Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is set to have lunch with a prolific conspiracy theorist who argues the mass shooting in Las Vegas was an intelligence operation meant to distract from the Harvey Weinstein scandal — and who is also, by far, the most successful digital fundraiser for her campaign, according to a recent announcement from the Hawaii Democrat’s presidential campaign staff.
In seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Gabbard, while struggling to register in most polls, has attracted a good deal of support from the fringe of both the left and right, especially online. Even former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke tweeted his support. The congresswoman has repeatedly disavowed Duke’s endorsement. The campaign has, however, embraced some of its lesser-hinged fans.
In a May 16 post to the private Facebook group “Team Tulsi Online Volunteers,” organizer Shani Pomerantz revealed that the campaign had attracted 65,000 donors, an important threshold for being included in the Democratic primary debates. “As our thank you for all of your hard work, we’d like to offer you some awesome prizes!” Pomerantz told supporters. In particular, Niko House, who won the campaign’s donor challenge by attracting 716 new contributors, “will get an opportunity to have lunch with Tulsi,” Pomerantz said.
House, who was a speaker at a March 30 Gabbard campaign event in Los Angeles, is a passionate critic of the “official narrative” on most major news events — mass shootings in the U.S., chemical weapon attacks in Syria and Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee — which he dissects for his 15,000 followers on Twitter and 36,000 subscribers on YouTube.
An Army veteran who studied at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, he first made a name for himself online as the founder of “Carolina Students for Bernie Sanders,” and later alleged that the Vermont senator’s campaign in the Tar Heel State was derailed from within by a sleeper cell of Hillary Clinton supporters, who blocked him from revealing their internal sabotage. “Somebody made a concerted effort to make sure that I could not talk to Bernie or anyone close to him,” he claimed in a March 2016 video, recorded while driving a car.
Since 2016, House has succeeded in getting close to Gabbard, who was a surrogate for Sanders during his last run for the White House and was a fellow at the now-defunct Sanders Institute. House’s conspiracy theorizing has since reached another level: Bill Cosby, he has claimed, was probably framed for serial rape after a failed bid to purchase NBC. (“80 women came out of literally nowhere,” House claimed in a YouTube video.) He declared it “confirmed” that a murdered DNC staffer, not Russia, was the source for the hacked Democratic emails in 2016. (“Seth Rich was in contact with WikiLeaks,” he claimed.) And he speculated that the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, like the gassing of children in Syria, was a false flag.
That wasn’t the only mass shooting House found suspect. “If you don’t think that the Vegas shooting is somehow connected to Harvey Weinstein, even if it’s only as another distraction, then you got to be — I don’t know what you’re looking at,” House said in a 2017 video. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who worked with Weinstein, have ties to the CIA, he maintained: “Both their families are connected to intelligence agencies.”
House also expressed a vague but disturbing level of support for Cesar Sayoc, who sent mail bombs to several prominent Democrats and members of the media last fall. “I can’t say if I would be upset if they got hurt. I would be like, ‘Yo, you shouldn’t be sending bombs to people’s houses because of collateral damage and other people could get hurt.’ But I don’t feel bad for you getting a bomb sent to your house,” he said in October. “I refuse to trick myself into being sympathetic toward warmongering sociopaths, and that includes George Soros, possibly more than any of them.”
House has also weighed in on “Pizzagate,” the conspiracy theory that John Podesta and others on the Clinton campaign were discussing sex crimes in their hacked emails. “The language just so happens to be code for pedophilia and human trafficking,” he said. In another video, he addresses speculation that Chester Bennington, the lead singer of the band Linkin Park, “could be John Podesta’s bastard child.” Bennington, who was sexually abused as a minor, died by suicide in 2017.
The Gabbard campaign did not respond to emails and a phone call requesting comment. House also did not respond.
Gabbard has given no indication she believes these conspiracy theories, but she has given House a shoutout. “Niko’s been great,” Gabbard told supporters during a March 2019 livestream. “He’s talked about a lot of very important issues.” The feeling is mutual: Gabbard, House said, is the only Democrat “saying that Assad is innocent.” He has released dozens of videos promoting her campaign.
Soon after her own livestream, Gabbard appeared on House’s YouTube show to discuss her 2020 campaign, her 2017 meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, and why she was still a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. A co-host asked about election security, citing concern about the integrity of the 2016 Democratic primaries.
A recording of the interview, conducted a day before the campaign event in Los Angeles, includes a referral link for viewers wishing to donate to the Gabbard campaign.
Gabbard has been appreciative of House’s efforts on her behalf. “You work very hard to try to find the truth, to remain objective and to really help to inform and educate and engage people in these kinds of conversations,” Gabbard told him and his co-hosts as their interview wound down. “This is what we need more of.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.