Welcome to the Trump-Clinton conspiracy election

Published 9:48 am Thursday, August 25, 2016

LOS ANGELES — It’s a conspiracy: The 2016 campaign features one candidate who warned against the “vast right-wing conspiracy” and another who was a leader of the so-called “birther” movement.

Donald Trump and his surrogates hint at a mysterious “illness” afflicting rival Hillary Clinton. Pushing back, Clinton warns of murky ties between Trump and the Russian government, insinuating that her Republican opponent may be a puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Rumors and innuendo long confined to the far reaches of the Internet are dominating the presidential race, forcing Clinton to grapple — once again — with the kinds of whispers that have dogged her family for decades.

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Clinton has largely avoided discussing the conspiracies, leaving it to members of her campaign team or allies. But she is preparing a Reno, Nevada, address on Thursday that will accuse Trump of supporting an “alt-right” campaign that presents “a divisive and dystopian view of America.”

“I do feel sometimes like this campaign has entered into an alternative universe,” Clinton said in an appearance Monday night on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

She described Trump Wednesday night on CNN as a candidate who is campaigning on anger and hatred.

“Donald Trump has shown us who he is and we ought to believe him,” she said. “He is taking a hate movement mainstream. He has brought it into his campaign. He’s bringing it to our communities and our country.”

Driven by big personalities, the 2016 election has become a perfect storm for conspiracy theories. Clinton famously called her husband’s opponents part of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” and her family has long been central to a cottage industry of sordid tales about her husband and family.

Trump is known for peddling conspiracies and was at the center of the “birther” movement that questioned whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States (Obama was born in Hawaii). Trump, a businessman and reality TV star, has frequently tossed out rumors about Clinton’s health and sleep schedule on the stump and on Twitter, aiming to discredit her fitness for office.

Sensing an opportunity, Clinton’s team seized upon the rumor-mongering after the GOP nominee plucked Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of the conservative website Breitbart News, to be his new campaign chairman this month.