Belief in Conspiracy Theories
Trump's biggest foray into politics before his election as president came as part of a baseless conspiracy that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and was therefore ineligible to be president. As Trump continued to press the issue for years, he lied about a variety of things and made statements like this: "I have people that have been studying [Obama's birth certificate] and they cannot believe what they're finding ... I would like to have him show his birth certificate, and can I be honest with you, I hope he can. Because if he can't, if he can't, if he wasn't born in this country, which is a real possibility ... then he has pulled one of the great cons in the history of politics." (NBC)
There is no basis in fact for this conspiracy claim. When he finally admitted this was the case, he then falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton's campaign started the rumor.
Meanwhile, his nominee for National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, is also susceptible to belief in conspiracies. Flynn believes Islamic law, known as Shariah, is spreading in the United States. This is not true. Such assertions by Flynn became common enough that his subordinates at the Defense Intelligence Agency called them "Flynn facts." (Source: The New York Times)
Flynn's son, who served as his chief of staff and also had contact during the campaign with Trump, also buys into and spreads conspiracy theories. His Twitter and Facebook accounts have contained conspiracies and racially insensitive statements. One theory he pushed was that Trump's opponent Marco Rubio, a Florida senator, was gay and abused cocaine. (CNN) He also pushed the false conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton was part of a pedophilia ring running out of a Washington, D.C. pizzeria, which lead an armed vigilante to show up with an assault rifle. Flynn's son resigned from Trump's transition team shortly before he was fired for being a distraction. (CBS)
|2012.10.11||Trump claims that Obama’s wedding ring has Arabic inscriptions on it. twitter.com |
|2015.07.09||Trump says he still doesn't know where Obama was born. cnn.com (See also 2016 Campaign)|
|2015.12.02||Trump does an interview with Sandy Hook denying conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. infowars.com|
|2016.10.03||Michael Flynn tweets a link to a fake news story implicating Hillary Clinton in a child sex trafficking ring. huffingtonpost.com (See also Michael Flynn)|
|2017.02.15||Stephen Miller retweets claim that Hillary Clinton is involved in child sex trafficking from former K.K.K leader David Duke. littlegreenfootballs.com|
|2017.02.19||Trump personally invites conspiracy radio host who has claimed Obama was attempting to use Ebola to commit white genocide and who has called for 100 million Muslims to be killed to the Mar-a-Lago for a Presidents Day party. twitter.com (See also First 100 Days, Muslims)|
|2017.03.08||White House officials claim Trump isn't the target of an investigation, which Trump implied when he claimed his phones had been wiretapped. nytimes.com (See also Trump Relationship with Russia)|
|2017.03.13||Spicer says Trump still believes millions of illegal immigrants voted in the election. talkingpointsmemo.com (See also First 100 Days, Sean Spicer, Assaults on Facts)|
|2017.11.07||CIA Director Mike Pompeo recently met -- at the urging of Donald Trump -- with one of the principal deniers of Russian interference in the US election. cnn.com (See also Corruption, Mike Pompeo)|
|2017.11.27||Donald Trump, through his foundation, donated to "Project Veritas," an agency with a history of trying to take down liberal organizations, an agency that is now accused of trying to dupe The Washington Post with a fake Roy Moore claim in an undercover operation. newsweek.com (See also Assaults on Civil Liberties, Censorship, Donald J. Trump Foundation)|
|2017.11.29||A spokesman for UK Prime Minister Theresa May condemned Donald Trump's decision to retweet anti-Muslim hate videos from British far-right leader Jayda Fransen, stating that UK citizens "overwhelmingly reject" the prejudiced rhetoric of the far-right. axios.com (See also Racism, Immigration, Muslims)|
|2017.11.30||Donald Trump attacked British Prime Minister Theresa May over her criticism of his racist, Islamophobic far-right retweets. theguardian.com (See also Unpresidential Behavior, Unprecedented Actions, Racism, Nationalism)|
|2017.12.14||A White House senior adviser at the Department of Homeland Security previously promoted conspiracy theories about former President Barack Obama's birthplace, lamented the "Zimbabwe-fication of America," and mocked the LGBT community. cnn.com (See also LGBTQIA, Racism, Black Americans, Department of Homeland Security)|
|2017.12.14||Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, appeared in a video promoting the end of net neutrality regulations with a woman who has been accused of pushing the false "Pizzagate" conspiracy theory. buzzfeed.com (See also Assaults on Civil Liberties, False Statements)|
Objectively speaking, it's a terrible video.
