Politics

Trump’s pick to head Office of Personnel Management spread ‘satanic’ conspiracy theory, called Democrats party of ‘Islam’ and ‘gender-bending’

(WBZ Photo via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) — The Trump administration announced this week the nomination of a former conservative commentator with a history of inflammatory and conspiratorial tweets to be the head of the Office of Personnel Management.

John Gibbs, the nominee, is currently the acting assistant secretary for community planning and development at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he has worked for three years.

A CNN KFile review in 2018 of archived versions of Gibbs’ Twitter feed showed he had spread a false conspiracy theory that claimed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign chairman took part in a satanic ritual. Gibbs also defended an anti-Semitic Twitter user who had been banned from the platform, and made derogatory comments about Islam and the Democratic Party.

Gibbs’ Twitter feed has been set to private since 2017 and the few tweets archived and accessible to public view offer only a small glimpse of his activity on social media.

Gibbs is a former conservative commentator and software engineer who initially joined HUD as the director for the Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative. In August of 2017, he transitioned to the role of senior adviser, working in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development, and is now an acting assistant secretary.

OPM manages the government’s workforce, serving as a human resources department for civilian employees.

Gibbs’ nomination comes as the White House aggressively moves to install loyalists across the government in key positions.

Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, defended Gibbs’ nomination in an email to CNN.

“Instead of highlighting Mr. Gibbs’ work to increase economic development programs for low-income people or his successful deployment for more than $9 billion in CARES Act funds to respond to COVID-19, the media would rather dwell on some nonsense from 2016,” Deere wrote.

A spokesperson for the Democratic minority on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs said the past comments raised concerns.

“These reports raise serious concerns that should be discussed during the nomination process. Ranking Member Peters will thoroughly evaluate the record and qualifications of any nominee that comes before the committee,” the spokesperson said, referring to Sen. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat.

Aaron Jacobs, a spokesperson for Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, another Democrat on the committee, also raised concerns about Gibbs.

“Sen. Hassan has serious concerns about Mr. Gibbs’s nomination to lead the Office of Personnel Management,” Jacobs told CNN in an email.

On Twitter, Gibbs made multiple references to a conspiracy theory started by far-right bloggers that claimed Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta took part in a satanic ritual. The claim has repeatedly been debunked.

Tweets from Gibbs, archived on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, show him promoting the conspiracy four times between October 31 and November 5 of 2016, using the hashtag #SpiritCooking.

The hashtag originated from an email of Podesta’s released by WikiLeaks, which members of the far right claimed without evidence meant that Podesta was involved in some sort of satanic ritual.

When radio host Wayne Dupree, who has spread Sandy Hook school shooting hoax stories, tweeted that Clinton was losing Black support because her campaign manager took part in “Satanic #SpiritCooking,” Gibbs quote tweeted him, writing, “True, true, and true. #Trump #SpiritCooking #BlackLivesMatter.”

In tweets from early 2016, Gibbs also blasted “cucks,” a derogatory term used by the far right to insult establishment conservatives, and derided the Democratic Party for accepting Islam.

In a tweet from October 2016, Gibbs defended Ricky Vaughn, an alt-right figure who often tweeted anti-Semitic sentiments and was banned by Twitter.

“#Twitter down big today because they banned Ricky? #FreeRicky,” he wrote.

In a February 2016 tweet, Gibbs said the Democratic Party had become the party of “Islam, gender-bending, anti-police, ‘u racist!’ “

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