Tuesday 21 August, 2018

Trump nominee for Lucian ambassador spread conspiracy theories

US president Donald Trump’s nominee to be the next ambassador to St Lucia, Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has come under fire for spreading conspiracy theories on social media.

CNN reported earlier this week that the nominee Leandro Rizzuto Jr spread smears on Twitter about Trump’s Republican opponents during the party's presidential primary in 2016. Rizzuto Jr targeted Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Ohio Governor John Kasich.

CNN showed that one of the tweets involved a strange theory about Cruz's wife Heidi and the end of America:

“One tweet Rizzuto retweeted from February 2016 has a picture of Heidi Cruz with a headline that reads, "This Woman Should Scare the Hell Out of All Americans" and alleges that "Heidi is an architect of the North American Union (NAU), whose goal is to destroy the sovereignty of the United States." It goes on to say that, "If Ted becomes US President, it virtually ensures the dissolving of the USA and the formation of the NAU. This would put Heidi Cruz in line to become the First Lady--NOT of the USA, but of the new North American Union."

Ted Cruz responded to the find on Thursday saying, "I expect he'll have an interesting and vigorous confirmation process."

Nominees for US ambassadorships need to be confirmed by the Senate.

CNN also reported that Rizzuto “retweeted a person who falsely claimed that Cruz and Kasich were funded by Democratic mega-donor George Soros. Included was a picture of Soros and a caption that said: "George Soros the leader of their movement worked for Hitler helping kill his own people the jews." The false allegation against Soros, who was a child during World War II, is common in fringe, right-wing conspiracy circles.”

A spokesperson for Republican senator Ben Sasse reacted by saying that Rizzuto should “put on his tinfoil hat and visit our office with evidence for his salacious conspiracy theories and cuckoo allegations.”

They continued, “People who want to serve Americans as our diplomats and spokespeople abroad should know that words and truth matter, even during campaigns. Cynics and nuts are probably going to have a hard time securing Senate confirmation."

The White House defended Rizzuto with Deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters telling Dallas Morning News that Trump looks forward to his "swift confirmation by the Senate, and is confident he will be a great ambassador."

During the Republican primary race, Trump himself promoted a conspiracy theory from the National Enquirer tabloid that linked Ted Cruz’s father to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Trump has also promoted several other conspiracy theories, most notably as a leading figure in pushing the infamous ‘birther’ claim that his predecessor Barack Obama was not born in the United States and as such was not a legitimate president. Trump admitted he believed Obama was in fact born in the US in September of 2016 after boosting the conspiracy for 5 years. There have been reports since then that he still questions the veracity of Obama's birth certificate.