It’s tempting to think of Paul Nehlen as a bad joke. Nehlen is running again against House Speaker Paul Ryan in the 1st Congressional District Republican Primary. Two years ago, in a campaign that was tied to notorious “scam PAC” operator Dan Backer, Nehlen lost 84 percent to 16 percent. After that loss, Nehlen announced he was a candidate for Speaker of the House. He received zero votes, of course.
Despite the humiliating loss in 2016, Nehlen is running again. Nehlen’s campaign is still a mix of race-baiting and conspiracy theories that he hopes will bring him publicity.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Nehlen has endorsed the notorious “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory. It’s the belief that a pizza restaurant in Washington D.C. is actually a front for a child prostitution ring that services members of the Democratic establishment. When asked on Reddit if he believes the “Pizzagate story,” Nehlen simply replied, “I believe it is real.”
Nehlen later tried to explain his position on Twitter to the AP:
“I believe in the broader possibility that there are those in positions of power to which laws do not equally apply to them, and therefore, I pray (Attorney General Jeff) Sessions unleashes the full power of his assets to root out and prosecute EQUALLY those who prey on children, including human trafficking narco-terrorists, and those in positions of power,” Nehlen said.
The spread of the conspiracy theory by some Alt-Right media sources led Edgar Maddison Welch to enter the restaurant last December with an AR-15 and fire several shots as he “investigated” the allegations. Of course, no sex trafficking ring was found, the story is completely false, and it’s fortunate nobody was killed. Welch was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Now Nehlen is pushing the theory again in an attempt to woo gullible contributors who believe the conspiracy theories they read on the internet and hear on Alex Jones’ InfoWars. If one of Nehlen’s gullible supporters goes beyond opening their checkbook and decides to follow the path Welch took, someone could be seriously hurt or killed.
If that happens, don’t expect Nehlen to apologize.
Nehlen is playing a dangerous game fanning the flames of racism and playing to a conspiracy theory believing crowd. He will lose again, probably by a wider margin, but there is nothing funny about his campaign.