Between the ticking clock on a government shutdown and a growing White House sex scandal, there was plenty of news to discuss on cable television on Thursday night. Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, however, devoted airtime to update viewers on developments in the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas.
In the segment, a Republican congressman dropped serious — and unsubstantiated — hints about a possible Islamic State connection to Stephen Paddock’s attack from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel. It’s another instance of a fringe conspiracy theory leaking into the mainstream on the network, this time in the words of an elected official.
“I smell a rat like a lot of Americans,” Rep. Scott Perry, who represents a district in central Pennsylvania, told Carlson. “Nothing’s adding up.”
Las Vegas authorities have consistently described Paddock as a lone gunman. But Perry noted the autopsy report on Paddock has yet to be released.
“But even more troubling than that, recently I’ve been made aware of what I believe to be credible evidence, credible information regarding potential terrorist infiltration through the southern border regarding this incident.”
When pressed for more information, the congressman explained the terrorist group had previously threatened to attack Las Vegas, and after Paddock killed 58 concertgoers Islamic State militants took responsibility for the attack — a boast most experts found unconvincing.
Catherine Lombardo, an attorney representing victims of the attack who was also on the panel, quickly shot down the suggestion.
“We’ve seen no evidence of a terrorist attack,” she said. “I would ask, with all due respect Congressman, unless you have specific evidence to back that up, it seems a bit irresponsible to make that allegation. If you do have any evidence of that, I’m asking you right now.”
“I’m just telling you, I have received what I feel to be . . . credible evidence of a possible terrorist nexus,” Perry answered. “We’re going to have to wait until that situation develops.”
Perry’s office did not return a phone call late Thursday for elaboration on his claims about a terrorist link.
Perry, an Army veteran and member of the House Freedom Caucus, is no stranger to cable news appearances. Last October, he memorably clashed with CNN’s Chris Cuomo over the government’s response to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.
But Perry’s comments on Las Vegas are far from unique in certain corners of the media. Rather, they sync with a wider tapestry of conspiracy theories that have been proliferating since the attack. Antifa, the Deep State, Islamic State militants, leftists and globalists — all have been connected to the attack on radio and podcasts, often confusingly paired together in a massive overarching conspiracy.
A day after the massacre, commentator Wayne Allyn Root (self-professed “warrior for God, guns, gold, tax cuts, term limits, Trump, and that tall, wonderful wall”) tweeted out the shooting was a “Clearly coordinated Muslim terrorist attack.”
On Oct. 4, Laura Loomer made an appearance on Alex Jones’s Info Wars to lay out her own theories. “There are a lot of things that suggest that either this is some type of deep state coverup, or that Stephen Paddock has ties to Islamic terrorists,” Loomer said. “Whether it was a gunrunning operation gone wrong, or in fact, he was an ISIS operative himself.”
By the next week, the Gateway Pundit published a piece entitled “Terror Expert Warns: ISIS May Still Have Proof It Was Behind Las Vegas Attack.” But the expert cited, New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi, later claimed she made no such assertion.
“Conspiracy theorists have repeatedly misquoted me as saying that ISIS was behind the Vegas attack,” Callimachi told Mother Jones. “To date, zero evidence of an ISIS link has emerged. I am talking both to sources in law enforcement and to U.S. officials in Iraq who are tracking the terror group closely. They have found nothing suggesting that Paddock either interacted with members of ISIS, or was inspired by them — and certainly no evidence that he converted.”
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