Leandro Rizzuto Jr. spread fringe conspiracy theories and unfounded attacks about Trump's political opponents on Twitter
Among the unfounded claims Rizzuto promoted was that Heidi Cruz was a leading member in an effort to combine the governments of the US, Canada and Mexico.
President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the ambassador to Barbados and several other Caribbean countries spread fringe conspiracy theories and unfounded attacks about Trump’s political opponents on Twitter, including ones about Sen. Ted Cruz and his wife, Heidi, during the 2016 presidential election.
Trump in January nominated Leandro Rizzuto Jr., a senior executive at Conair, to be the next ambassador to Barbados, as well as to serve concurrently as ambassador to Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. His nomination requires Senate confirmation.
During the height of the Republican presidential primary, Rizzuto spread smears about Trump’s opponents, including Cruz, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a CNN KFile review of Rizzuto’s Twitter account shows.
The revelation that one of Trump’s ambassador nominees peddled conspiracy theories comes as dozens of ambassadorships across the globe remain vacant. A CNN analysis shows that 31 ambassador posts are awaiting presidential nominations and 10 nominees are still awaiting Senate confirmation.
Among the unfounded claims Rizzuto promoted were allegations that Cruz was unfaithful to his wife and that Heidi Cruz was a leading member in an effort to combine the governments of the US, Canada and Mexico.
A representative for the White House declined to comment. Reached by phone, Rizzuto told CNN that he could not comment based on guidelines from the State Department.
All of Rizzuto’s tweets on his personal account have been deleted, but retweets dating back to February 2016 are still visible. The Twitter account shares a name with Rizzuto’s since-scrubbed Facebook page. The account also follows and is followed by his friends, family members, colleagues and local businesses where Rizzuto lives.
In a now-deleted tweet archived through the Google cache and the social media site Favstar, Rizzoto told Cruz to “go back to Canada.” In another tweet, he called Hillary Clinton “a terrorist with amnesia.”
Here is a look at Rizzuto’s retweets throughout 2016:
One tweet Rizzuto retweeted from February 2016 has a picture of Heidi Cruz with a headline that reads, “This Woman Should Scare the Hell Out of All Americans” and alleges that “Heidi is an architect of the North American Union (NAU), whose goal is to destroy the sovereignty of the United States.” It goes on to say that, “If Ted becomes US President, it virtually ensures the dissolving of the USA and the formation of the NAU. This would put Heidi Cruz in line to become the First Lady–NOT of the USA, but of the new North American Union”
In March, Rizzuto retweeted a user who shared an image of Mitt Romney that simply has the words “Dumb Ass” on it, and the user wrote that Satan had a hold on Romney and that he would go to Hell. The tweet was from the same day that Romney delivered a blistering speech critical of Trump.
Later in March, he retweeted a person who falsely claimed that Cruz and Kasich were funded by Democratic mega-donor George Soros. Included was a picture of Soros and a caption that said: “George Soros the leader of their movement worked for Hitler helping kill his own people the jews.” The false allegation against Soros, who was a child during World War II, is common in fringe, right-wing conspiracy circles.
Also in March, Rizzuto retweeted a person who shared a picture of Walker, alleging that Walker had a 2.3 GPA when he was a student at Marquette University, and that he was expelled for cheating.
Politifact Wisconsin reported the accusations against Walker are untrue. He left Marquette his senior year to pursue a job, and Marquette has repudiated the conspiracy by releasing a statement that Walker “was a senior in good standing when he voluntarily withdrew.”
Rizzuto also retweeted an account with an image of golfer Tiger Woods winking with the caption: “5 Women Ted? My man!”. This tweet came days after the National Enquirer published an article claiming Cruz had affairs with five unnamed women. Cruz vehemently denied the story and accused Trump’s campaign of planting the piece.
In April, he retweeted an account with an unflattering image of Heidi Cruz—the same image Trump himself shared when he famously threatened to “spill the beans” on her— that said Ted Cruz is a “Cheater, Liar, & Womanizer” and Heidi is his partner in crime. The tweet also encouraged people to vote for Trump.
Later in April, Rizzuto retweeted another account pushing the National Enquirer’s affair allegations against Cruz, alongside a deformed image of Cruz.
In September, Rizzuto retweeted a meme that alleged that Clinton’s close aide, Huma Abedin, was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and that she was Clinton’s handler for the group.
The claim that Abedin has ties to, or is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, is unfounded but widespread in far-right circles.