The PizzaGate conspiracy theory took another strange twist with claims that Edgar Maddison Welch was a paid crisis actor sent to shoot up the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria as a false flag attack to discredit the investigations into an underground sex ring.
For those who had never heard of PizzaGate, the conspiracy theory jumped from the dark corners of the internet and into the mainstream this week when Welch went into the Washington, D.C., pizzeria armed with an AR-15 rifle and tried to find evidence of what he believed to be a pedophile ring.
He is a subscriber to a theory cooked up largely on the image-sharing site 4chan, and the link-sharing site Reddit claiming that Hillary Clinton and her former campaign manager John Podesta are involved in a pedophile ring operating out of a popular Washington pizza place called Comet Ping Pong.
Evidence for the PizzaGate theory comes only in the way of what proponents say are "code words" hidden within leaked emails from Podesta. They also point to what they believe are strange coincidences --- Instagram photos they claim shows child abuse, and references to what they believe is a chamber for raping and murdering children hidden in the basement of Comet Ping Pong.
Edgar Maddison Welch was trying to find evidence of this child sex ring when he stormed into Comet Ping Pong with a rifle, CBS News reported.
"Police said he brought a rifle into the popular Comet Ping Pong pizzeria. The bizarre rumors about the pizza joint began with a leaked email referencing Clinton and pizza parties. It morphed into fake online news stories about a child sex trafficking ring operating out of the restaurant.Welch told investigators that he had read about PizzaGate online and wanted to see if he could find the kidnapped children.
"On Sunday, it culminated in violence when police say Welch fired a rifle inside the restaurant as he attempted to 'self-investigate' the conspiracy theory known in the Twitterverse as 'Pizzagate.' "
"He stated that he was armed to help rescue them," the court documents said. "He surrendered peacefully when he found no evidence that underage children were being harbored in the restaurant."
Though the PizzaGate conspiracy theory has been debunked as thorough as possible with an outlandish claim --- there is no evidence to support any bit of the idea, no victims, and no claims of wrongdoing from parents or children --- the theory has still managed to gain steam online through hubs like Reddit and 4chan.The newest theory claims that Comet Ping Pong shooter Edgar Maddison Welch was really a "crisis actor," which in conspiracy theorist lingo means a person selected to take part in a fake event meant to draw attention or lead to some kind of action. Conspiracy theorists have claimed that family members of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims are really crisis actors and that the shooting never took place, for example. PizzaGate subscribers are now making the same claim about Welch. A number of popular posts on Reddit have pointed out that the 28-year-old has worked as an actor on some low-budget movies, leading to theories that he was picked to attack the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in a false flag attack that could either lead to a crackdown on those spreading the theory or discredit it entirely. Though it is difficult to definitively debunk fantastic claims --- just as it would be difficult to prove that Donald Trump is not a disguised lizard person --- the theories about the Comet Ping Pong shooting have no evidence to back them up, and police have said that Edgar Maddison Welch was a follower of the PizzaGate theory and was compelled to take action when he genuinely believed there were children being molested and murdered at Comet Ping Pong. Welch is due in court this week to answer to the charges.
[Featured Image by Sathi Soma/AP Images]