The “Clinton Body Count” conspiracy theory has been one of the most durable right-wing plots of the last three decades.
First assembled by anti-Clinton media figure Linda Thompson in the early 90s, the list comes in different versions and can sometimes stretch on for hundreds of names, all containing people close to the orbit of Bill and/or Hillary Clinton who have “died mysteriously” in the last four decades. Every single death is labeled “mysterious” or “unsolved” or “suspicious.” And all are eventually pinned on the Clintons, all done to clean up their messes, consolidate their power, protect their assets, or just get rid of people they don’t like.
In reality, the Clinton Body Count is a mess of confirmation bias, made up nonsense, and hysteria. Many of the people “killed by the Clintons” left behind suicide notes, died of natural causes, or had no connection to the couple. Several have never been conclusively proven to exist.
Yet it persists, year after year.
And a string of high profile deaths has sent conspiracy theorists scrambling to put a new body count list together, exaggerating or making up connections between people who had none, and casting Hillary Clinton in particular as a mass murderer obsessed with using her final decades to purge her enemies.
The New Clinton Body Count list began suddenly in early June 2019, with the murders of two former state representatives, Linda Collins-Smith of Arkansas on June 4 and Jonathan Nichols of Oklahoma the next day. Both were found dead in their homes of a single gunshot wound, and both crimes are, as of now, unsolved.
The untimely deaths of two former state legislators (Collins-Smith lost her primary in 2018, and Nichols was termed out in 2012) are unlikely news items to break through 2019’s chaotic cycle, except for one fact that conspiracy theorists instantly grabbed onto: Collins-Smith represented Bill Clinton’s home state.
That was literally all it took for Collins-Smith to be put at the center of a host of instant rumors that she was about to testify to a grand jury related to the Whitewater, that she had tracked down $25 million laundered by the Clintons from the state’s Health Department, or that she was about to blow the whistle on Clinton Foundation child trafficking. None of these were true, and all originated either from random tweets or willfully misinterpreted local news stories.
There’s no evidence Collins-Smith even knew the Clintons. But her death, combined with Nichols’ death the next day, got the ball rolling, pushed by people who found it impossible that two former state reps could die the same way one day apart.
Once conspiracy theories like this start, they quickly take on a life of their own, sucking up everything that happens around them and including it in the growing plot.
So it went for the suicides of two veteran NYPD figures, which took place that same week. The same day Nichols’ body was found, NYPD Deputy Chief Steven Silks of the Patrol Borough Queens North was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot. The day after, the body of veteran Brooklyn Homicide Detective Joseph Calabrese was discovered in a grove of bushes, also dead by his own hand.
Both men were nearly 40-year veterans of the NYPD. What they were not, however, was linked to the Clintons.
Some conspiracy theorists tried to shoehorn the two men into the Anthony Weiner scandal, as it was Clinton-related emails on Weiner’s laptop which were the center of then-FBI head James Comey’s infamous letter to Congress reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton just before the 2016 election.
But while the NYPD had investigated Weiner’s underage sexting proclivities, it was eventually the FBI who took him into custody. There’s no reason why a homicide detective and a patrol deputy chief in Queens would have had anything to do with Weiner or his infamous laptop, despite breathless claims to the contrary.
Given the complete lack of evidence the Clintons had anything to do with any of these four untimely deaths, the list could have stopped right there. Except then Hillary Clinton’s brother died. Secretary Clinton announced the death of youngest brother Tony Rodham on Twitter last Saturday morning, and it immediately caught the eye of conspiracy theorists who think that the Clintons weren’t content to buzzsaw their way through former state reps and NYPD veterans.
No one is safe around Hillary Clinton, not even her own brother… The cause of his death has not yet been made public. https://t.co/JAqcJxNi1L— Real Ben Garrison Cartoons (@GrrrGraphics) June 9, 2019
Despite no cause of death being announced, believers deduced that Tony Rodham had either been killed by the Clintons. Or he had disappeared into an anti-deep state witness protection program because he was about to blow the whistle on their mass looting of the treasures of the free people of the Earth.
Conspiracy cranks gossiped about Rodham’s long-ago and very public links to gold mining in Haiti, a failed scheme to export hazelnuts from the Republic of Georgia, and golf trips with Bill. And they deduced that there was literally no other possible reason for Rodham to have died than murder at the hands of his sister. Or that she lied about the whole thing for some unknown reason.
There are other names being added to the list that are even more tangential than the others. A Commerce Department official killed by her husband (who then killed himself), a Texas police chief who fell out of a boat, and a Miami news anchor who once ate crawfish with Bill Clinton are all being connected to the Clintons—for no reason other than they happened to have died and been somewhat high-profile, all supposed victims of “Arkancide”—the habitual untimely deaths of anyone who has ever been in the same time zone as the Clintons.
So why are the Clintons being linked in the first place, if there’s no evidence that they had anything to gain by killing these people, or any serious connection to any of them? The most likely reason is that to a certain segment of the far-right, the Clintons are the beginning and ending of evil in America —but that’s going to change at some point.
The Clintons are both in their early 70s (though younger than President Trump) and will play less and less of a role in public life. While they continue to write books and give speeches, neither are likely to run for office again, and will recede from America’s consciousness as they get older and focus on their health and family life. When that happens, the country will have lost one of its most significant political forces, and right-wing conspiracy theorists will have lost their most significant whipping post.
This last push is just that, a last gasp at getting in shots at the Clintons before the exit the national stage forever.
The Clintons have been at the center of conspiracy theories for four decades, from Hillary’s dalliances with cattle futures trading in 1978 and all the way through Vince Foster’s suicide, Whitewater, Benghazi, Seth Rich’s murder, and now these random deaths.
There are entire careers in right-wing media that exist because of Clinton conspiracy theories. It’s simply easier and more lucrative for conspiracy pushers to tie unrelated events to the Clintons, because they have an audience of people primed to believe almost any outlandish rumor or accusation pointed at them. But that clock is running out.
As for the deaths themselves, there are enough current and former state legislators that two dying days apart isn’t statistically significant. Beyond that, police officers already commit suicide at higher rates than normal. And it’s likely that the Rodham and Clinton families haven’t released Tony Rodham’s cause of death for privacy reasons, as opposed to Hillary-killed-him reasons.
But until the Clintons are out of public life for good (and maybe even after), get ready for every stubbed toe and heart attack to be blamed on their limitless capacity for killing and power.
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