BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho lawmaker says his political supporters have found a way to take advantage of the wide-ranging criticism he’s received for sharing a conspiracy theory suggesting the recent tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia might have been organized to undermine President Donald Trump.
Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, said Monday at least five donors have promised to contribute various amounts to his re-election fund for any tweet, Facebook comment and email critical of his decision to share wild and unconfirmed claims from a far-right website called American Thinker.
“I’m thankful today for the Idaho media and their coverage of an innocuous (Facebook) post I shared last Friday. The coverage has been amazing, the outpouring of support from friends and fellow Idaho Falls residents has been very positive,” Zollinger wrote Monday on his Facebook page.
Zollinger posted the conspiracy theory article after Trump drew bipartisan criticism for saying “both sides” were responsible for the deadly clash between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville.
In the post, the author argues — largely written in “what-ifs” — that former President Barack Obama, billionaire George Soros or Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe could have planned the events that resulted in the death of Heather Heyer and the injuries of 19 others. The post continues to describe groups on both sides as “demented racists” but also adds there were likely decent people in attendance too.
Zollinger said in a phone interview with The Associated Press he doesn’t believe all the claims presented in the posted, but remained adamant that everything suggested was plausible and should be pursued.
Zollinger also didn’t name the donors offering to contribute to his growing criticism of the link, but said he doesn’t expect to make a huge profit off of his donors’ latest actions. Zollinger is running for a second term for the Legislative District 33’s House seat in 2018.
“It’s a way to make it fun for me,” Zollinger. “I’m not profiting off the events from Charlottesville, I’m profiting off of other people’s hate speech.”
Zollinger’s contentious post came just days after fellow Idaho Republican Rep. Heather Scott, of Blanchard, also shared a link on social media defending white nationalists as Caucasians who love the U.S. Constitution and are not extreme racists. Scott did not return requests for comment.