NBC uses Clinton Body Count trend on twitter to bash Qanon

An old Clinton conspiracy theory finds new life in Jeffrey Epstein news

By Brandy Zadrozny

The news that disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein was injured in his Manhattan jail cell has revived a decades-old conspiracy theory that baselessly links Hillary Clinton to a number of “suspicious” deaths.

Epstein, who is facing a possible 45 years if convicted on sex-trafficking and conspiracy charges, was reportedly found Wednesday semiconscious in his New York City jail cell with marks around his neck. Sources close to the investigation told NBC News that the injuries may have come from another inmate or been self-inflicted, and Epstein is now on suicide watch.

The news was sensational grist for conspiracy theorists and far-right pundits, who leapt to Twitter to suggest that Esptain’s injuries might somehow be linked to Hillary Clinton. The theory, known as the “Clinton Body Count,” was soon trending on Twitter, with the corresponding #ClintonBodyCount hashtag attached to more than 70,000 tweets by Thursday afternoon.

Big tech companies have been grappling with their part in the spread of conspiracy theories surrounding politicians, health information, and mass violence. Facebook has balked at reigning in the theories spread in groups and on pages, citing a slippery slope of becoming arbiters of truth, while YouTube announced this year it would stop the spread of conspiracies on its platform by tweaking its algorithm to recommend less content that could misinform users.

Some users on Twitter criticized the platform for including the Clinton conspiracy hashtag in its Trending sidebar this morning when it only had a few hundred tweets, mostly from a well-known conspiracy news account.

“Trends are determined by velocity, not volume,” a Twitter spokesperson said in an emailed response to questions about what responsibility it has to keep conspiracy theories off its trending list with.

The Clinton-related conspiracy theory first emerged in 1993, through a newsletter published by a former attorney in Indianapolis, Linda Thompson. In her letter, titled, “COINCIDENCE OR THE KISS OF DEATH?” Thompson posited that scores of people close to Bill and Hillary Clinton had died under “mysterious circumstances.” Thompson’s list included Vince Foster, a longtime aide whose apparent suicide would spark conspiracies that led to breathless andbaseless reports in far-right publicacations and documentaries. A subsequent special counsel investigation found that Foster’s death had been self-inflicted, caused by personal collapse, not any Clinton machine.

Despite those official findings, while other Clinton related-conspiracies like Troopergate and Whitewater died, the Clinton body count has remained a favorite of conspiracy consumers and in the age of Trump and social media, ignited new versions of the allegations.

“This conspiracy just sort of hung around,” said Joe Uscinski, a University of Miami associate professor and author of the book, “American Conspiracy Theories.” “Mainly because the Clintons have been in power for so long and because she's the most recent face of the democratic party. She's a good boogeyman for Republicans to use now still.”

The current focus on the theory has to do “with the small but persistent number of people who believe in QAnon,” Uscinski said, describing the current elaborate and ludicrous theory that allgeges President Donald Trump is fighting a war against the “deep state,” a group of elites enmeshed with a satanic child sex trafficking ring led by Hillary Clinton.