Trump supporters toasted the president’s birthday month with a high tea on Sunday at the Trump International Hotel. The attractions included a fashion show with dresses from a pro-Trump designer and, in a nod to the North Korea summit, a model walking the runway to the North Korean national anthem.
But the behatted women who came to enjoy a “Tea for Trump” also found themselves caught in the middle of a simmering feud that’s tearing apart the fractious community of Trump-world “citizen journalists.”
Inside the event, pugnacious pro-Trump social media personality Jack Posobiec addressed the crowd in a speech from the runway. Meanwhile, in the hotel lobby, fellow Trumpian provocateur Laura Loomer stewed over getting banned from the event.
“Jack just had me canceled,” Loomer told The Daily Beast.
Posobiec and Loomer were once allies, rising to prominence together last year after they shouted down a Central Park production of Julius Caesar because featured a Trump lookalike in the climactic stabbing. But now they’re at odds over who deserves credit for “reporting” on a dangerous, obviously fake conspiracy theory about the Las Vegas massacre last year.
Like many popular fringe internet theories, the Las Vegas conspiracy theory pushed by Loomer and Posobiec is more about “asking questions” than presenting any coherent single narrative. Sometimes left-wing antifa activists were involved in the shooting, in this telling, sometimes it was ISIS, and sometimes the two groups were working together. And many of the strands of the theory often converge on an Australian man who citizen journalists on the right have tied, without credible evidence, to the shooting.
In March, Loomer reported for a website owned by British provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos that members of Congress had been briefed on “ISIS ties” to the shooting.
Three months later, Posobiec, now a reporter at the pro-Trump One America News, announced that his network would air a segment called “Inside Las Vegas” that explored other theories about the shooting. Loomer cried foul, telling her more than 170,000 Twitter followers that Posobiec had taken her reporting without credit.
“I just thought it was really shady how Jack calls himself my friend, but then he won’t give me credit for my work,” Loomer said.
The conspiracy theory promoted by both Loomer and Posobiec is based on an unofficial report that has circulated since the shooting.
The report, produced by a group called Americans for Intelligence Reform, centers on an Australian man who was also staying at the Mandalay Bay resort when Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock launched his attack from his own hotel room.
The evidence connecting the Australian man to the shooting or ISIS and antifa is incredibly flimsy.
For example, the Australian man, according to the report, has been to Melbourne, Australia. Unrelated social media pages suggest that Melbourne has an antifa chapter. Therefore: an antifa connection.
The ISIS connections are just as dubious. For example, the Australian man posted a Facebook post geotagged to another hotel near Las Vegas at one point. The report then claims that another man from a Mexican state where an ISIS recruiter was caught years earlier stayed at the hotel — then uses that to claim an ISIS connection to the Las Vegas shooting.
Days after the shooting, the report alleges, the Australian man went to a kebab shop in New Mexico that’s owned by a man from Turkey. The reports notes that ISIS does operate cells in Turkey, a country of nearly 80 million people.
The conspiracy theory centering on the Americans for Intelligence Reform report has even reached Congress, with Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) baffling Fox News viewers in January by claiming that the Las Vegas shooting featured “terrorist infiltration through the southern border.”
Despite the nonexistent connection between the Australian man and the shooting, several right-wing websites have whipped up social media mobs against him. Along with Posobiec and Loomer, Big League Politics and InfoWars have run stories on the Australian man.
Previewing his OAN report, Posobiec published the Americans for Intelligence Reform report, which includes a picture of the man’s driver’s license, his home address, and what is purportedly his Social Security number.
Tensions between Loomer and Posobiec over who deserved credit for the conspiracy theory escalated after the OAN report aired. In a since-deleted tweet on June 17, Posobiec boasted that his network was “slashing the tired fake news one inflated narrative at a time!”
Loomer took that as an allusion to a comical incident that has dogged her for nearly a year. In August 2017, Loomer posted pictures of a deflated car tire, claiming that one of her tires had been slashed. But closer inspection of the tire suggested that the holes in the tire were more likely just the result of dry rot.
The social media spat with Posobiec culminated, according to Loomer, with “Tea for Trump” organizers Virginia Women for Trump kicking her off the event’s bill.
Posobiec didn’t respond to requests for comment. Virginia Women for Trump president Alice Butler-Short said she kicked Loomer off the speaker’s list after she refused to bury the hatchet with Posobiec — an issue that threatened Butler-Short’s plans win OAN coverage of the high tea.
“I thought, ‘OAN is covering our event, how can it feature a speaker who is going after their employee?’” Butler-Short said.
Loomer, whose attacks on Muslims have earned her bans from both Uber and Lyft, while Posobiec has landed at OAN, providing him with some career shelter during a tumultuous time for independent pro-Trump social media personalities, Loomer complains that she has difficulty getting hired.
“Nobody ever wants to hire me, or offer me a job,” Loomer said. “I think I’m really talented, I really do. Like, people may not like my views about Muslims or whatever.”
Loomer notes that the OAN report on Las Vegas aired on the one-year anniversary of her and Posobiec disrupting the production of Julius Caesar. Except now, Loomer said, it’s Posobiec who’s doing the stabbing.
“Talk about a real ‘Et tu, Brute?’ moment,” Loomer said.