"Putin's favorite congressman" thinks Charlottesville was a liberal conspiracy

Civil War re-enactors, not neo-Nazis, started the trouble over Confederate statues

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published September 15, 2017 11:53AM (EDT)

 (Getty/Chet Strang)
(Getty/Chet Strang)

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, a Republican who has been nicknamed "Putin's favorite congressman" due to his pro-Russia beliefs, told a newspaper earlier this week that he believes the white nationalist violence in Charlottesville was actually a liberal conspiracy.

"It's all baloney," Rohrabacher told the San Francisco Chronicle. He instead claimed that a former "Hillary and Bernie supporter" organized Civil War re-enactors in Charlottesville to stage the violence in that city, using the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee as a ruse.

"It was a setup for these dumb Civil War re-enactors," Rohrabacher claimed. "It was left-wingers who were manipulating them in order to have this confrontation” and to “put our president on the spot."

By putting the president "on the spot," Rohrabacher was presumably referring to Trump's oft-repeated assertion that "both sides" bore blame for the violence caused by the white nationalist rally in that city.

As the Chronicle noted, Rohrabacher's claim was similar to one made by right-wing radio host Alex Jones, which was deemed by "Pants on Fire" by PolitiFact.

Rohrabacher has a long history of putting his foot in his mouth. In July he became a figure of mirth after asking a geochemist if there was evidence of an ancient civilization on Mars from "thousands of years ago," and last year he dismissed claims that Russia had committed human rights violations comparable to those of China as (you guessed it) "baloney."

Rohrabacher met last month with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, a rendezvous that is consistent with Rohrabacher's repeated dismissals of the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump and that Assange released Democratic emails given to him by the authoritarian state.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Charlottesville Dana Rohrabacher Donald Trump Russia Vladimir Putin