A conspiracy theory originating on a QAnon-based website made waves this week with allegations that former President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden mistakenly killed the body double of Osama bin Laden instead of the real 9/11 orchestrator. Additionally, the site accused Biden of ordering the assassination of a team of Navy SEALs to cover up the gaffe.
According to information based in reality, bin Laden was killed in a May 2, 2011, SEAL Team Six raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
To most, the theory that the al-Qaeda mastermind is alive is deserving of as much credence as asinine conspiracies posed by the likes of Flat Earthers, Holocaust deniers, or those positing that a 13-foot-tall cannibal, nicknamed the Giant of Kandahar, was eating Marines in Afghanistan.
But instead of dismissing the body double conspiracy as yet another concoction by tin foil hat connoisseurs, President Donald Trump gave the theory credence when he retweeted two posts featuring the accusations.
The first tweet was originally shared by user “Oscar the Midnight Rider 1111,″ an account with ties to the conspiracy theory group known as QAnon.
Often called “Q,” the conspiracy’s flock comprises a collection of basement-dwelling troglodytes who believe messianic America is waging a shadow war against a deep-state cabal of Satan-worshiping Democrats and high-ranking media who operate a child sex-trafficking ring. The only man preventing America’s utter descent into Dante’s Inferno, they believe, is President Trump.
Such a belief is what prompted 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch to drive all the way from his home in North Carolina to the Washington, D.C. pizzeria Comet Ping Pong on Dec 4., 2016. Armed with a Colt AR-15, Colt .38 sidearm, a shotgun and a collapsible knife, Welch entered the pizzeria and opened fire, each of his errant rounds fortunately missing those inside.
After surrendering to police 45 minutes after walking into the pizzeria, Welch told authorities that he made the trip to “self-investigate” QAnon reports of a child sex ring being operated out of the restaurant, the Washington Post reported.
The body double conspiracy “has about as much credibility as Pizzagate,” Lora Griffith, a former CIA operations officer with experience in the Middle East, told Military Times, referencing the incident involving Welch.
Though the account shared by the president has since been shut down, screen grabs of the tweet were linked to an article written by Kari Donovan, a self-described “ex-Community Organizer” who is now “a Homeschool Mom in North Carolina,” according to CNN’s Daniel Dale.
According to the Daily Beast, the conspiracy theory promoted by Donovan originated with a falconer named Alan Howell Parrot, an individual who claims “he uncovered secrets about Al-Qaeda, Iran, and U.S. intelligence in his work as a falconer for Middle Eastern power players.”
Donovan’s intent in amplifying the widely-decried theory, she noted on Twitter, was to generate skepticism.
“For the record, anyone following my #SEALTeam6 articles, I have no proof that the Whistleblower’s claim are true, but I am suspicious, of course, I am,” she conveyed in a grammatical bundle of confusion. “I also believe it should be investigated by people who are far smarter than I, and who are far more equipped to investigate.”
The tweet including the link to Donovan’s story amassed nearly 15,000 retweets and 20,000 likes as a result of the president’s amplification. The second tweet shared by Trump, meanwhile, alleges Iranian involvement in the Osama bin Laden body double circus.
The CIA turned bin Laden over to Iran to hold for a “trophy kill,” the conspiracy claims. Only, Iran double-crossed the SEAL operation when they positioned a body double in Abbottabad instead of the real binny. The theory then alleges Biden ordered a helicopter of Navy SEALs to be shot down as a cover-up.
Proponents of this conspiracy also believe then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is tied to the cover-up by way of the 2012 attack on Benghazi.
“It’s ridiculous,” Griffith said. “DNA was taken from [bin Laden]. It was confirmed it was him before he was disposed of.”
On Tuesday, Robert O’Neill, an outspoken Trump supporter and the SEAL who reportedly fired the fatal shot that killed bin Laden, spoke out against the president’s circulation of the conspiracy theory.
“Very brave men said goodby to their kids to go kill Osama bin Laden. We were given the order by President Obama. It was not a body double,” O’Neill tweeted. “Thank you Mr. President. Happy birthday @USNavy.”
In response to one skeptic, O’Neill replied, “I know who I killed, homie. Every time.”
On Wednesday, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., took to Twitter to denounce Trump’s sharing of the falcon man’s fantasies.
“Pres. Trump must stop spreading false conspiracy theories,” he wrote.
“Questioning the brave special operators who conducted the bin Laden raid undermines America and is disrespectful to the entire U.S. military & diminishes the sacrifices our service members make.”
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.