The White House, Washington D.C. (Getty/TriggerPhoto)

Somehow, conspiracy theorists keep winding up in Trump administration

Yet another conspiracy theorist has wound up in a government job


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Matthew Sheffield
March 9, 2018 5:42PM (UTC)

John Gibbs, a senior official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, repeatedly promoted a conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chief had engaged in satanic rituals.

During the 2016 campaign, Gibbs was among many prominent supporters of candidate Donald Trump who spread false claims that John Podesta — at the time chairman of the Clinton operation — had attended a dinner held by satirical performance artist named Marina Abramovic who had previously mocked superstitious religious beliefs under the term “spirit cooking.”

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Far-right internet trolls spun several emails released by WikiLeaks into a wide-ranging theory that Podesta, his brother Tony, and other top Democratic officials were secretly running a global child slavery ring which also involved satanic rituals and murder out of a pizzeria in a Washington suburb — a fiasco that came to be known as pizzagate.

According to a CNN review of Gibbs’ tweets, the former conservative commentator endorsed as “true, true, true” a claim from a radio host that Clinton had “just lost more black votes with her campaign manager having Satanic #spiritcooking. We don't play that.”

In a later Twitter post, Gibbs promoted the conspiracy theory again, stating that Abramovic “has a Twitter handle that ends in 666. You can't make this stuff up” as if it were somehow proof.

Gibbs, who is black, also repeatedly referred to anti-Trump Republicans as “cucks,” a term that originated in white nationalist circles to describe conservatives who oppose racism. He also lent support to an “alt right” Twitter user who calls himself Ricky Vaughn who was banned from the service.

"#Twitter down big today because they banned Ricky? #FreeRicky," Gibbs wrote.

The HUD official is far from the only person in the Trump orbit to embrace false claims and far-right figures. Besides the president himself, Donald Trump Jr. is also known for his promotion of Pizzagate. In November 2016, the younger Trump promoted a video linking the “spirit cooking” nonsense and Pizzagate. He's also claimed that Mike Cernovich, a far-right troll and conspiracy theorist, deserves a Pulitzer prize for journalism.

In December, Frank Wuco, a senior White House domestic security adviser who formerly hosted a conservative talk show, was revealed to have promoted a number of conspiracy theories. Like Trump, Wuco had asserted that former president Barack Obama had lied about his birthplace.

In 2013, Wuco spread the claim that former CIA director John Brennan had converted to Islam. He also claimed that former attorney general Eric Holder had once been a member of the violent Black Panther movement in the 1970s. Wuco also claimed that Hillary Clinton's closest adviser Huma Abedin was secretly connected to Islamic groups.

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Despite these revelations, Wuco is still serving in his post.

Last month, CNN reported that Jon Cordova, a principal deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, had promoted an unfounded story that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had patronized prostitutes. He also claimed that the 2016 Clinton campaign had altered photos of its rallies to exaggerate attendance. Cordova also spread a fake news story that NBA player Dwyane Wade had endorsed Trump.

The revelations about Cordova's statements prompted HHS to place Cordova on "leave" but as of today, his biography page is still on the department website.

Curtis Ellis, a former columnist for the fake news website WorldNetDaily, worked in the Department of Labor in a senior adviser position until he left in October of last year to join a pro-Trump non-profit organization. During his time at WND, Ellis accused Clinton and Obama of wanting to perform an “ethnic cleansing” of white Americans:

Nearly a half century ago, radical leftists sought to “fundamentally transform America.” Their efforts brought about the liquidation of white blue-collar working families in an epidemic of drug and alcohol abuse.

The decimation of America’s middle class and industrial strength is a case of murder, not accidental death. It was done with premeditation, malice and forethought.


Matthew Sheffield

A writer, web developer, and former tv producer, Matthew Sheffield covers politics, media, and technology for Salon. You can email him via m.sheffield@salon.com or follow him on Twitter.

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