Earlier this year, after a man rushed the stage where Donald Trump was speaking, the Republican presidential candidate claimed his would-be assailant had ISIS ties, pointing to online evidence that turned out to be a hoax.
Pressed by NBC News’ Chuck Todd for some kind of evidence, Trump replied, “What do I know about it? All I know is what’s on the Internet.”
As BuzzFeed noted, others on Team Trump have adopted a similar posture towards conspiracy theories and intellectual scrutiny.
When Fox News Sunday host Shannon Bream asked Giuliani about Trump’s lagging poll numbers, Giuliani responded that Clinton has “an entire media empire,” – including the New York Times, ABC, and CBS, among others – working on her behalf.“She has an entire media empire that … fails to point out several signs of illness by her. All you got to do is go online.”
Giuliani’s comments were the latest salvo in an aggressive push from the Trump campaign to push bizarre and unsubstantiated claims, contradicted by real evidence, about Hillary Clinton’s health. One campaign spokesperson last week went so far as to start making specific diagnoses about the Democratic candidate from afar.
To date, Clinton’s critics have offered literally nothing to substantiate the claims.
Traditionally, political campaigns have relied on innuendo and whisper campaigns to raise questions about rivals’ health. But as is often the case with the Trump campaign, Republicans this year have no use for subtlety: there’s no subtext, only text. There’s no need to rely on allies to quietly push an ugly smear in the shadows when the presidential nominee and top members of his team are happy to repeat nonsense on national television.
But what’s especially striking about Team Trump’s baseless offensive is that Republicans feel like they have no choice but to go down this unfortunate road.
On the surface, the GOP candidate and his allies try to make the case that Trump can win the presidency by sticking to his divisive message, emphasizing his anti-immigration plans, for example.
But with polls showing the Republican trailing, we’re now apparently getting a look at the back-up plan: baseless conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health. If the gambit seems a little desperate, that’s because it is.
For those on the right hoping for some kind of Trump comeback as the 2016 race gets ready for the homestretch, the fact that the candidate’s message has taken this turn can’t be encouraging.