With four days left until the election, some of Donald Trump’s most trusted news sources spent the day flooding Twitter with a theory that a WikiLeaks email proves Hillary Clinton and her campaign are Satanists who participate in witchcraft.
The Drudge Report, the right’s internet firehose, featured as its lead story a headline suggesting that Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta had been involved with occult activities linked to Satanism, complete with a photo of Hillary Clinton raging, arms outstretched, to the skies. Fox News's Sean Hannity tweeted a story from his own website, along with its headline: "LEAKED EMAIL appears to link Clinton Campaign Chairman to bizarre occult ritual"
The hashtag #SpiritCooking was the No. 2 trend in the United States on Twitter at press time.
It’s a dizzying signal of just how distorted the alt-right’s echo chamber has become: suggesting that their opponent is Satan—or at least a deeply pious Satanist adherent.
Actual Satanists, however, aren’t buying it.
“Obviously, what’s really going on here is that the real would-be magicians are attempting desperately to conjure scandal from lackluster and mundane emails which were previously hoped to contain some political career-ruining revelations,” said Lucien Greaves, a spokesperson for The Satanic Temple.
“The absurdity of the accusations regarding the disgust-inducing ingredients harken back to witch-hunter inquisitorial panic fantasies that one would hope we’d have grown beyond today.”
The conspiracy theory hinges on a WikiLeaks email hacked and stolen from Podesta’s account, in which his brother, high-powered lobbyist Tony Podesta, asks if he was free to attend a “spirit cooking dinner” hosted by performance artist Marina Abramović.
“I am so looking forward to the Spirit Cooking dinner at my place. Do you think you will be able to let me know if your brother is joining? All my love, Marina,” writes the artist, in June 2015. Tony forwards the email to his brother to ask—the entirety of the evidence to suggest that the Clinton campaign’s senior operative is involved with the occult.
Podesta’s ties to Satanism might make sense if you already believed that Hillary Clinton was a committed member of a coven. A story citing a “Clinton insider” published at InfoWars on Friday stated that “Hillary ‘regularly’ attended witch’s church.”
Abramović is one of the world’s most famous performance artists, whose work has been featured in museums throughout the world. She is most recently famous for her 2010 work at New York Museum of Modern Art, wherein she silently stared face-to-face with strangers for minutes at a time. A viral video of the exhibit, viewed tens of millions of times on YouTube, shows her reaction when an ex-lover arrived to participate in the performance.
The ties to alleged occultism refer to Abramović’s 1997 work, available on YouTube and named Spirit Cooking, where she appears to paint a wall with blood to write sentences like “with a sharp knife cut deeply into the middle finger of your left hand eat the pain.” The Podesta email suggests a repeat performance featuring Abramović.
For many on the alt-right, that was enough to tie the Clintons to Satanism. Notable rightwing figures like Dilbert creator Scott Adams, actor James Woods, and alt-right Trump supporters Mike Cernovich and Paul Joseph Watson helped propel the hashtag to prominence.
I’m doing a video on #SpiritCooking—keep it trending for me,” Watson, an InfoWars editor, wrote.
Alex Jones, the founder and lead editor of conspiracy website InfoWars, spent most of the last Friday before the election “Deciphering Hillary Clinton’s ties to occult rituals, including “#spiritcooking” on his daily Internet talk show.
“Are we gonna have anything covered in the mainstream media about this? Is John Podesta gonna address this?” InfoWars’ Owen Shroyer asked. “Is the ‘artist’ that is performing the occultist rituals gonna address? Or are they just gonna ignore this and act like it never happened?”
The Clinton campaign declined to comment for this story.
Eleven months ago, Trump appeared on InfoWars’ daily talk show to provide the website acclaim, uncharacteristic for Trump toward a media organization.
“Your reputation’s amazing. I will not let you down,” Trump told InfoWars’ Alex Jones. “You will be very, very impressed, I hope. I think we’ll be speaking a lot.”
On Friday, Drudge’s top story was a link to InfoWars’ story about “spirit cooking.” The headline reads: “WIKI WICCAN: PODESTA PRACTICES OCCULT MAGIC.” Just above that, another headline blares, in smaller print: “Election Will End. Mental Damage May Not…”