California Republican Dana Rohrabacher is no stranger to conspiracy theories. In his meeting with Julian Assange last month, Rohrabacher stated his belief that not only was WikiLeaks not involved in the emails, he even went so far as to say WikiLeaks deserves White House press credentials. And in 2016, he endorsed and attended a screening at Washington DC’s Newseum discrediting the work of Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian lawyer who uncovered a $230 million tax fraud scheme and was tortured to death in prison for it.
Last week, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, in addition to dismissing the Intelligence Community reports confirming Russia’s involvement in our election, he has also revealed his belief that the events last month in Charlottesville were arranged by Democrats, and that the “liberal media” has convinced Americans that they were riots:
“Under Rohrabacher’s scenario, a former ‘Hillary and Bernie supporter’ got Civil War re-enactors to gather under the guise of protecting a Robert E. Lee statue there.
“’It was a setup for these dumb Civil War re-enactors,’ Rohrabacher said. ‘It was left-wingers who were manipulating them in order to have this confrontation’ and to ‘put our president on the spot.'”
This talking point comes from Alex Jones who, on his InfoWars broadcast the Monday after the riots, accused the Southern Poverty Law Center of hiring actors to play white supremacists, and that this had all been arranged over email by George Soros and the Democrats. Politifact classified these remarks as “Pants on Fire,” the highest (or lowest) status it can award. Rohrabacher’s remarks received the same status.
Even still, it will be hard to beat Dana Rohrabacher in 2018. His district – Orange County, California – is notorious for its historical connections to conservatism, being the birthplace of the far-right John Birch Society, and is still wealthier and whiter than many other districts in the Golden State. However, Hillary Clinton won there by two points in 2016, becoming the first Democrat to carry it since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his 1936 landslide.
California Republicans, including Darrell Issa, Kevin McCarthy, and Devin Nunes are high on the Democrats’ list of potential knock-offs in the midterms next year. Rohrabacher admits in the Chronicle interview that “this race will be the toughest” of his career. With any luck, if he continues promoting conspiracies like the ones about Charlottesville, it will also be his last.
Jeremy Fassler is a writer and journalist living in Brooklyn, New York.