A Trump administration appointee at the Department of Defense announced his resignation Tuesday after a CNN report revealed that he posted conspiracy theories about President Barack Obama’s place of birth and shared a video that claimed Obama was the Antichrist.
The appointee, Todd Johnson, is a former Trump campaign New Mexico state director who joined the Defense Department as an advanced officer in 2017. As an advanced officer, Johnson worked in the Pentagon and was tasked with “providing logistical support related to the secretary’s events and appearances domestically and abroad.”
The CNN report also notes that Johnson was on the GS-14 pay scale typically “reserved for senior civil service positions.”
Between 2012 and 2015, Johnson shared multiple posts indicating he believes Obama was not born in the United States, a conspiracy theory known as “birtherism.” One of the videos he posted was titled “Michelle Obama admits Barack Obama’s home country is Kenya,” and another video that argued Obama was the Antichrist. Johnson was also documented agreeing with some Islamophobic comments from Facebook friends.
“We should never judge, but all Muslims believe in the Koran? If so, then they are not peaceful,” Johnson commented on one of his posts.
After CNN notified the Pentagon that a story on Johnson’s social media posts was forthcoming, a spokesman for the Pentagon said Johnson had offered his resignation, which was accepted by the agency.
That a Trump appointee would resign for spouting “birtherism” is the ultimate case of hypocrisy, considering President Donald Trump made the dangerous and baseless conspiracy theory mainstream around the same time Johnson was endorsing it online.
“[H]e could have been born in Kenya and gone over to the United States. Everybody wants to be a U.S. citizen, and his grandparents put an ad in saying he was born in the United States because of all the benefits you get from being born in the United States,” Trump told a national audience on CNN in April 2011.
“An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud,” Trump tweeted in 2012.
An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2012
“How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s ‘birth certificate’ died in plane crash today. All others lived,” another 2012 tweet read.
After Trump announced his candidacy for president, however, he became less outspoken in crusade against Obama’s place of birth.
“Who knows about Obama?… Who knows, who knows? Who cares right now?… I have my own theory on Obama,” Trump said in January 2016 during an interview with Wolf Blitzer. “Someday I will write a book, I will do another book, and it will do very successfully.”
Just before the 2016 election, Trump walked back the conspiracy theory he had pushed for the previous five years.
“Having successfully obtained President Obama’s birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States,” a September campaign statement read.
just in: "Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States." pic.twitter.com/8QxSgyL1XU
— Rosie Gray (@RosieGray) September 16, 2016
Presidential office hasn’t kept Trump from promoting birther theories or those sympathetic to the theory.
Last November, The New York Times reported that Trump’s advisers said he hadn’t actually let go of his unfounded birther conspiracy. “In recent months, they say, Mr. Trump has used closed-door conversations to question the authenticity of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate,” the Times reported.
And in September 2017, Trump retweeted an GIF that showed him hitting a golf ball at Hillary Clinton and knocking her to the ground, from an account that trafficked in conspiracy theories and racism.
The account Trump retweeted, Fuctupmind, has pedaled a number of far-right conspiracy theories, including the belief that Obama is a Muslim, and that Hillary Clinton was involved in the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.