|2017.12.21||On the orders of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Justice Department prosecutors have begun asking FBI agents to explain the evidence they found in a now dormant criminal investigation into a controversial uranium deal that critics have linked to Bill and Hillary Clinton. nbcnews.com (See also Jeff Sessions, Fascism, Department of Justice)|
|2017.12.23||According to six officials, Donald Trump said to his advisers in the Oval Office that 15,000 visitors from Haiti "all have AIDS" and that once the 40,000 visitors from Nigera see the United States, they would never "go back to their huts" in Africa. nytimes.com (See also Racism, Immigration, Rex Tillerson, John Kelly, Stephen Miller, Nationalism)|
|2018.01.02||Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to suggest that Huma Abedin, a former top aide to Hillary Clinton, should face jail time, days after the State Department posted emails found on her estranged husband’s computer that included confidential government information. washingtonpost.com (See also Fascism, Assaults on Civil Liberties, Department of State, Department of Justice)|
|2018.01.11||Donald Trump has a habit of making offensive comments about nonwhite immigrants. washingtonpost.com (See also Racism, Immigration, Unpresidential Behavior)|
|2018.02.01||Donald Trump continues to tell his associates he believes the highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools could help discredit the Russia investigation. cnn.com (See also False Statements, Corruption)|
|2018.02.20||A top official at the Department of Health and Human Services has been placed on administrative leave after a CNN KFile inquiry while the agency investigates social media postings in which he pushed unfounded smears on social media. cnn.com (See also Resignations and Dismissals, Department of Health and Human Services, Racism)|
|2018.02.22||Donald Trump enthusiastically embraced a National Rifle Association position to arm highly trained teachers to fortify schools against mass shootings like the one last week, and said the armed teachers should receive extra pay as an incentive, promoted his idea as demands for stronger gun control intensified across the country. nytimes.com (See also Education)|
“You give them a little bit of a bonus, so practically for free, you have now made the school into a hardened target,” Mr. Trump said. The president estimated that 10 percent to 40 percent of school employees would be qualified to handle a weapon — he offered no data for the claim — and said he would devote federal money to training them.
|2018.03.19||DonaldTrump hired the longtime Washington lawyer Joseph E. diGenova on Monday, adding an aggressive voice to his legal team who has pushed the theory on television that the F.B.I. and Justice Department framed Mr. Trump. nytimes.com (See also Legal Issues, Russian Meddling in Election, Trump Relationship with Russia)|
|2018.03.21||A few months into his presidency, Donald Trump ordered Reince Priebus to make everyone on his staff sign a nondisclosure agreement - one which they knew couldn't be enforced and had no penalties, financial or otherwise. nytimes.com (See also Unpresidential Behavior, Unprecedented Actions, Reince Priebus)|
|2018.04.13||A political appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services, Ximena Barreto, shared an image in 2017 that said "our forefathers would have hung" Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for treason, while also calling Islam "a cult" and pushed the false Pizzagate conspiracy. cnn.com (See also Department of Health and Human Services, Racism)|
|2018.04/28 Donald Trump called for the resignation of Senator Jon Tester and threatened to spread allegations about the Democratic lawmaker in retaliation for helping to thwart his effort to install the White House physician in the cabinet. nytimes.com (See also Unpresidential Behavior, Resignations and Dismissals)|
What makes people believe in conspiracy theories? They flare up during times of uncertainty and fear, experts say. Terrorist strikes, financial crises, high-profile deaths, and natural disasters can trigger people's desire for control. Trying to make sense of things "leads them to connect dots that aren’t necessarily connected in reality,” according to Jan-Willem van Prooijen, associate professor in social and organizational psychology at VU University Amsterdam, who has studied the phenomenon for years.