History, Conspiracy Theories

Revisiting Pizzagate

Conspiracy theorists spread an improbable story of Satanic cult activities in a restaurant in 2016

John Dean
2 min readNov 3, 2021

--

Comet Ping Pong, Washington, D.C. photo by J. Dean

Comet Ping Pong is the curious name of a pizzeria in Washington, D.C. In November 2016, conspiracy theorists published reports identifying the restaurant as the location for a human trafficking and child sex ring consisting of prominent Democrats, including Hillary Clinton. The theorists claimed emails hacked from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager, John Podesta, included coded evidence of the crimes.

Right-wing conspiracy theorists, including the son of Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, spread the story aggressively to discredit “the left.” A member of the Trump transition team, the younger Flynn was later fired for his tweets spreading the conspiracy.

It is unclear if any of the theorists publishing the story believed it. Many readers of the stories, however, found it credible.

An organization called Public Policy Polling asked 1,224 registered voters whether they believed Hillary Clinton was involved in a child sex ring in a pizzeria in Washington, D.C. Nine percent of the respondents answered “yes.” Another 19 percent indicated they “didn’t know.”

Although debunked by the District of Columbia police and others, the stories on the internet prompted a shooting at the restaurant in December 2016. Twenty-eight-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch entered the restaurant armed with an AR-15 style rifle and fired three shots. Welch later indicated that his goal was to determine whether child sex slaves were being held there and rescue any he found. There were no injuries.

In January 2019, a fire was started in a bathroom at the restaurant, apparently believing that child sex activities were still going on.

Although Pizzagate today is largely history, the Washingtonian reports the restaurant was revisited by believers in the conspiracy earlier this year:

In a fitting finale to the Trump years in hometown DC, a group of homophobic conspiracy theorists gathered to shout slogans outside Chevy Chase’s Comet Ping Pong restaurant — only to leave after the eatery drowned out their bullhorn with loud music, to the delight of a large crowd that had gathered to dance in the street.

Today, despite considerable disruption and harassment over the past five years, the restaurant remains in business. I ate there and found no evidence of illegal activities. Two or three of the customers, however, did look like Democrats. . .

--

--

John Dean

Writing on politics, photography, nature, the environment, dogs, and, occasionally, humor. Editor of Dean’s List.