During an interview with Fox News that aired on Monday evening, President Trump claimed that armed individuals wearing unspecified “gear” had boarded a plane last week with the intent of doing “damage” during the Republican National Convention (RNC).
Trump’s comments are not verifiable — there are no media reports nor government documents to back up his claims, and the Federal Aviation Administration would not comment on them. When pressed by host Laura Ingraham, Trump said he wouldn’t go into further details because the alleged actions were still “under investigation.”
Yet Trump was insistent that his assertions were true, based on information from an unnamed person who supposedly had been a witness. The president suggested the individuals involved were “wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms with gear, and this and that.”
Trump would not comment on which agencies were conducting the supposed investigation. He also did not divulge on which RNC site the purported planned attack was set to happen — in Charlotte, North Carolina, where party delegates from each state had met, or at the White House where Trump controversially accepted his party’s nomination for president.
Earlier in the interview, Trump had fired off another conspiracy theory: that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his campaign are being controlled by unknown elements who are also orchestrating uprisings in cities across the country.
“People that you’ve never heard of, people that are in the dark shadows,” Trump said.
These allegations, too, were made without a shred of evidence to support them. When Ingraham asked for more details about these claims, Trump responded with a coy: “I’ll tell you sometime.”
On Tuesday, as he was departing for Kenosha, Wisconsin, Trump was asked by reporters for more details on the allegations about “people … in the dark shadows” he had made during the Fox News interview, but the president’s responses were vague and fantastical.
“I would like to ask that person” he said as he boarded Air Force One, referring to the person who allegedly witnessed the events, “if it was okay” to talk about it. “The person on the plane said there were about six people like that person or more or less, and what happened is the entire plane filled up with the looters, the anarchists, rioters, people looking for trouble.”
Trump further added that the so-called witness — who apparently was also on that mysterious plane — was “a person you know.”
However, according to reporting from NBC News, Trump’s description of a plane heading toward an unknown destination full of people intent on causing “damage” to communities is similar to conspiracy theories that spread on social media sites earlier this summer. A Facebook post in June, for example, told people in Boise, Idaho, to “be ready for attacks downtown and [in] residential areas” from people very like the people the president described during his interview on Monday.
That post has had many different variations, sometimes alleging that members of antifa — which is not an organization but an umbrella term for those with an ethical set of beliefs in opposition to fascism — were planning an attack on local communities. Even though the posts had no legitimacy, they still inspired a number of individuals to take action, including some who armed themselves and waited at bus stops for the fictional conspirators to arrive.
At times, these local squads of armed civilians have acted violently toward others they baselessly accused of being violent antifa activists. A multiracial family of four, for example, on a camping trip to Forks, Washington, this past June, was followed and harassed by at least four vehicles with people wielding semi-automatic weapons, who also prevented them from leaving by cutting down trees to block their exit from the campsite. It was alleged by those who had followed them that the family was part of the antifa conspiracy theory connected to the social media postings.
Trump’s remarks about “dark shadows” purportedly controlling Biden or orchestrating attacks elsewhere is being widely dismissed as fraudulent, much like the conspiracy theories that have been made on social media sites in prior months.
“This president is a conspiracy theorist,” CNN’s Daniel Dale explained, pointing out that Trump’s political career has been full of such baseless theories, including claims that former President Barack Obama was born outside the United States and that windmills cause cancer.
“He just does this, and he’s doing it again,” Dale added.