Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who ran as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee in November's election, recently took President-elect Donald Trump's newest Cabinet pick to town, saying that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn's appointment as national security adviser was "deeply troubling." Speaking to CNN on Thursday, Kaine said Flynn was "worse than a fourth grader" when it came to believing and sharing conspiracy theories:
Gen. Flynn's trafficking in conspiracy stories that a fourth grader would find incredible suggests either that he's highly gullible or that he's so consumed with malice that he loses his ability to judge what's fact and what's fiction. Having a national security adviser who has demonstrated either such gullibility or such malice in charge of offering advice to the President on the critical national security issues of the day, I think, is highly highly troubling.
Kaine was likely referring to recent social media posts by Flynn. According to a Politico review of Flynn's tweets, the general has retweeted questionable news at least 16 times since the beginning of August. He reportedly spread misinformation that linked Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to sex crimes and a secret war against the Catholic church, and retweeted claims that President Barack Obama was a jihadi who funneled money for terrorists.
In the past, Flynn also tweeted that "fear of Muslims is RATIONAL" and dared Muslim leaders to "declare their Islamic ideology sick." He also came under fire for retweeting an anti-Semitic message in July, according to CNN, a move which he later said was an accident.
It's precisely tweets like those that worried Kaine. "I think he's demonstrated that he doesn't have the judgment for the job," he told CNN. Considering that national security advisers aren't voted in by the Senate, Kaine believes Flynn should step down from the position.
The fake news that connected Clinton to a child sex ring run from a pizza shop has already led to a very real (and very concerning) case of violence: on Sunday, a gunman fired an assault rifle inside the pizzeria Comet Ping Pong after reading about the false claims. The incident should serve as a jarring reminder of the real-world repercussions of spreading false information. While nobody forced the shooter to believe the "Pizzagate" conspiracy or forced a gun into his hands, false news was, ultimately, what spurred a horrific act of violence.
While Flynn might not have tweeted directly about the "Pizzagate" conspiracy theory, he has circulated plenty of false articles that contain inflammatory accusations and tweeted prejudiced comments out. The fact that someone who doesn't realize the danger of spreading false information (or doesn't care about the damage it could cause) could end up as a top security aide in the White House should be incredibly concerning, especially for someone in a national security role. A few people who spread false news may not know any better — but they're also not about to be appointed to one of the top roles in Trump's Cabinet.