Jim Hoft, appearing at an August 2016 "Tea Party For Trump" rally, said Donald Trump's proposed immigration policies sent a "thrill up his leg." It was weird.
It's a rarely acknowledged fact that St. Louis plays an outsized role in feeding the right-wing media cauldron with its necessary diet of Trump-mania and conspiracy theories — and with all due respect to Ed Martin and his efforts to burnish the turds of Steve Bannon
and James O'Keefe
, there's no denying that man at the top of the turd pile is Jim Hoft.
Hoft's site, The Gateway Pundit, serves as a primary source for conservative media pillars ranging from Drudge Report to Sean Hannity, and the site has the fact-checking capabilities of an immoral goldfish. Still, the fact that Hoft's site is regularly busted
for sharing false stories apparently didn't stop the organizers of a "Social Media Censorship" panel scheduled as a breakout session during this week's Conservative Political Action Conference — the massive annual get together of conservative activists — from extending Hoft an invitation.
Or at least, that was the plan until Tuesday, when the panel's organizer, the think tank American Principles Project, reportedly demanded Hoft be dropped over a story that had targeted Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student David Hogg, one of the survivors of last week's horrific mass shooting in Florida.
The story, published Monday and authored by Gateway Pundit contributor Lucian Wintrich, highlighted a now-removed YouTube video showing Hogg appearing to stumble over his words during a media interview. The video reportedly described Hogg as an "actor,"
and although the Gateway Pundit didn't parrot that particularly noxious accusation, Wintrich's story did allege that Hogg was being "coached" to criticize Donald Trump. Hogg's nefarious intentions were extrapolated, without evidence, from his father's previous employment with the FBI.
In its conclusion, The Gateway Pundit story questioned why "the child of an FBI agent" is being trotted out as "a pawn for anti-Trump rhetoric and anti-gun legislation."
"Because the FBI is only looking to curb YOUR Constitutional rights and INCREASE their power," the story argued, answering its own baseless question with a baseless conspiracy theory. "We’ve seen similar moves by them many times over. This is just another disgusting example of it."
However, attacking a high school student who just survived a horrific mass shooting only served to draw disgust to The Gateway Pundit — particularly because the "crisis actor" theory was suddenly trending all over social media. Adding to the hype, on Tuesday, an aide to Florida state Representative Shawn Harrison emailed a reporter to accuse Hogg and another high school student of pretending to be traumatized students — the aide, Benjamin Kelly, was fired
As news outlets subsequently traced the "crisis actor" conspiracy theory
to its various sources
, the reports repeatedly pointed to the Gateway Pundit
And that was apparently too much for the panel's sponsor.
“The reason that Jim Hoft is not allowed to be on this panel is because of his unfair and distracting coverage of the Florida shooting," said Terry Schilling, American Principles Project's executive director, in a Wednesday interview with Politico
In response, Hoft has lashed out at CPAC — "CPAC: Where Everyone Thinks Trump Supporters Are Nazis" one headline reads — and the "conservative elites" who tossed him from the panel.
And what of the original Monday story, the one that got the conspiracy ball rolling? That story is still up on the site, with no retractions or clarifications added to reflect that, just maybe, it was a bad idea to paint a conspiracy target on the back of a teenager who's now receiving death threats
and having to declare publicly that he is not crisis actor.
Nah, that's not Hoft's style. In fact, yesterday he reshared
the initial story that helped start this mess, adding updates only to reflect only that he'd been booted from the CPAC panel.
Hoft also claimed that "CPAC takes their marching orders from Chelsea Clinton," which is probably another baseless conspiracy theory, but who even knows anymore? Nice going, Chelsea. Very nice.
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com