- The Washington Times - Monday, December 10, 2018

Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chairman John Podesta is speaking out about his experience being at the center of the debunked alt-right conspiracy theory dubbed Pizzagate that surfaced during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Pointing to Mr. Podesta’s hacked emails that were published by WikiLeaks in 2016, conspiracy theorists claimed that the prominent Democrat ran a child sex-trafficking ring out the basement of a pizzeria called Comet Ping Pong, along with its owner, James Alefantis, and Mrs. Clinton herself. The claim was promoted by both Michael T. Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., while they were serving on the transition team for then-President-elect Donald Trump.

The conspiracy theory took a frightening turn on Dec. 4, 2016, when a North Carolina man fired three shots in Comet Ping Pong with a semi-automatic rifle, demanding access to the basement so he could save the children. No one was injured, and Edgar Maddison Welch was sentenced to four years in federal prison.

Now, two years later, Mr. Podesta said he chooses to “ignore” the trolls still clinging to the theory, because trying to figure out what they’re alleging “would drive me nuts.”

“It’s painful and crazy,” he told Rolling Stone in an interview published Sunday. “I’m pretty grizzled. One big difference is you’ve got somebody sitting in the Oval Office stoking the conspiracy. That’s pretty different than what I’ve experienced in my years in politics.”

Mr. Podesta said that while the conspiracy theory has largely died down, he can’t help but feel a bit paranoid in this politically divided climate. Amid the rash of pipe bombs sent to high-profile Democrats in October, Mr. Podesta said he took to “poking and prodding his mail with a pen before opening it,” Rolling Stone reported.

“As a person who’s pretty hardened by a lifetime in politics, I sometimes think, ‘Well, how would a normal person even begin to live with this?’” he asked.

As for Mr. Alefantis, the restaurateur told Rolling Stone that the conspiracy theory destroyed his relationship and almost decimated his business.

Mr. Podesta, however, said he’s still a huge fan of the Chevy Chase pizzeria.

“The pizza’s still good at Comet, too,” he said.

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