Republican State Rep. Bryan Zollinger of Idaho Falls spread conspiracy theories against former President Barack Obama and Democrats on his Facebook page regarding the white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Zollinger is now receiving campaign contributions for each critical email, Twitter mention or Facebook comment he receives.
After President Donald Trump's press conference on Aug. 15, when he equated the actions of neo-Nazis with the actions of counter-protesters and blamed "both sides," he was rebuked by Democrats and some Republicans. In response to criticism against Trump, Zollinger posted on his Facebook page a conspiracy-laden blog post published Aug. 18 on a website called "American Thinker" titled "Charlottesville and Its Aftermath: What if it Was a Setup?"
The blog post suggests that there is a campaign to "label Trump some kind of racist and Nazi sympathizer," and that Obama and his "inner circle" have set up a resistance movement in Washington, D.C.
The author suggests Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and billionaire George Soros orchestrated clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters, and that "the media" is also to blame.
Not only did Zollinger post this blog on Facebook, he added the following comments obtained by the Idaho Statesman:
"I am not saying it is true, but I am suggesting that it is completely plausible. We know that many protesters were Soros funded and we also know that Donald Trump is not a racist.
"The man was in the public spotlight for 20-plus years with zero allegations of racism.
"He has clearly and unequivocally denounced by name these hate groups as he well should have. The media has chosen to push this narrative until even the president's own party are sucking up to the media, mind you only those that know they are part of the swamp that Trump avowed to drain.
"So while I'm not saying I believe this article, I'm glad to see someone out there asking people to think for themselves and use some logic and reason rather than spout what the media, otherwise known as the communications branch of the Democratic Party is selling."
The statement that in "20-plus years" Trump has had "zero allegations of racism" excludes instances such as Trump placing full-page ads in the four daily papers in New York City in 1989 calling for the return of the death penalty and the execution of Black and Latino teens known as the "Central Park Five." The teenagers from Harlem were wrongly convicted of viciously assaulting and raping a white woman, Trisha Meili, in New York City's Central Park.
Another instance is the Department of Justice suing Trump; his father, Fred; and Trump Management for alleged racial discrimination at Trump housing developments in New York in 1973. The company would not rent apartments in one of his developments to African Americans. The DOJ pursued a settlement in which the Trumps would promise not to discriminate. Two years later, the case was settled.
On Monday, Zollinger doubled down on his nod to a conspiracy theory on the white supremacist demonstration, which resulted in an act of domestic terrorism leaving one woman dead and 19 others injured.
"At first, I felt genuinely bad that maybe I had offended somebody," Zollinger told The Spokesman-Review. "Since then, the amazing amount of hate and the despicable things that have been said about myself, my wife, my kids, I've doubled down."
He continued, "[Obama] was a community organizer before he was the president of the United States … I still do think it's plausible."
Zollinger referred to a video circulating featuring a Charlottesville cop saying police were ordered to stand down. The original source of the video is YourNewsWire.com, according to The Spokesman-Review.
Apparently, that's a fake news site.
A project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center, FactCheck.org, found that Your News Wire is a website documented to have carried fake or satirical articles.
Snopes.com also states that the claim "Police in Charlottesville were issued a 'stand down' order and told to let violence happen" is false.
Zollinger is receiving money from donors for every negative social media comment about his conspiracy theory post.
On Monday, he posted the following on Facebook: