Once in a generation there comes along a rumor so ridiculous, it doesn't even feel worth addressing. And for a long time, the "Clinton Body Count" list has been that rumor for me. I didn't think anyone actually believed it, but articles keep popping up, and I keep seeing references to all the people who Hillary and Bill Clinton have allegedly killed or had killed.
And so the time has come to put this rumor to rest as best I can.
In summary, the Clinton Body Count list is a list of people who have been connected to the Clinton's who have died under "suspicious circumstances." The idea is that these people possessed information that would damage the Clinton family, and were killed as a result. Of course, that doesn't explain how people with the most damaging information are still alive (Gennifer Flowers, who had an affair with Bill Clinton in the 1970s and who Trump threatened to invite to the upcoming debate, for one). But we will leave aside that glaring inconsistency for now.
Snopes, the greatest fact-checking site on the web, has an extensive investigation of the Clinton Body count, working to disprove each of the names on the list. Will these clear explanations and facts do anything to sway the people who truly believe that Hillary and Bill have murdered upwards of 30 people? Probably not. If you're pre-disposed to look at a death as a "suspicious" the actual facts around the death are unlikely to change your mind.
I'm not going to re-do Snopes work and talk though each entry on this list. Instead, I'm going to talk about the dubious origins of the list, who introduced it, and why that matters.
This list entered popular imagination in 1994, when California Representative Bill Dannemeyer circulated a list of 24 people who had died "under other than natural circumstances" and had a connection with the Clintons. Representative Dannemeyer called for Congressional hearings on the issue, which did not occur.
Who was this Congressman bringing to light one of the most enduring conspiracies of the modern age? And what can his past work tell us about this list?
Representative Dannemeyer was a Republican Congressman from California from 1979 to 1993. In 1981, Dannemeyer tried to force the Smithsonian to submit to annual funding authorization from Congress. The reason? He was concerned about a recent exhibit that presented evolution as a fact, and since evolution was part of the "religion of secular humanism" it may not have a place in museums.
But why stop there? In 1986, Dannemeyer backed a California ballot initiative that would have required a quarantine of AIDS patients. In 1985, he said that he did not want people with AIDS working as dentists, doctors or nurses, particularly as maternity nurses. Why? Because Dannemeyer believed that people with AIDS emitted a "spore" that caused birth defects. When asked for documentation or proof, Dannemeyer said he would provide it. Of course, he never did because that isn't true.
That's not all! Dannemeyer was one of 20 Congressmen to vote against the Americans with Disabilities Act. He once read a graphic description of gay sex into the Congressional Record. He once compared Nelson Mandela to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. He tried to bring back the gold standard, which is probably the least outlandish thing he's ever done, and bringing back the gold standard is normally considered a ridiculous thing to advocate for.
You know, come to think of it, this may qualify Dannemeyer to run for president in 2016. But for everyone who doesn't like Trump, but thinks Clinton maybe killed someone, think about what Dannemeyer advocated for throughout his life, and think twice about accepting this particularly conspiracy theory at face value. Sometimes the messenger matters.