White House laments "corrosive" impact of conspiracy theory stories

A day after an armed man from North Carolina entered a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor, spurred on by a conspiracy theory stoked in the weeks before the November elections by the release of hacked emails from Wikileaks, the White House said fake stories circulated on the internet about the Hillary Clinton campaign had almost produced a terrible outcome.

"It's deeply troubling that some of those false reports could lead to violence," said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, as Earnest praised the work of D.C. police to deal with Edgar Maddison Welch, who was arrested without incident.

"I think there's no denying the corrosive effect that some of these false reports have had on our political debate," Earnest added.

Police in Washington confirmed that the suspect had been drawn to the Comet Ping Pong pizza place because of internet stories that claim the restaurant has been the center of a child sex trafficking ring run by supporters of Hillary Clinton.

"During a post arrest interview this evening, the suspect revealed that he came to the establishment to self-investigate "Pizza Gate" (a fictitious online conspiracy theory," a police statement read.

After writing a story on Sunday about the incident, numerous responses on Facebook and Twitter accused me of lying about the true nature of Comet Ping Pong, covering up for pedophiles, as many demanded to know how I could take my wife and children to a restaurant that they claimed - without any real evidence - was a haven for terrible crimes.

"I'm not surprised you advise other people to put their kids in harm's way," wrote one person on Twitter.

"I am astounded that you wrote this article," another person wrote. "Just stay out of it. I would delete this post and move on."

Along with those two, there were many others who believe the "pizzagate" conspiracy theory, and weren't backing off one bit.

My response to many of them was to ask if they had ever been inside the pizza place, which features food and drinks in the front, and ping pong tables in the back.

"It's a great place for pizza. You should take your kids there," I told a number people who pressed the pizzagate claims.

Those included the son of President-Elect Trump's choice for National Security Adviser, as Michael Flynn pointed me directly to the John Podesta emails released by Wikileaks.

Those emails included numerous references to "pizza," which critics of Hillary Clinton wove into an elaborate story of sex crimes, based out of Comet Ping Pong.

A story that seems to have no real evidence to back it up, but keeps gaining more and more traction online.

It's left many in the D.C. community around the restaurant wondering what in the heck is going on when it comes to election year conspiracy theories getting in the way of a drink and meal.

"Comet Ping Pong is a nice funky fun family place where adults can sip a cold beer while their kids play ping pong. Nothing more nothing less," said a buddy of mine.

"And now some maniac had to find his way here."

Meanwhile, the suspect has told police that he came from North Carolina to Comet Ping Pong for the expressed purpose of freeing child sex slaves that he believed were being held at the restaurant - the story that's been told by a wild conspiracy theory that accused Hillary Clinton aides of running a child sex trafficking operation.

The man was inside the restaurant for 45 minutes and gave up - after concluding that there was no evidence to back up those online conspiracy theories.

Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.

About the Author