Remember Pizzagate? It’s the conspiracy theory that targeted a Washington D.C pizzeria called Comet Ping Pong and claimed that it was the headquarters of a child sex ring run by members of the Democratic party. The theory found fertile ground in online platforms like InfoWars, Reddit and 4Chan, and culminated in 2016 when an armed gunman journeyed from North Carolina to “rescue” the “victims.” He was later sentenced to four years in prison.
Now authorities are searching for a man who set fire to Comet Ping Pong on Wednesday, NBC News reported. A spokesperson for the Washington D.C Fire Department said that the arsonist started the blaze in some curtains near the back of the restaurant. Fortunately, some of the pizzeria’s employees were able to douse the flames before things got too out of hand.
According to NBC, investigators have yet to indicate that there’s a connection between the recent fire and the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. But ABC 7 reported that the “person of interest” left behind a diaper and baby food, which seems like a reference to it. He reportedly posed as a customer at the bar and bought three beers, adding a substantial tip to his order.
WTOP reported that the man is blond with a beard and thought to be between 25- to 30-years-old. Based on the surveillance footage that was recorded, he looks to have been wearing jeans and a “varsity” jacket.
The owner of Comet Ping Pong, Joe Alefantis, had been an acquaintance of John Podesta, the former head of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, whose emails were hacked and leaked via WikiLeaks. As NBC noted, Pizzagate was hatched out of that email leak when conspiracy theorists came up with the notion that there were hidden clues about a child prostitution ring if you swapped out “pizza” for words like “little girl.” They claimed that the operation was based in Comet Ping Pong’s basement, except that the restaurant has no basement.
— NBCWashington (@nbcwashington) January 26, 2019
As the Guardian noted, Podesta mentioned Alefantis and Comet Ping Pong in emails about a fundraising event they planned to have at the restaurant.
“There was this break into the physical world that began to happen,” Alefantis said about being embroiled in a conspiracy theory. “People came into the restaurant to film or look around. They came by my house, asking neighbors questions. Suddenly you look around and you don’t know who to trust.”
ABC 7 reports that there’s now a police car stationed outside of Comet Ping Pong.