String together the first letter of each of Gosar’s tweets, though, and the congressman made a bold statement about one of the most high-profile deaths this year: “Epstein didn’t kill himself.”
Since Jeffrey Epstein’s death in jail custody in August, conspiracy theories have abounded about the multimillionaire sex offender, whose ties to the wealthy and powerful prompted many to wonder whether his demise had been orchestrated to avoid implicating other prominent figures.
But in recent weeks, those serious questions have devolved into a meme that on Wednesday morphed again — into a sign from Gosar that congressional Republicans were more than willing to mock an impeachment hearing that the White House labeled “boring” and President Trump said was a “joke.”
As for Gosar? When social media users called out the curious pattern on his Twitter feed, the staunch Trump ally responded with another tweet late Wednesday, spelling out “Area 51” with the first letter of each line.
𝐀ll of the tweets pertained to today’s hearing.— Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS (@RepGosar) November 13, 2019
𝐑est assured, they are substantive.
𝐄very one of them.
𝐀ll of them.
𝟓 were brilliant.
𝟏 was okay.
A representative for Gosar did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post early on Thursday. But when asked by Politico whether the Epstein acrostic was intentional — or even sent by Gosar himself — a spokesman for the Arizona Republican merely sent the news outlet the Area 51 tweet.
As news outlets started noting the stunt, the congressman added on Twitter: “What? Epstein didn’t kill himself?”
A wealthy hedge fund manager, Epstein moved in elite circles and rubbed shoulders with the likes of former president Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew of Britain and billionaire Bill Gates. His acquaintances also included Trump, who once called him a “terrific guy.”
The financier had long faced allegations of trafficking and sexually abusing dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14 years old. In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution, then serving 13 months in a county jail.
After scrutiny of a plea deal in that case, he was arrested again on July 6 on federal charges of trafficking minors. So when he turned up dead in his jail cell at Metropolitan Correctional Center on Aug. 10, long before he could stand trial, even New York mayor Bill de Blasio said “something doesn’t fit” about Epstein’s death.
An autopsy found broken bones in his neck, which can be a sign of strangulation in some cases. Two of the guards in his jail unit slept through checks and falsified records. Alternative explanations abounded: Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) called his suicide an “impossibility.” Trump retweeted a post suggesting Epstein was dead because he “had information on Bill Clinton.”
Still, Barbara Sampson, New York City’s chief medical examiner, ruled that Epstein’s death was a suicide.
That appeared to close the case for nearly three months, until a Fox News report opened the floodgates again on Oct. 30: Forensic pathologist Michael Baden told the network that the case was probably a homicide, after observing the autopsy at the request of Epstein’s brother. His conclusion was amplified on social media by podcaster Joe Rogan and by countless other true believers who omitted the fact that Baden had been paid by the Epstein family.
The claim began to reach true meme status, though, after it was famously deployed as a non sequitur in another Fox News segment. At the end of an Oct. 29 interview about retired military dogs, former Navy SEAL Mike Ritland asked host Jesse Watters if he could close with a public-service announcement to viewers.
“The remarkable nature of these dogs and them being in the news creates a demand by people who frankly shouldn’t have them,” Ritland told the host. “That, and Epstein didn’t kill himself.”
Seemingly overnight, those last four words, or something close to them, were everywhere: Belted out in videos posted by teenagers to TikTok, the social media platform beloved by Generation Z. Hacked into a roadside traffic sign in Modesto, Calif. Uttered by a University of Alabama student during a live report on MSNBC, hours before the president was set to appear at the school’s football game.
When Hillary Clinton appeared on “The Daily Show” earlier this month, Trevor Noah opened by jokingly asking the politician — whose husband had ties to Epstein — how she killed the financier.
Why has the supposed mystery of Epstein’s death taken on such mass appeal? For the author Walter Kirn, who penned an op-ed on the subject in the New York Times, it’s because the questionable circumstances surrounding Epstein’s life raise even more questions about his suspicious death.
“Sometimes paranoia just stands to reason,” Kirn wrote. “I believe that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I believe that Qaeda terrorists carried out the Sept. 11 attacks. And yet I count myself as the next thing to a conspiracy theorist on Mr. Epstein, who himself appears to have been mixed up in mind-bending perversions that even I have trouble fathoming.”
For others, it comes from the fact that Epstein has been lumped together with high-profile members of both major political parties, as well as celebrities and billionaires not usually known for their appearances in the tabloids. In other words, alternate theories about the financier’s death can serve as a rare exercise in bipartisanship.
“When you take that into account,” Alex Shultz wrote for GQ, “a question as insane-sounding as did Epstein kill himself? can actually have some use in determining how far someone is willing to go to hero-worship.”
For Gosar, however, it seems to have been little more than another conspiracy theory to peddle for the purpose of trolling his political opponents.
Gosar told Vice News in 2017 that the white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville that year was “created by the left.” He also added that philanthropist George Soros, a Holocaust survivor, worked with Nazis. In August, he retweeted a prominent supporter of the QAnon online conspiracy theory while surmising the FBI had “colluded” with British agents and Democratic operatives to topple the president in an “illegal coup.”
His first use of the Epstein meme came on Nov. 1, when he posted a photo to Twitter of the male antechinus, a rodentlike creature known for engaging in a mass mating spree and then dying.
“Unlike Jeffrey Epstein,” Gosar wrote.
This lil feller is the male antechinus, a tiny, short-lived Australian mammal. “The critter goes on a mad mating spree (sometimes as long as 14 hours), after which it suffers a fatal immune system breakdown and dies” unlike Jeffrey Epstein. pic.twitter.com/sPeK52wBBv— Paul Gosar (@DrPaulGosar) November 1, 2019