So far, almost nothing is known about the person behind the six explosive devices sent to high-ranking officials in the space of 48 hours. But the fact that all six recipients of the devices are associated with the Democratic Party — and frequent targets of right-wing conspiracies — meant that it didn’t take long for the internet to assign the suspect a nickname: MAGAbomber.
As that hashtag crept up Twitter’s trending column, the conservative spin machine was hard at work weaving its own narrative, peddling the kinds of conspiracy theories you’d normally associate with the likes of Infowars and other dark corners of the internet.
Many suggested that the devices were the handiwork of liberals with an end goal of making the GOP look bad, divert attention from “left-wing mobs,” and distract from the caravan of about 7,000 Central American migrants traveling up to Mexico on foot with the ultimate goal of reaching the Southern border.
By Wednesday evening, authorities had discovered explosive devices targeting at least a half-dozen high-profile liberal figures: billionaire philanthropist George Soros, the Clintons, Barack Obama, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, former CIA director John Brennan (via CNN’s headquarters), and former Attorney General Eric Holder. The package to Holder was apparently undeliverable, and sent instead to the return address printed on the envelope, which turned out to be the offices of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz near Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Rush Limbaugh, the grandfather of conservative conspiracy talk radio, took to the airwaves as the news of the bombs developed to opine, with absolutely no evidence, that the string of pipe bombs could be a false flag from the Left.
“Republicans just don’t have a behavioral history like this,” Limbaugh asserted, apparently unaware that a conservative-identifying Texas man killed at least two people in Austin during a string of bombings in March.
Limbaugh suggested the bombs sent out this week were actually a coordinated campaign by Democrats to make the GOP look bad leading up to the midterms. He also suggested it was an effort to distract from the migrant caravan, or even possible impending “Mueller leaks.”
Candace Owens, director of communications at conservative advocacy group Turning Point USA, also jumped into the fray. Like Limbaugh, Owens is not a fringe voice: She’s got nearly 900,000 followers on twitter, has met with President Donald Trump, and even received praise from the likes of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“I’m going to go ahead and state that there is a 0% chance that these “suspicious packages” were sent out by conservatives. The only thing “suspicious” about these packages is their timing,” Owens tweeted. “Caravans, fake bomb threats—these leftists are going ALL OUT for midterms.”
She has since deleted the tweet.
Bill Mitchell, a Conservative pro-Trump shock jock named as having the 26th most influential twitter account by MIT Media Lab during the 2016 election, also did not hold back on his conspiracy theory.
“These ‘explosive packages’ being sent to the #Media and high profile Democrats has Soros astro-turfing written all over it,” Mitchell tweeted, “so the media can paint the #GOP as “the dangerous mob.”
Ann Coulter, another conservative commentator who moved from the fringes into the mainstream during the Trump era, expressed a view similar to Limbaugh: that it was simply out of character for a Republican to make a bomb. “From the Haymarket riot to the Unabomber, bombs are a liberal tactic,” Coulter wrote on Twitter.
Conservative talk show host and President Trump’s favorite Fox News contributor Sean Hannity, sounded off on his radio show about the “media response” to the bombs, complaining that the day’s events were getting a disproportionate amount of attention compared to the time when Mitch McConnell was shouted at by a protester while having dinner with his wife over the weekend, or last year’s shooting at a Congressional baseball game that left Rep. Steve Scalise, a Republican, seriously injured.
“What is the media’s response? Blame Trump, Fox News, and conservative talk radio,” Hannity said. “So predictable. Having ignored all of the incendiary insane rhetoric that we’ve been chronicling for months, like, ‘Get in their faces, follow them, follow them into restaurants, and grocery stores and tell them they’re not wanted anymore.’”
Michael Flynn Jr., a prominent conspiracy theorist who served on Trump’s transition team, and whose father briefly served as the president’s National Security Advisor before pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, sent out a number of tweets pushing the “liberal false flag” conspiracy, which he later deleted.
Frank Gaffney, an anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist and head of the Center for Security Policy, whose research has been cited by Trump in the past, also took to Twitter to express his views.
“None of the leftists ostensibly targeted for pipe-bombs were actually at serious risk, since security details would be screening their mail,” Gaffney tweeted. “So let’s determine not only who is responsible for these bombs, but whether they were trying to deflect attention from the Left’s mobs.”
Cover image: LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 27: Radio talk show host and conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, one of the judges for the 2010 Miss America Pageant, speaks during a news conference for judges at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino January 27, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The pageant will be held at the resort on January 30, 2010. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)