father of conspiring with Lee Harvey Oswald to murder President John F. Kennedy.
“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being — you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up,” Trump told Fox News.
Trump was referencing a story published by the National Enquirer. It was based on a photo of Oswald standing with a man.
Tabloid says it has proof: Ted Cruz’s father is mystery man in Lee Harvey Oswald photo https://t.co/s0GLJyxMy7
— Adrian McKinty (@adrianmckinty) April 23, 2016
There is no actual evidence that the man in the photo is Cruz’s dad or that Cruz’s dad ever met Oswald.
ISIS provides phones to refugees seeking to enter the United States
Trump says ISIS is providing phones to refugees attempting to enter the United States and will use them to conduct another 9/11-style attack in the United States.
There was actually one unconfirmed report that videos of ISIS flags were found on the phones of refugees seeking to enter Norway. This report was heavily promoted on U.S. conspiracy sites.
Trump himself is willing to say almost anything. But he’s willing to validate and legitimize people who are willing to go even further. For example, he appeared on Alex Jones’ radio show in November. Jones runs the site InfoWars and says that tragedies like 9/11 and Sandy Hook were actually “false flags” perpetrated by the U.S. government.
“Your reputation is amazing,” Trump told Jones, “I won’t let you down.”