A Republican state lawmaker in Idaho refused to back away Monday from claims that the deadly violence following a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month might have been staged with the help of former President Barack Obama.
Representative Bryan Zollinger shared an article last week that suggested the “Unite the Right” march was orchestrated by Obama along with other leading Democrats, such as Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer and billionaire donor George Soros.
After his sharing of the article from a conservative site called American Thinker began to receive significant backlash on his Facebook page, Zollinger wrote that he thought the unsubstantiated piece was “interesting” and “thought provoking” and that some of the theories were “plausible.”
Despite the criticism from across Idaho and the country, Zollinger said he was not backing away from his belief that there was at least a kernel of truth in the article.
“At first, I felt genuinely bad that maybe I had offended somebody,” he said in an interview Monday with Idaho’s Post Register. “Since then, the amazing amount of hate and the despicable things that have been said about myself, my wife, my kids, I’ve doubled down.”
American Thinker regularly posts articles with misleading claims. Its piece on Charlottesville questions whether the rally was a set up to smear President Donald Trump as a racist.
“What if Signer and McAuliffe, in conjunction with Antifa and other Soros-funded groups like Black Lives Matter, planned and orchestrated what happened in Charlottesville and meant for events to unfold roughly as they did?” the article read.
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Zollinger gave no suggestion of wanting to back away from sharing such unfounded speculation, even raising the possibility of direct involvement by Trump’s predecessor.
“[Obama] was a community organizer before he was the president of the United States,” Zollinger said. “I still do think it’s plausible.”
In Charlottesville, one woman died when a car, reportedly driven by an individual with links to white supremacists, drove through a crowd of counterprotesters. In the aftermath, Trump received strong criticism, even from members of his own party, for blaming “both sides” for the violence. The president also said that there were “very fine people” on both sides, referring to the white nationalists and counterprotesters.
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