Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) speaks during an event on May 31, 2014 in New Orleans, La.
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Santorum backer: Obama tried to ‘nuke’ Charleston

When Frank Gaffney, a prominent right-wing conspiracy theorist, hosted the South Carolina National Security Action Summit last week, it was easy to predict the rhetoric would get pretty nutty. It turns out, however, that the gathering was even more radical than expected.
 
A few unannounced Republican presidential candidates – Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, and Bobby Jindal – participated in the “summit,” no doubt eager to curry favor with the far-right activists in the early primary state. But it seems the most memorable remarks came from an audience member, not a White House hopeful.
 
A woman who identified herself as a retired school teacher posed this question to Santorum:
“Why is the Congress rolling over and letting this Communist dictator destroy my country? Y’all know what he is and I know what he is. I want him out of the White House; he’s not a citizen; he could have been removed a long time ago…
 
“Ted [Cruz?] told me I’ve got to wait for the next election. I don’t think the country will be around for the next election. Obama tried to blow up a nuke in Charleston a few months ago! And the three admirals, and generals. He has totally destroyed our military. He’s fired all the generals and all the admirals that said they wouldn’t fire on the American people.”
To be sure, it’s not fair to blame candidates for ridiculous comments from supporters, though Santorum didn’t seem particularly eager to disagree with the audience member. The former senator said he can “absolutely agree” about the “complete lack of leadership” from the White House. Specifically on immigration policy, Santorum said “the word ‘tyrant’ ” comes to mind to describe President Obama.
 
But even putting the Republican’s underwhelming reaction aside, there was part of the woman’s tirade that stood out for me. Most of the harangue was familiar – too many on the right have convinced themselves that the president is a Communist dictator who isn’t a citizen – but “Obama tried to blow up a nuke in Charleston a few months ago”?
 
I pay pretty close attention to the news, and I like to think that if the president was prepared to detonate a nuclear weapon in an American city, I would have heard something about it. So what’s this all about?
 
Apparently, on the far-right fringe, there are a few folks who genuinely believe a very silly story. Dave Weigel fleshed out the details.
In September 2013, the conspiracy news site InfoWars published an “exclusive” story, citing “a high level source inside the military,” about the transfer of nuclear warheads to the East Coast. The story was shared nearly 25,000 times on Facebook, aided by a video introduction by Alex Jones and by a follow-up that quoted South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham’s worry that a military build-up would lead to nuclear weapons moving through the port of Charleston. “This ultimately reeks of yet another false flag being orchestrated by the United States government in order to send us into war,” Jones wrote in a follow-up.
 
In October 2013, the European Union Times – a “news” site that combines real stories with rumors – cited a “Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) report circulating in the Kremlin today” to report that a nuclear weapon had been detonated off of Charleston’s harbor, as proven by an Oct. 8 earthquake that happened hundreds of miles from the coast. This, according to the website, was a botched “false flag” attack, which was carried out, strangely, in the middle of the government shutdown. On Reddit, discussion swirled that the “false flag” attack led to the dismissal of US Navy Vice Admiral Tim Giardina, US Air Force Major General Michael Carey, Major General Charles M. Gurganus and Major General Gregg A. Sturdevant.
It’s true that those military leaders were either ousted or reassigned, but each were punished for specific reasons that had nothing to do with a conspiracy: Giardina was caught in a poker-rigging scheme, while Gurganus and Sturdevant were forced into retirement – before October 2013 – as a result of an investigation into a Taliban attack in Afghanistan.
 
What we have here, in other words, is a ridiculous conspiracy theory without any ties to reality, whether the folks at the South Carolina National Security Action Summit realize it or not.
 

Conservative Media, Conspiracy Theories and Rick Santorum

Santorum backer: Obama tried to 'nuke' Charleston