Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) recently joined the radio show of an ardent conspiracy theorist who believes the 9/11 attacks may have been carried out by the “World Zionist Organization,” a curious choice for a man gearing up for another possible Senate run.
The controversial lawmaker is seriously considering a run against Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) this year after losing a close and nasty race to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) in 2014.
McDaniel still maintains that election was stolen from him, and appeared as a high-profile guest on internet radio host and conspiracy theorist Ian Trottier’s show to help his longtime friend and ally Ryan Walters promote his book “Remember Mississippi,” which makes the same argument.
Before McDaniel and Walters joined last week’s show, Trottier talked up the views of his previous week’s guest — Christopher Bollyn, a man who argues that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by an international Jewish conspiracy and has been labeled an anti-Semite by both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“Look, whether he’s accurate or not regarding the World Zionist Organization, the likelihood that they have at least a hand in what may have transpired on Sept. 11, 2001 is extremely high,” Trottier said. “I don’t know if that attack was a hoax. I don’t know if the research that he has done is accurate. But when you listen to him speak it sure as heck makes sense and it sounds like he’s right on a trail that leads right back to understanding exactly what happened. Because it’s becoming ever so common that taking the whole Bin Laden angle just doesn’t make any sense.”
The full show can be heard here:
That’s far from Trottier’s only conspiracy theory — he also touts JFK assassination plots, international banking conspiracies and claims that childhood vaccines cause autism. But last week, he mostly focused on another claim: That the 2014 GOP primary was illegally rigged.
“We fought, we ran, we feel like we won, obviously, and but for 40,000 Democrats that moved into the primary we would have won,” McDaniel told Trottier.
Walters said Democrats were “bribed” to vote in the runoff.
McDaniel finished in first place in the initial primary, but didn’t win a majority of votes, triggering a runoff. In that race, Cochran’s allies helped turn out enough establishment Republicans and Democrats to turn the tide, grinding out a 7,700-vote victory. McDaniel went to court to have that overturned, arguing that the Democrats had voted illegally. But the Mississippi Supreme Court threw out his case after he failed to file it on time.
Experts said then that there was little evidence of McDaniel’s claim of 15,000 fraudulent votes, and that his argument that Democrats were barred from voting in a GOP primary was simply wrong: It was legal for Democrats to vote in the GOP primary in the state if they didn’t vote in the Democratic primary in the first round.
That 2014 primary campaign had some of the shadiest acts in recent political history. A local tea party leader and McDaniel backer broke into Cochran’s wife’s nursing home to photograph her in an attempt to prove he was cheating on her with another woman. McDaniel claims to this day he had nothing to do with it. Another McDaniel backer allegedly involved in the break-in scheme later committed suicide while awaiting trial. Shadowy outside groups blasted McDaniel as a racist tied to the Ku Klux Klan in the race’s closing days, spurring African Americans to head to the polls against him.
“They trashed Chris as a racist, a bigot, somebody who was friends with the Ku Klux Klan,” Walters lamented to Trottier last week.
Their discussion mostly focused on Mississippi, with McDaniel and Walters largely ignoring Trottier’s tangents.
Both interviewees told TPM they had no idea about Trottier’s views when they went on the air.
“I’m not into the conspiracy stuff, and didn’t know the host was pushing any of it. I briefly joined the program as a favor to a friend and campaign volunteer who was working to sell his book,” McDaniel said in a text message.
“A friend connected me to the show, which I had never heard of, in order to help me publicize my book, and it was a last minute arrangement that all happened right at airtime,” Walters said in an email. “Had I known the host was pushing these types of conspiracy theories I wouldn’t have joined the program or called Chris to get on air. And I certainly do not agree with the 9/11 Truthers or those that believe in any Jewish conspiracy.”
But Walters’ claim that the interview was scheduled at the last minute doesn’t seem to hold up. Trottier plugged the scheduled interview in his previous three weekly shows, meaning the interview was apparently on the books for at least three weeks.
When TPM pointed out that Trottier had been talking up the scheduled interview for weeks, Walters admitted that he’d committed earlier but said McDaniel never did — which he said is why McDaniel joined at the end of the show after Walters had been on for a while. He refused to say who had connected him to Trottier.
“It was scheduled by a friend (I’m not giving out that name without their permission) a few weeks in advance for both of us but Chris had never confirmed anything because of his heavy work load. That’s why he wasn’t on most of the program. He’s busy with the state senate session. I just tried to get him on the program toward the end at the last minute in the hopes he was available,” he said in an email late Thursday night.
McDaniel didn’t answer directly when asked if he would have done the program if he had known about Trottier’s views.
“I’ve never heard the program. I have no idea what positions they hold,” McDaniel said.
He didn’t respond when TPM asked again in a follow-up text message, or explain when he’d agreed to do the program. Trottier didn’t respond to an interview request.
McDaniel, an attorney and former radio host, has a long history of controversial statements on race and gender. He made headlines last year for attacking the women’s march, claiming that “almost all liberal women are unhappy.” In older comments McDaniel blamed hip-hop for gun violence, threatened to stop paying taxes if Congress authorized slavery reparations and said one of the only useful Spanish words he knew was “mamacita,” an apparent joke about cat-calling Hispanic women.
McDaniel has been seriously mulling a race against Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) this year, along with a possible run for lieutenant governor, but has delayed making any final decisions, a sign that he’s also waiting to see whether Cochran’s poor health forces him from office.
An outside group partly funded by the billionaire Mercer family, Remember Mississippi (with the same name as Walters’ book, based on the rallying cry for those who think McDaniel was robbed in 2014), has collected $1 million to back a possible McDaniel run. McDaniel has also worked closely with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon as he gears up for a potential run, and joined Bannon in Alabama last year as he promoted Roy Moore’s Senate campaign.
McDaniel stood by Moore through the bitter end last year, even after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct towards them when they were teenagers and Moore’s wife claimed they weren’t anti-Semites because “one of our attorneys is a Jew.”
“The establishment strikes back. But tomorrow is a new day. Don’t lose hope,” McDaniel wrote on Facebook after Moore’s loss.
This story has been updated to include Walters’ latest response.