Pizzagate? Seriously?

Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer is taking time out from calling for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s resignation this week to  explain why he’s willing to exploit a dangerous conspiracy theory for political gain.

Scheer was asked at a town hall-style meeting in Kitchener about Canada giving money to the Clinton Foundation, run by former U.S. president Bill Clinton and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The question referenced the debunked pizzagate theory and connected it to Trudeau.

“Trudeau gave $600 million to the Clinton Foundation. The Clinton Foundation is part of child trafficking and child sacrifice if you study it. It is in the Pizzagate,” the questioner asked as, incredibly, some in the crowd applauded. The man even suggests Trudeau should be jailed due to his knowledge of the scheme.

Briefly, the 2016 Pizzagate conspiracy theory accused Hillary Clinton and other U.S. Democratic party officials of operating a child sex trafficking ring from a Washington pizzeria. The conspiracy jumped from internet message boards  to national newscasts when a man with rifle set out to investigate, and ended up firing shots inside the restaurant before finding nothing suspicious and surrendering to the police. 

Scheer’s response to the question didn’t address any of the obvious untruths in the questioner’s statements. Not only did Scheer not dispute the Pizzagate linkage, he ignored the assertion of the obviously ridiculous sum of Canadian tax dollars supposedly given to the Clinton Foundation.

You might think the leader of the official opposition would know that while the Canadian government is donating $20 million dollars over four years to Clinton Health Access, an initiative to assist in sexual and reproductive health programs for young women in Nigeria, the $600 million figure was just an internet fabrication. You might even expect him to also know a similar amount ($19 million) was previously donated to the same program by the Canadian government under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. And also that none of it has anything to do with sex trafficking, or even pizza.

Instead of correcting the record, Scheer responded, “I appreciate your concerns on this … When you look at where Justin Trudeau has spent money it’s clear that a huge sum of the dollars that he has taken from Canadian taxpayers has gone to his own personal projects. You mentioned the Clinton Foundation, you mention there are other examples.” 

Scheer later claimed he didn’t hear the full question before responding, but the reference seems clear on video.

The incident is reminiscent of scene from the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, when the late John McCain defended his then-opponent Barack Obama after a woman shared a racist conspiracy theory that Obama was an “Arab,” the implication being he was not an American citizen. 

McCain seized the microphone and stated, “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man (and) citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what the campaign’s all about. He’s not (an Arab).”

McCain lost to Obama that year, and the U.S., of course, went on to elect an actual conspiracy theorist as their president in 2016, but the oft-replayed moment should serve as a primer for any politician placed in that kind of predicament.

Scheer has been holding Trudeau’s feet to the fire for a lack of transparency on the SNC-Lavalin controversy, and rightly so. However, when offered a chance of his own to stand up for the truth, he failed Canadians in embarrassing fashion.