The 6 most-damaging conspiracies tweeted by Trump

There’s no doubt that President Donald Trump loves to entertain conspiracy theories.

In some instances, he has wielded them as political weapons, to take down rivals and blame his administration’s problems on hidden enemies. At other times, it appears he is a sincere believer—casting doubt on the citizenship of President Barack Obama and dismissing climate change. Just this week, he tweeted about the FBI’s “witch hunt” to bring him down, writing that this unverified situation “could be one of the biggest political scandals in history.”

Every time out, he disseminates these fringe ideas via his Twitter. Here are his worst offenses.

6 damaging conspiracies that Trump has peddled on Twitter

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1) Birtherism

The birther movement began as a racially charged smear to delegitimize then-Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Theorists asserted that the would-be president was not a natural-born U.S. citizen and had, in fact, been born in Kenya. For this reason, they claimed, he could not hold presidential office.

Trump became a celebrity advocate of the conspiracy theory, which helped propel it from the conservative fringe to the mainstream.

In 2011, Obama published his long-form birth certificate in a bid to finally put an end to the conspiracy. It showed that Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Aug 4, 1961. However, some theorists dismissed the certificate as a forgery, despite officials confirming its authenticity.

Trump voiced his own doubts about the birth certificate on Twitter.

Through the years that followed, Trump continued to perpetuate conspiracy theories about Obama’s citizenship status in media interviews.

In 2013 he even posted that the death of Hawaii health director Loretta Fuddy in a plane crash might have been an assassination to cover up the truth.

Eventually, during one of his 2016 presidential campaign events and amid increasing pressure for him to explain his position, Trump stated publicly for the first time that Obama was “born in the United States.” He then began to falsely claim that birtherism had been invented by his Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton.

In November 2017, however, an unnamed senator told the New York Times that the president continues to privately tout his birther beliefs.

trump conspiracy theories Mark Nozell/Flickr (CC-BY)

2) Voter fraud

Since the 2016 presidential election, Trump has repeatedly claimed, without any evidence, that widespread voter fraud cost him the popular vote. He insists that millions voted illegally and claimed that between 3 to 5 million unauthorized immigrants had voted in the election, not counting those allegedly posing as dead Americans or registered in multiple states.

Within days of becoming president, Trump declared that he would set up a commission to investigate voter fraud—which he did by executive order. The commission was disbanded in January, after a year in operation and no success, and the investigation handed over to Homeland Security.

It’s a claim that Trump has returned to. In April, during a speech on tax reform in West Virginia he touched on the subject again.

“In many places, like California, the same person votes many times,” he said. “You probably heard about that. They always like to say ‘oh that’s a conspiracy theory.’ Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people, and it’s very hard because the state guards their records. They don’t want to see it.”

Investigations into double voting by the Heritage Foundation show that in 1,071 voter fraud cases in the last four decades there have been 961 convictions. Voter fraud is rare.

So this conspiracy theory, of Trump’s own invention, has been refuted by officials and academics many times. There is no proof at all that millions of fraudulent votes were cast.

3) Climate change denial

Even before his run for the presidency, Trump was tweeting his belief that global warming was a myth.

It wasn’t always that way. In 2009, Trump signed a public letter to the Obama administration representing business leaders across the country that demanded investment in a “clean energy economy.”

By 2012, however, he was tweeting that it had been invented by the Chinese to damage U.S. manufacturing.

Climate scientists have published multiple studies on the topic in peer-reviewed journals, with a broad consensus that human activity has caused measurable and significant climate-warming in the past century.

Trump’s beliefs even informed policy decision in this case with the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, an international pact to combat climate change worldwide.  

4) Ted Cruz’s dad played a role in the JFK assassination

In a bid to discredit his political opponent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) ahead of the 2016 Indiana Republican primary, Trump ventured that Cuz’s father was somehow linked to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

During a phone interview with Fox News, Trump cited an article published in the National Enquirer which claimed to show grainy black-and-white photos of Rafael Cruz standing near killer Lee Harvey Oswald.

“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being—you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said. “What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up? They don’t even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it… What was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting? It’s horrible.”

Cruz’s campaign team hit back, slating Trump as being “detached from reality” in peddling “false tabloid garbage.”

trump conspiracy theories Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)

5) The deep state

Trump often rants about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, blasting it as a “witch hunt” and conspiracy aimed at destroying his presidency—and all roads lead back to the deep state.

The “deep state” conspiracy is tied to the idea that unelected officials and agencies within the federal government are strategically working in a covert manner to influence the course of American politics.

Conspiracy theorists have been throwing the idea around for a long time but for Trump supporters, and the president himself, it has come to define the government agencies they believe are working to sabotage the current administration.

The conspiracy found fresh form in May after Trump heard that the FBI had used a confidential source in its investigation into suspected Russian collusion in the 2016 election. The president then claimed that his campaign had been “infiltrated or surveilled” for political reasons.

The conspiratorial element was affirmed, within the paranoid frame of a deep state narrative, when the Justice Department was unwilling to release sensitive information on the operation to House Republicans.

6) Vaccines cause autism

For a long time, Trump has promoted the idea that vaccinations lead to autism, a theory promoted by anti-vaxxer activists and debunked by multiple scientific studies.

Then, in 2015, during a Republican primary debate, he blamed vaccinations for causing autism in one of his employee’s children.

“People that work for me, just the other day, 2 years old, beautiful child went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later, got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic,” he said.

The president offered no detail or evidence of his assertion at the time, but his comments were condemned as dangerous by medical organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Immunization Safety Commission cite multiple scientific studies in rejecting the conspiracy theory.

David Gilmour

David Gilmour

David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology.