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California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Orange County, repeated a debunked conspiracy theory this week that top Democrats "setup" and "manipulated" the political violence at last month’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.
In August, PolitiFact national took a deep look at this inflammatory claim, which started with controversial commentator Alex Jones of Infowars.com. Jones said emails show Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and billionaire investor George Soros instigated and orchestrated racial protests in Charlottesville by trying to "control" and keep people "desperate." After an exhaustive examination of relevant leaked emails, it found no evidence of Jones’ theory and rated it Pants On Fire, the most severe false rating.
See the full fact check here.
The violence in Charlottesville culminated with the death of Heather D. Heyer, 32. She was killed and at least 19 others were injured after the driver of a Dodge Challenger drove into a crowd of people protesting the rally. Authorities charged a 20-year-old man from Ohio, James A. Fields Jr., with second-degree murder. Fields had marched in the white nationalist rally.
Rohrabacher, a 15-term congressman and former speechwriter for President Reagan, has garnered controversy in recent months for his pro-Russia stance amid intelligence findings that Russia interfered with the 2016 U.S. election.
Democrats have targeted his congressional seat in 2018.
Below are Rohrabacher’s conspiracy theory comments made in a San Francisco Chronicle article on Sept. 14, 2017.
The article says Rohrabacher is "deep" into the theory that "Democrats were behind last month’s white nationalist riots in Charlottesville, Va."
Under Rohrabacher’s scenario, a former "Hillary and Bernie supporter" got Civil War re-enactors to gather under the guise of protecting a Robert E. Lee statue there.
"It was a setup for these dumb Civil War re-enactors," Rohrabacher said. "It was left-wingers who were manipulating them in order to have this confrontation" and to "put our president on the spot."
PolitiFact California asked Rohrabacher’s spokesman Ken Grubbs for any evidence supporting the claim. Grubbs told us the congressman saw a FoxNews.com article in which Jason Kessler, the organizer of the "Unite the Right" white nationalist rally says "he voted for Obama and was involved in Occupy Wall Street."
The article says Kessler voted for Obama in 2008 and "once attended an Occupy Wall Street rally in Charlottesville."
It offers no evidence -- nor does it even discuss the idea -- that Democrats "setup" a group of "Civil War re-enactors" and manipulated a confrontation, as Rohrabacher claims.
PolitiFact national found Jones’ comments were part of a broader accusation that the events in Charlottesville were staged by liberals and coordinated by top Democrats.
It found no evidence that Jones’ broad attack, or his specific claim about comments made by Soros, Clinton or Democrats in emails, checks out.
PolitiFact rated his claim Pants on Fire.
PolitiFact California, after examining the same facts, found California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Orange County, doubled-down on the same bogus claim.
We rate his claim Pants On Fire, as well.
PANTS ON FIRE – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.
Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.
Ken Grubbs, spokesman, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, email exchange Sept. 15, 2017
San Francisco Chronicle, The pro-Russia, pro-weed, pro-Assange GOP congressman who will be tough to beat, Sept. 14, 2017
PunditFact, Infowars' Alex Jones falsely says George Soros, Hillary Clinton instigated Charlottesville violence, Aug. 13, 2017
Los Angeles Times, Citing conspiracy theory, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher blames Democrats for Charlottesville violence: 'It was a setup', Sept. 14, 2017
FoxNews.com, Jason Kessler, Charlottesville rally organizer, says he's in hiding, Aug. 17, 2017
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