CNN Host Takes Fake News And Conspiracy Theories Head On

Jake Tapper shook up the news cycle Tuesday and maybe even Trump's new transition team.

CNN host Jake Tapper used Twitter to attack fake news and racist conspiracy theories on Tuesday, shaking up the news cycle and, apparently, Donald Trump's new transition team.

Tapper wasn't shy about criticizing Donna Brazille after his former colleague at CNN was caught leaking debate questions to Hillary Clinton. Now, he's taking on Michael Flynn Jr., son of retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump's national security advisor, who, according to CNN, has been sharing outlandish conspiracy theories on social media for months.

One such conspiracy, dubbed "Pizza Gate," surrounds a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor, where "citizen journalists" on Internet messaging boards like 4chan and Reddit claim to have uncovered a massive, global child sex ring that is tied to Hillary Clinton and former chairman of her 2016 campaign John Podesta.

The New York Times and Snopes have both published stories debunking the claims, but the story persists nonetheless.

Over the weekend, according to CBS News, a man entered the pizza parlor and discharged a rifle. He later told police that he was there to "investigate" the child sex ring that he had read about online. In the wake of the incident, several news outlets, the pizza parlor owner and local residents criticized these message boards for stoking paranoia and spreading conspiracies to the point that a man entered the restaurant with a gun. 

Afterward, Flynn Jr. sent out the following tweet:

According to Business Insider, Tapper, seeing the tweets, followed and then direct messaged Flynn Jr. on Twitter. One user shared the alleged conversation. 

While Tapper is yet to verify the authenticity of the messages, it's unlikely he hasn't seen them. Business Insider and several other news publications have covered them, and Tapper spent Tuesday morning tweeting about Flynn and Flynn Jr.'s activity on social media. 

Flynn Jr.'s questionable social media activity wasn't just reserved to #PizzaGate, though.

He has shared stories alleging that Marco Rubio was a homosexual and addicted to cocaine, that former Clinton aide Huma Abedin was connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, that President Obama and Clinton would be tried for treason if Trump were elected and once tweeted that minorities only voted for Obama because he was black.

His father has also had his fair share of controversial social media activity. A Politico review found that Flynn had, on 16 different occasions since August 9, tweeted out dubious or outright false claims about Clinton, Obama and their circle of colleagues. He has similarly accused Clinton of directing a sex trafficking ring, said she secretly waged war on the Catholic church and claimed Obama was a jihadi. 

Pundits have questioned whether Flynn's inability to spot a fake story should be worrisome to Americans who are supposed to trust him on national security issues. Flynn's supporters have suggested that what he shares on social media to his 106,000 followers is not an indication of what he necessarily thinks is true.

But Tapper was having none of it.

Not only did he direct message Flynn Jr. about his social media activity, he also pressed sources inside the campaign about Flynn Jr.'s role on the transition team. After Vice President-elect Mike Pence claimed Flynn Jr. was not part of the transition team on MSNBC, several journalists pointed out that he was attending meetings with his father, had a transition team email address and had been photographed inside Trump Tower after the election.

Since then, sources told Tapper that Flynn Jr.'s work with the transition team was over. It was unclear if he was fired, resigned or left for another reason. 

All this came just days after Tapper pressed Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway on the president-elect's Twitter use. Trump had claimed on Twitter that Hillary Clinton only won the popular vote because millions of people voted illegally, a claim he still hasn't provided evidence for and one his lawyers recently admitted was untrue in a court testimony

While Americans and journalists struggle to parse truth from fiction in the world of digital media, one thing is clear: Tapper won't stand by idly while the most far out conspiracy theories put people and communities in danger.

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