Well, in what could be yet another seal of the apocalypse melting down and sloughing off like skin at Chernobyl, Arizona Representative Paul Gosar meticulously inserted a conspiracy theory about late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein into a Twitter thread on Wednesday.
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Even as Gosar—one of the most right-wing members of the House and known for dining with European ultranationalists and public pleas from six of his siblings disavowing his politics—watched the ongoing impeachment proceedings in the House against the president, he took over eight hours to write the phrase “Epstein didn’t kill himself” over the first two letters of 22 tweets.
At 7:21 a.m. ET, Gosar sent out the first tweet, beginning with the word F so that visiting his Twitter timeline spells out the phrase when one scrolls down from the final tweet beginning with “E” at 3:09 p.m. ET.
Representative Gosar later feigned ignorance in another tweet, linking to an article at conservative website Daily Caller about his tweets accompanied by the caption “What? Epstein didn’t kill himself?” He also spelled out “Area 51,” referring to the popular title of a secretive U.S. Air Force base in Nevada associated with UFO conspiracy theories.
Epstein, a billionaire, was convicted in Florida in 2008 on charges of procuring for prostitution a minor but escaped serious jail time by striking a sweetheart plea deal with state prosecutors. Federal authorities charged him with sex trafficking this year after the alarming terms of that deal drew renewed media attention and women relayed horrific stories of Epstein’s abuse. Trump’s secretary of labor, R. Alexander Acosta, resigned in July over his prior involvement inking the plea agreement while serving as a state prosecutor.
Shortly after on Aug. 10, Epstein was found unresponsive at a New York detention center, with medical staff at a local hospital pronouncing him dead later that morning. Authorities called his death the result of suicide. As a suspiciously wealthy member of elite society who took pains to cultivate extensive relationships with figures as as prominent scientists, business leaders like Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and powerful politicians ranging from presidents Bill Clinton to Donald Trump, the official explanation drew quite a bit of skepticism—especially because women accusing Epstein of abuse said he regularly brought in other members of his social circle to participate. Epstein himself claimed to have dirt on numerous other members of high society.
Over the past few months, conspiracists have theorized that Epstein was actually murdered in his cell to prevent him from testifying about the criminal perversions of other rich and powerful people in court. At least one celebrity forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden, said Epstein’s injuries were more characteristic of strangulation than hanging. However, Baden was hired to consult on the case by Epstein’s brother, Mark Epstein, and New York chief medical examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson has strongly contested his conclusions and reiterated that the investigation was rigorous.
For many on the political right, which in the Trump era has increasingly embraced fringe beliefs backing their deeply held conviction that conservatives are the victims of an elaborate plot to censor and victimize them, Epstein’s death bolsters baseless theories asserting that the Clintons have had a long list of political enemies assassinated. (White supremacists and other members of the far-right movement are particularly obsessed with the Clintons, who they tried to rope into the ludicrous Pizzagate theory asserting a DC-area restaurant was actually a Democratic child sex dungeon slash Satanic place of worship.)
Unfortunately, Trump has retweeted Epstein conspiracy theorists, adding yet another conspiracy theory to his playbook and in the process contradicting the findings of the Department of Justice. It is probably not a coincidence that he chose to do so as Epstein’s own ties to Trump were emerging in the media, such as a 2002 interview in which Trump called the financier a “terrific guy” who “likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”
Conspiracy theories notwithstanding, the phrase “Epstein didn’t kill himself” has also become an internet meme on the broader internet, popping up everywhere from social networks to protest signs—though often as a joke, rather than any actual assertion of truth.
Either way, it seems like we’re gonna be dealing with Epstein theories for a long, long time, especially now that they’ve wormed themselves into the brain of a sitting congressman.
During Wednesday evening, Gizmodo reached out to Gosar’s office for comment, and we’ll update this post we hear back.