Thursday morning, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted out an article wildly speculating that Hillary Clinton was wearing an earpiece in order to receive secret messages during Wednesday’s Commander-in-Chief Forum. The article was published by the conspiracy theory website Infowars, which has also argued President Obama was born in Kenya and that the children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre were actually actors in a fake shooting.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) September 8, 2016
The Infowars piece is basically an aggregation of tweets from conservative actor James Woods and a True Pundit article that cites unnamed sources and fuzzy photos to “report” that Clinton “was sporting a mini earbud wired to receive stealth communications from her campaign handlers” during the event, which was broadcast live on NBC. Less outlandish possibilities aren’t considered.
The Clinton campaign denies that Clinton was even wearing an earpiece during the event:
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) September 8, 2016
The Infowars report earned top placement on the Drudge Report, the internet’s most influential right-wing news aggregator:
From there, it landed on Sean Hannity’s website:
A short time later after Hannity’s post went up, Fox News featured the story at the very top of its website:
This isn’t the first time Trump Jr. has amplified a conspiracy theory emanating from a far-right corner of the internet. In March, he cited a white nationalist Twitter account while falsely suggesting that a woman who was photographed making a Nazi-like hand gesture outside a Trump rally was actually a Bernie Sanders supporter.
Infowars proprietor Alex Jones recently claimed he’s advising Donald Trump. Jones, who the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “certainly the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America,” is best known for pushing the notion that terrorist attacks and national tragedies like September 11 and the Sandy Hook School school shooting were inside jobs.
Trump himself has embraced unfounded conspiracy theories ranging from climate change being a hoax invented by China to vaccines causing autism. Just this week, he was confronted about his ongoing belief in the conspiracy that first brought him to national political prominence— the notion that Barack Obama wasn’t actually born in the United States. Given the opportunity to distance himself from his thoroughly debunked “birther” views, Trump quickly changed the topic instead.
Donna Halper, associate professor of Communication and Media Studies at Lesley University, previously told ThinkProgress that the goal of people pushing conspiracy theories is “to get these things that they deeply believe, even if they’re not factual, and move them into the mainstream media.”
“Today, anybody can spread a bizarre theory. You can take a meme that has something utterly false — something that the person never said — and suddenly thousands and thousands of people are retweeting it,” she added. “Because you have this coordinated effort between social media, talk radio, partisan talk television, and a candidate, these things can spread like lightning.”