Breitbart is spreading a conspiracy theory that the wildfires in California were set by a Latino immigrant. Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano called it out as a lie.
The devastating wildfires in Northern California that have killed dozens of people are yet another deadly manifestation of global climate change. Under Donald Trump, our country’s clear policy is to do nothing, which will only make fires in the Western United States more common and more devastating.
But Breitbart News, the pro-Trump, white nationalist publication run by Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon, does not want to discuss that. In their narrative, the fires in California were not caused by rising greenhouse gases and reckless corporate pollution — they were caused by immigrants.
Tuesday, Breitbart ran an article claiming the wildfires were started by a homeless immigrant in Sonoma County, Jesus Fabian Gonzales, who was arrested in a public park for arson the previous Sunday.
The article was so ridiculous that it prompted the county sheriff, Rob Giordano, to go out of his way to condemn it at a press conference:
There is a story out there that he’s the arsonist in these fires. That’s not the case. There’s no indication he’s related to these fires at all … I wanted to kill that speculation right now, so we didn’t have things running too far out of control.
The Breitbart article directly links the small, illegal fire that Gonzales lit to stay warm at Maxwell Farms Regional Park to the devastating wildfires, claiming he was “arrested Sunday on suspicion of arson in Wine Country fires that have killed at least 40 residents.”
The fact that Gonzales’ small fire was well after the wildfires began, and that he does not live anywhere near where several of the fires started, was apparently not important enough to mention in the article.
Despite being debunked, Breitbart is doubling down on the conspiracy theory. A new article Thursday insists that an “illegal alien Mexican national” was the “suspected Wine Country arsonist” even though no law enforcement agency at any level has implicated Gonzales in the wildfires.
Breitbart has long been notorious for racist, far-right propaganda: referring to neoconservative commentator Bill Kristol as a “renegade Jew“; proclaiming that American Muslims are a “ticking time bomb“; and condemning birth control because “we need the kids if we’re to breed enough to keep the Muslim invaders at bay.”
California has increasingly become a target of right-wing extremists’ wrath, as a state that has led the resistance against Trump. Earlier this month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a “sanctuary state” bill, which prevents law enforcement throughout the state from cooperating with extrajudicial orders from Trump’s immigration agents.
The white nationalist rage machine cannot let go of their narrative of hate against immigrants, and are resorting to increasingly desperate agitprop to justify their nativist crusade.
Americans should follow the lead of Giordano, and shut Breitbart out of mainstream political discussion — a place where it never belonged.