There was a lot of turnover at the Las Vegas Review-Journal after the family of Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson purchased the newspaper in December 2015. The most high-profile addition was columnist Wayne Allyn Root, a former Libertarian Party nominee for vice president who hosts a syndicated conservative radio show and whose latest book is called “Angry White Male: How the Donald Trump Phenomenon is Changing America — and What We Can All Do to Save the Middle Class.”
Root could not wait to weigh in on Sunday's mass shooting in Las Vegas. On Twitter, he jumped to the conclusion that the shooter must be Muslim, before police had identified him.
Several hours later, police identified the gunman as a Nevada man named Stephen Paddock, who Las Vegas police described as a white man.
Root, however, was not ready rule out a connection to Islamic terrorism. In fact, he argued that “liberals” are the ones rushing to judgment by assuming the shooter is not a Muslim.
Root loves conspiracy theories. During the 2012 presidential campaign, he floated several about President Barack Obama's time at Columbia University, from which Obama and Root graduated in 1983. Root even suggested that Obama might not have attended the school at all. (“I never met him. Never saw him. Never even heard of him. And none of the classmates that I knew at Columbia have ever met him, saw him, or heard of him.")
Root is not alone in spreading the idea that Islamist terrorism was behind the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history on Sunday — despite the absence of evidence. Fellow promoters include Laura Loomer, a conservative activist who disrupted a production of “Julius Caesar” in New York over the summer because the play depicted Caesar, who (spoiler alert) is murdered, as a Trump-like figure.
“You guys are ISIS!” Loomer shouted during a June performance. “CNN is ISIS!”
The stunt earned her an appearance on Sean Hannity's show on Fox News Channel.
Loomer used to work for James O'Keefe, a conservative sting artist best known for undercover recordings that helped bring down ACORN. She recently filmed herself asking Hillary Clinton about emails, health and Benghazi at a book signing.
One report from an Israeli newspaper falsely stated that the shooter had been identified as an American who converted to Islam and went by the name Samir al-Hajeed.
“Samir al-Hajeed” and variations of the name “Sam Hyde” have featured in multiple mass shooting hoaxes in recent years. Sam Hyde is a real person — a “second-rate Internet comedian,” according to Forbes contributor Fruzsina Eordogh, who explained last year that “Sam Hyde is the shooter” has become a favorite meme of online trolls.
“It is unclear why people started spreading 'Sam Hyde is the shooter' ... and if it was done by his haters or by his fans,” Eordogh wrote.
It is quite clear that the people spreading the baseless claim that a Muslim is the shooter are haters, not fans.