The owner of the Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant that was the subject of a false Hillary Clinton conspiracy ripped those who spread fake news after a North Carolina man walked into the pizzeria on Sunday and pointed an assault rifle at one of his employees, then began shooting.
The 28-year-old gunman, Edgar Maddison Welch, told police he traveled to Washington from Salisbury, N.C., to “self-investigate” the conspiracy theory, which alleged that the pizzeria was the center of a sex ring involving Clinton and her campaign chief. Welch was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, police said. No one was injured in the shooting.
“There will be a time and place to address how and why this happened in greater detail,” James Alefantis, owner of Comet Ping Pong, said in a statement. “For now, I will simply say that we should all condemn the efforts of certain people to spread malicious and utterly false accusations.”
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The “PizzaGate” tale began in late October during the FBI’s investigation into emails discovered on the laptop of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s estranged husband, disgraced former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner. A tweet claiming that the NYPD was looking into evidence of Clinton’s involvement in an “international child enslavement ring” made its way to fringe message boards and websites.
Twitter users scouring leaked emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta claimed the missives contained code words about pedophilia and sex trafficking — and members of the 4Chan message board noticed one email chain between Podesta and Alefantis discussing a possible fundraiser for Clinton. It wasn’t long before Comet Ping Pong was falsely named as the hub of the fictitious child sex ring, and #PizzaGate — fueled by social media and anti-Clinton fervor — was born.
Even retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who President-elect Donald Trump has tapped to advise him on national security, shared similar conspiratorial stories.
U decide – NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary Emails: Money Laundering, Sex Crimes w Children, etc…MUST READ! https://t.co/O0bVJT3QDr
— General Flynn (@GenFlynn) November 3, 2016
“Let me state unequivocally: These stories are completely and entirely false, and there is no basis in fact to any of them,” Alefantis said in his statement. “What happened today demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories comes with consequences. I hope that those involved in fanning these flames will take a moment to contemplate what happened here today and stop promoting these falsehoods right away.”
Last month, Alefantis told the New York Times that he and his employees had begun receiving death threats in the days leading up to and after the election and that he had alerted the FBI and local law enforcement to the onslaught of #PizzaGate hate. A week before the Times story ran, a supporter of the PizzaGate theory shot live video from inside the restaurant, and was asked to leave.
Nearby business owners reported similar harassment.
“This was our worst fear,” Matt Carr, owner of the Little Red Fox market and coffee shop, told the Washington Post. “That someone would read all this and come to the block with a gun. And today it happened.”
Police said two weapons were found inside the restaurant and a third was recovered from Welch’s vehicle.
But the incident appeared to do nothing to quell the conspiracy theorists.
“Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story,” Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., tweeted. “The left seems to forget #PodestaEmails and the many ‘coincidences’ tied to it.”
— Michael G Flynn???????? (@mflynnJR) December 5, 2016
The younger Flynn, who has reportedly served as his father’s chief of staff, retweeted a tweet from Jack Posobiec, special projects director for CitizensForTrump.com, who suggested that the gunman was an actor carrying out a “false flag” operation on behalf of the U.S. government.