The Bernie Sanders adviser who entertained conspiracy theories about the 9/11 terrorist attacks also bought into debunked theories that other major world events were staged, including the BP oil spill and the killing of Osama bin Laden.
A Washington Free Beacon review of newly hired Sanders adviser Phillip Agnew's social media accounts found that he has embraced a number of conspiracy theories. Months before Agnew, who also goes by the name Umi Selah, appeared to claim the U.S. government was behind 9/11, he suggested to his followers that the deadly BP oil spill that killed 11 and caused $17.2 billion in damage was staged.
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"Watching CNN and asking where is all the oil?" Agnew wrote on July 27, 2010. "I've been wondering the same thing? Doesn't look like any in the water around the rig…"
Watching CNN and asking where is all the oil? I've been wondering the same thing? Doesn't look like any in the water around the rig…
— phillip agnew (@iPhilSomething) July 27, 2010
A month later, Agnew praised the infamous conspiracy theory film Zeitgeist, which disputes the existence of Jesus Christ as a historical figure and alleges that 9/11 was arranged or allowed to occur by the U.S. government. Agnew asked if the film "mess[ed] up anybody else's head" in August 2010. He appeared to argue that the U.S. government was behind 9/11 just weeks later.
"Tomorrow America remembers the day that she turned on herself, dismantled her constitution, and killed her own citizens in the name of money," Agnew wrote on Sept. 10, 2010.
The Sanders adviser also entertained conspiracies regarding the death of Osama bin Laden, writing, "I don't believe shit America, and by default Obama, says.… We prolly BEEN [sic] killed Osama," on the morning the terrorist was killed.
The Sanders campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
The same day Agnew praised Zeitgeist, he doubled down on the BP oil spill conspiracy, writing, "Anybody ever wonder why the oil spill happened? Ever thought it was a precursor for something worse? Or to cover up something worse?" When a follower asked Agnew to explain, the Sanders adviser responded that "it's either to turn public opinion against oil. Or to give BP access to more of it."
Credited with launching "the first Internet-based apocalyptic cult," Zeitgeist features footage taken directly from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones's documentary Terrorstorm. The film is widely regarded as anti-Semitic and depicts a group of international bankers who allegedly rule the world. Agnew is staunchly anti-Israel and has called Zionism a "racist, exploitative, and exclusionary ideology."
Agnew tweeted about the film on multiple occasions, writing, "I don't trust America, after watching Zeitgeist," on Aug. 10, 2010. The tweet quotes a lyric from rapper and noted conspiracy theorist Lupe Fiasco, who has claimed that World Trade Center Building 7 was detonated by the U.S. government. One week after the tweet, Agnew again praised the movie, writing, "Did Zeitgeist mess up anybody else's head?"
I don't trust America, after watching Zeitgeist. @LupeFiasco. Good night.
— phillip agnew (@iPhilSomething) August 11, 2010
The film appeared to influence Agnew's view of 9/11. Agnew argued that the U.S. government played a role in the deadliest terrorist attack in American history just weeks after discussing Zeitgeist online.
Agnew also entertained conspiracies regarding the death of Osama bin Laden. Shortly after the terrorist's death on May 2, 2011, Agnew suggested the killing was staged to manipulate economic markets.
"I don't believe shit America, and by default Obama, says. Sorry," Agnew wrote the morning of bin Laden's death. "We prolly BEEN killed Osama. All choreography. Got no proof; gut feeling." Four minutes later, Agnew tweeted, "‘Burial @ sea?' ‘Stocks set for higher opening after death of OBL.'" When doctored photos of bin Laden's dead body circulated online, Agnew wrote that, "Even with photos, my skepticism runs deep."
I don't believe shit America, and by default Obama, says. Sorry. We prolly BEEN killed Osama. All choreography. Got no proof; gut feeling.
— phillip agnew (@iPhilSomething) May 2, 2011
Agnew has walked back other controversial views in the past. He apologized for a string of 2009 tweets calling Michelle Obama ugly. He has yet to address his conspiratorial comments about 9/11 and other world events. While Agnew attributed his tweets about the former first lady to his young age at the time, the Sanders adviser again said America was responsible for 9/11 years later. He suggested American foreign policy caused the terrorist attacks in a 2016 Instagram post with the caption, "#neverforget what goes round comes round."
Agnew has also made bigoted comments toward minorities, tweeting, "Am I racist for refusing to speak to non-english speaking customer service reps over the phone???" in 2010. Agnew mocked Asians in multiple tweets, writing, "#iwonder if Americans do the nails in China…" in 2009 and "I wonder how an Asian rapper would describe his eyes when he's high," in 2010.
The Sanders campaign announced the hiring of Agnew as a senior adviser on Saturday, calling him "one of his generation's most critical voices on issues of race and inequity." Agnew previously served the campaign as a national surrogate. He joins a long list of controversial figures associated with the campaign, including anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour and Imam Hassan al-Qazwini, who alleged a connection between ISIS and Israel in a 2015 sermon.