From a QAnon conspiracy theorist to actor James Woods to comedian Larry the Cable Guy to the leader of the free world. Thus travels information in the age of Twitter and President Trump, who took a late-night swing at a familiar punching bag — the Transportation Security Administration — via a nearly two-year-old video spread by a character on the far fringes of the Internet.
“Not a good situation!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday just before midnight about the clip of a young man subjected to a very thorough pat-down by a TSA agent.
Trump’s critique of the TSA, an agency he has lashed out at repeatedly on the campaign trail, is hardly extreme. The video he retweeted garnered millions of views and sparked outrage back in March 2017 after a woman named Jennifer Williamson filmed her son, who she said had a sensory processing disorder, at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
But the source who belatedly brought the video to Trump’s attention, through a winding path of Twitter celebrities, is likely to raise new questions about where a president fond of spreading conspiracy theories gets his information.
The video was reshared on Monday by a Twitter account called Deep State Exposed, which is operated by Jeremy Stone, a follower of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Stone’s twitter bio includes the phrase “WWG1WGA,” shorthand for “Where We Go One We Go All,” a rallying cry for the bizarre theory that ties together the Pizzagateconspiracy and a supposed “deep state” plot to control American politics. Stone soon added a follow-up tweet to the viral video claiming that “TSA goes out of their way to hire high school dropouts with an inclination for sexual perversion. It’s mind control!!!”
On his Twitter feed, Stone regularly mixes fake Hillary Clinton quotes with truly odd conspiracies. The next clip posted after the video retweeted by the president was a piece of shaky cellphone footage suggesting that empty Walmarts are being used as “CONCENTRATION CAMPS SET TO HOUSE AMERICAN CITIZENS!!”
Tuesday night was not Trump’s first brush with that account’s particular brand of paranoia. The Twitter bio for Deep State Exposed boasts of nine retweets from the president. The feed made headlines in September 2017 when Trump reshared a meme from the account about Hillary Clinton’s book “What Happened.”
Stone’s latest presidential nod of approval tapped into a long-simmering point of anger for Trump: the TSA and the American airport experience in general. In May 2016, Trump complained that the TSA was “falling apart.” At the Republican National Convention two months later, Trump called the agency a “total disaster”and promised that he would “fix TSA.” Yet, among Trump’s budget moves was a proposal in 2017 to slash TSA’s funding to help pay for his border wall.
At rallies and in interviews, Trump also routinely complains that America’s airportsare “like from a third-world country.”
So it’s no surprise that the video of the young man in Dallas undergoing an intense body search would resonate. James Woods, an actor turned conservative social media activist who has been suspended from Twitter in the past for sharing a hoax, helped spread the clip by tweeting it with the simple phrase, “Uh…”
Larry the Cable Guy, a stand-up comedian famed for his “Git-R-Done” catchphrase, then weighed in, calling the video “Absolutely ridiculous!”
“How many times do you have to feel a kid up to figure out he’s not a threat? This is infuriating and hard to watch,” the comedian tweeted, which caught the president’s eye hours later. Donald Trump Jr. also joined in the outrage, calling the video “sickening.” (Deep State Exposed quickly thanked the president’s son for the retweet, adding in a fake Hillary Clinton quote for good measure.)
As for TSA, the agency in 2017 defended its handling of the viral pat-down at the Texas airport, noting that the procedure took “approximately two minutes” and “was observed by the mother and two police officers who were called to mitigate the concerns of the mother.” The agency even wrote a lengthy blog post titled “TSA Mythbuster: The Rest of the DFW Pat-down Story” to combat blowback from the incident.
“TSA allows for a pat-down of a teenage passenger, and in this case, all approved procedures were followed to resolve an alarm of the passenger’s laptop,” spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein told The Post at the time. “The passengers were at the checkpoint for approximately 45 minutes, which included the time it took to discuss screening procedures with the mother and to screen three carry-on items that required further inspection.”