Donald Trump drew widespread criticism when he took to Twitter on Saturday to share a baseless conspiracy theory linking Bill and Hillary Clinton to the death of Jeffrey Epstein, but Kellyanne Conway downplayed the controversy on Sunday.
The top White House adviser seemed to walk back the controversial retweets from the president on Saturday, in which he amplified messages about the so-called “Clinton Body Count,” a decades-old and baseless theory that the Clintons have orchestrated the murders of dozens of people connected to them. As The Huffington Post noted, Conway appeared on Fox News Sunday to claim that Trump was simply calling for an investigation into Epstein’s apparent suicide in a Manhattan jail — which had taken place hours before his retweets, when Attorney General William Barr vowed to launch a federal investigation into Epstein’s death.
“I think the president just wants everything to be investigated,” Conway said. “There was some unsealed information implicating some people very high up.”
Conway then attempted to shift blame away from Trump, taking aim at those who pushed the idea that his 2016 campaign had colluded with the Russian government.
“I will say, Bill, that there’s always this rush to ‘we need transparency, we need accountability,’ when it involves fictional accusations like collusion with Russia to swing an election,” Conway said. “This seems to be very concrete in that Jeffrey Epstein has done some very bad things over a number of years.”
Donald Trump had generated controversy for his retweets on Saturday that pushed baseless allegations against a former president. Many pointed out that Epstein was being held in a federal facility that is under the direction of Trump’s Department of Justice, so his pushing conspiracy theories about Clinton also seemed to imply that he was “too incompetent” to stop the plan from being carried out. Others saw Trump’s retweets as an attempt to create distance with his own past friendship with Jeffrey Epstein.
Some also criticized Trump for pushing the baseless conspiracy theory while at the same time railing against what he called the “fake news” media.
This man just retweeted a conspiracy theory about the Clinton body count and Epstein. https://t.co/ztD5GjUj4a
— Morten Øverbye (@morten) August 10, 2019
If I'm reading this correctly, Trump is admitting that as president he's too incompetent to stop the Clinton body count from mounting. Really an amazing argument when you think about it. https://t.co/qB55FIZ6Nn
— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) August 10, 2019
Epstein died in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which reports to Trump’s own attorney general, but Trump suggests the Clintons were responsible. This is a reminder of all the other deranged theories Trump has promoted over the years. https://t.co/hdevBC4xp0
— Max Boot (@MaxBoot) August 11, 2019
Donald Trump has previously amplified baseless conspiracy theories about the Clintons. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he made reference to Vince Foster, a member of the Clinton White House who died by suicide in 1993. There were far-right theories claiming that the Clintons had Foster killed, but a series of investigations confirmed that he died by suicide and was not murdered.
“He had intimate knowledge of what was going on,” Donald Trump said of Foster in a May 2016, interview with The Washington Post. “He knew everything that was going on, and then all of a sudden he committed suicide.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. For readers outside the U.S., visit Suicide.org or Befrienders Worldwide for international resources you can use to find help.