Dirty Trickster and Trump Adviser Roger Stone Speaks at Conspiracist 'America First' Rally at RNC

CLEVELAND—It’s easy to dismiss Alex Jones, founder of InfoWars, as a right-wing conspiracy theorist nut, because that’s pretty much what he is. But he’s also an integral part of the presidential campaign of one of America’s two major national political parties, empowered by the old-school political operatives advising Donald J. Trump to enact a critical part of their strategy to demonize their man’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

For a brief moment on Monday, political strategist Roger Stone, the old dirty trickster who calls Richard Nixon his mentor, laid bare the rationale for Trump’s embrace of the kook who is Jones. 

“A campaign has two requirements,” Stone told the sparse crowd at the “America First for Unity” rally headlined by Jones as the Republican National Convention got underway here. “First you have to qualify your candidate, and then you have to disqualify the other candidate.”

He then issued forth a torrent of plaudits for Trump, followed by a tumult of allegations against Clinton, even recycling the right-wing tropes from the 1990s about Travelgate and the death of Clinton aide Vince Foster. In his telling, it all added up to a criminal past, which is exactly the message Jones has been engaged to impart on Trump’s behalf. Since I arrived here Thursday, a hired propeller plane has trolled the Cleveland skies pulling a banner reading “Hillary for Prison 2016,” emblazoned with the InfoWars web address. At Monday’s rally, Jones’ fans were readily identifiable by their T-shirts bearing the same message. 

“It is my great honor to have been [preceded] today by my friend Alex Jones,” Stone said. ”As I told CNN this morning, better Alex Jones than his cousin Van Jones. Folks, I’m a giant fan of InfoWars.com. I see so many Hillary for Prison T-shirts out there…”

Stone’s history with the Republican Party goes way back; he likes to claim it goes back to the 1964 Goldwater campaign. This much is for certain: Look at nearly every well-known Republican dirty trick in the last 30 years, and you’ll find Stone’s fingerprints on it—the racially charged 1988 Willie Horton ad launched against Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis and the 2000 Brooks Brothers riot in Florida designed to stave off a recount of votes in the 2000 presidential election, to name two.

He’s a longtime adviser to and lobbyist for Donald Trump; his business partner, Paul Manafort, is Trump’s campaign manager. The Trump campaign last August made a show of saying that Stone was no longer with the campaign, perhaps so Stone could start his pro-Trump superPAC, the Committee to Restore America’s Greatness without appearing to run afoul of the law.

Stone was expected to speak around the same time as Jones, but took forever to arrive on the scene. In his own speech, the InfoWars internet jockey attempted to steer clear of his trademark 9/11 truther tales, and made no mention of the lizard people from outer space whose presence he has contemplated as being in our midst.

Seeming to run out of material, Jones began calling people he thought were famous to the stage, including Tucker Carlson’s son Buckley, who really didn’t seem to want to say much of anything other than “Make America great again!” Then there was his epic #FAIL when he saw comedian Eric Andre in the crowd, whom he mistook as a cast member of "The Daily Show." Shoved onto the stage by a Jones fan and presented with a microphone, Andre said, “I want you to sleep with my wife.” The comedian also asked Jones why his “peepee” was yellow. Then he brought up Building 7 of the World Trade Center, which Jones contends was blown up in an inside job during the 9/11 attacks. At that point, Stone was not yet on hand.

When finally he did arrive, Stone explained to the crowd (which, by the time Stone took the stage numbered in the low hundreds) why he was late getting to the rally, saying that he was detained by meetings with Trump campaign staff. 

The America First rally, which took place on the banks of the Cuyahoga River, opened with what can be charitably described as a unique take on the national anthem—the melody was altered by the singer’s pitch problems, the lyrics by her faulty memory—and featured a panoply of speakers from hastily organized groups: Christians for Trump, Bikers for Trump, Veterans for Trump…you get the idea.

Stone himself noted several that were nowhere present, including Lithuanians for Trump, Hungarians for Trump and Italians for Trump. “I’m Italian from the waist down,” he added.

After his speech, I caught up with Stone as he exited Settler’s Landing park, and asked him if he had just modeled for the audience the campaign strategy he had prescribed—that of “qualifying” one’s own candidate and “disqualifying” one’s opponent. In response, he launched into his litany of anti-Clinton criminality tropes, so I tried again. 

“I appreciate all of that, but I’m asking you were you demonstrating that political strategy for us,” I said.

“I was speaking for myself,” he replied. “I would say the Trump campaign would be wise to heed my words.”


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