Son of Trump security adviser spread baseless 'pizza gate' conspiracy

Story highlights

  • The theories, named "Pizza gate," have circulated online despite having zero credible evidence to support them
  • Michael G. Flynn is the son, chief of staff and top aide of retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn

Washington (CNN)The son of Donald Trump's incoming national security adviser continued to push a fictitious online conspiracy theory about a Washington, DC, pizza restaurant on Sunday as police arrested an armed man who said he had come to investigate.

Michael G. Flynn is the son of chief of staff and top aide of his father, retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who Trump has named as his national security adviser -- a post that does not require Senate confirmation.
On Sunday, a man was arrested for bringing a weapon into a DC pizza restaurant filled with families, telling police he had come to investigate a baseless conspiracy theory that had been circulating online. Later that day, the younger Flynn tweeted that until the fictitious story was "proven" untrue, it would continue.
    "Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it'll remain a story. The left seems to forget #PodestaEmails and the many 'coincidences' tied to it," the younger Flynn tweeted.
    He later retweeted a person whose profile identifies him as special projects director for a group called "Citizens4Trump" defending the tweet, arguing that Flynn was calling for the theory to be disproven. But he also continued to retweet that individual and others who promoted the baseless theory.
    Lt. Gen. Flynn himself tweeted a link to a story that helped fuel and generate the theories about the Clintons, which again contained no credible evidence, days before the election. According to Buzzfeed, that discredited story was part of what spurred the invention of the pizza restaurant theory.
    The Trump transition team did not respond to a request for comment.
    The incident began on Sunday when police arrested Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, of North Carolina, with an assault rifle at the Washington, DC, pizzeria Comet Ping Pong. He told police afterward that he had come to investigate an online conspiracy theory about a sex trafficking operation at the restaurant, the department said in a statement.
    The theories, named "pizza gate," have circulated online despite having zero credible evidence to support them. According to a Buzzfeed analysis of the origins of the rumors, the theories began circulating based on two unsubstantiated social media posts from individuals claiming, without credibility, to have anonymous sources about a sex trafficking ring linked to the Clintons.
    From there, other social media users invented a concept of a code in the hacked emails of former Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta, which spun off into a theory about the pizza place.
    The owner of Comet Ping Pong has vehemently denied the conspiracies, and no evidence has turned up even suggesting they may be true. The restaurant is often busy with families and neighborhood residents.
    The restaurant owner, James Alefantis, and some of his employees have been threatened since the fake stories have been circulating. In a statement Sunday, he noted the potential dangers of fictitious rumors spreading.
    "What happened today demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories comes with consequences. I hope that those involved in fanning these flames will take a moment to contemplate what happened here today, and stop promoting these falsehoods right away," Alefantis told CNN.
    Both Flynns have been known to spread baseless conspiracy theories in the past.
    A CNN analysis of the younger Flynn's social media presence revealed a tendency to push non-credible theories and racially insensitive comments.
    While he has demanded the theories be proven false, the concept is what's known as a logical fallacy -- shifting the burden of proof onto those arguing something is untrue because it has no credible evidence, rather than having to provide credible evidence for the theory.