WASHINGTON -- Some of the most incendiary claims made by Donald Trump — both before and after his election — appear to be based on a US website denounced as a purveyor of hoaxes and conspiracy theories.
The president-elect’s unsubstantiated claim this week that “millions” of people voted illegally in this month’s election had been reported on the infowars.com website, based on a study debunked by the online fact-check group Snopes and others.
It was not the first time Trump had repeated information reported in infowars, a site operated by radio host Alex Jones, who is known for claims that the 9/11 attacks were faked by the US government.
During the White House campaign, Trump had repeated claims made on infowars that his rival Hillary Clinton was “wearing an earpiece” and that Muslims had celebrated during the September 11 attacks.
Left-leaning media watchdog group Media Matters for America has documented dozens of instances where Trump has recycled claims from Jones and infowars.
Trump has not repeated some of the most outlandish claims on infowars — that aliens from space had landed in Florida or that the mass killing of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School was faked to win support for gun control — but critics say that it would be troubling for the president-elect to rely on the site for information.
“A lot of what he (Jones) says is just pure nonsense,” said Angelo Carusone of Media Matters.
“What he is presenting is an alternative universe. He is advancing a broader world view that there is a global world government and every day they are going out there to take away your power.”
For Carusone, it remains unclear if Trump believes what was published on infowars or is merely pandering to its readers, but he said either scenario would be disturbing.
Fear of sharia
For example, Carusone said that infowars ran “completely fabricated” stories saying that Muslims were imposing sharia law in US cities.
“If the president believes that and starts to make policy based on the belief that we have sharia law, we have a problem,” said Carusone.
Infowars has nonetheless amassed a significant reader base — with some 14.3 million unique global visitors and 75 million views over the past month, according to the web intelligence firm Quantcast.
Other spectacular — and wholly unsubstantiated — stories on the site included claims that Clinton was involved in a child pedophilia ring operated out of a Washington pizza parlor, and that juice boxes had been laced with chemicals to induce homosexuality in children.
In the most recent incident, Trump appeared to echo the claim by infowars that he would have won the popular vote against Clinton in addition to the Electoral College if votes by illegal immigrants were discounted.
As it stands, Clinton won the popular vote by more than two million ballots and both experts and officials across the political spectrum have disparaged Trump’s unsubstantiated claim of mass fraud.
Trump was interviewed during the campaign by Jones, who also claimed to have had several phone conversations with the Republican billionaire, raising concerns about influence on policy.
“Alex Jones is the most prolific and unhinged conspiracy theorist in America,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group which monitors “hate groups.”
“The fact that our president-elect treats him as if he were a serious thinker and critic is appalling. This is a man who believes, among other things, that the government is responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing, the Boston Marathon attack, the mass murder in Orlando, Florida, and any number of other similar attacks by terrorists.”