politics

Whoa, If True: Obama's Secret Plan to Nuke Charleston, South Carolina

The “false flag” conspiracy theory baffled Rick Santorum.

This is the initial installment of "Whoa, If True," an occasional look at the conspiracy theories that migrate from the wilds of the Internet to the well-covered tundra of presidential campaigns.

On March 14, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum joined Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and a whole nest of hawks for the South Carolina National Security Action Summit. It did not make much news. The AP's story on the summit consisted of 98 words, explaining that the summit was happening—and nothing else.

Luckily, the human panopticons of People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch were monitoring the summit, and noticed a strange, 150-second rant/question directed at Rick Santorum, who struggled to hide his confusion. The meat of the question:

Why is the Congress rolling over and letting this communist dictator destroy my country? Y'all know what he is, and I know what he is. I want him out of the White House. He's not a citizen. He could have been removed a long time ago. Larry Klayman's got the judge to say that the executive amnesty is illegal. Everything he does is illegal. He's trying to destroy the United States. The Congress knows this. What kind of games is the Congress of the United States playing with the citizens of the United States? Y'all need to work for us, not the lobbyists that pay your salaries. Get on board, let's stop all of this, let's save America. What's going to stop -- Senator Santorum, where do we go from here? Ted told me I've got to wait until the next election. I don't the country will be around for the next election. Obama tried to blow up a nuke in Charleston a few months ago, and the three admirals and generals -- he's totally destroyed our military, he's fired all the generals and all the admirals who said they wouldn't fire on the American people.

Santorum pivoted quickly to criticize the president's executive order on immigration—"as you mentioned, the word tyrant comes to mind"—but today, after Buzzfeed noticed the video, Twitter wags wondered what that "nuke in Charleston" was all about.

That's easy. In September 2013, the conspiracy news site InfoWars published an "exclusive" story, citing "a high level source inside the military," about the transfer of nuclear warheads to the East Coast. The story was shared nearly 25,000 times on Facebook, aided by a video introduction by Alex Jones and by a follow-up that quoted South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham's worry that a military build-up would lead to nuclear weapons moving through the port of Charleston. "This ultimately reeks of yet another false flag being orchestrated by the United States government in order to send us into war," Jones wrote in a follow-up.

In October 2013, the European Union Times—a "news" site that combines real stories with rumors -- cited a "Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) report circulating in the Kremlin today" to report that a nuclear weapon had been detonated off of Charleston's harbor, as proven by an Oct. 8 earthquake that happened hundreds of miles from the coast. This, according to the website, was a botched "false flag" attack, which was carried out, strangely, in the middle of the government shutdown. On Reddit, discussion swirled that the "false flag" attack led to the dismissal of US Navy Vice Admiral Tim Giardina, US Air Force Major General Michael Carey, Major General Charles M. Gurganus and Major General Gregg A. Sturdevant.

The appearance of those names in the story recalled the scam in Paper Moon, in which the names of the recently deceased were used by a salesman to sell Bibles to the surviving family members. Giardina was sacked, but this was later found to be related to a poker-rigging scheme that had been uncovered by the Navy's Inspector General. Carey was removed from his job after an investigation into a drunken bender that took him around Moscow; though Carey remains a special assistant to the commander of Air Force Space Command. Gurganus and Sturdevant were forced into retirement in September 2013, after a yearlong investigation into a Taliban attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. Both men were removed, in other words, before the alleged "false flag" attack—and neither had anything to do with nuclear security.

And it goes without saying that the "false flag" attack, according to an alleged Russian intel report as translated by a fringe site, happened fifteen months ago, hundreds of miles from America's coastline. Santorum's questioner swore that it had happened "a few months ago" and "in Charleston." If the potential 2016 candidate was wondering if he missed a major news event, he shouldn't. He didn't.

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