How Imran Awan Became The Biggest Wingnut Fake News Freakout Since ‘Pizzagate’

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Imran Awan, an IT consultant who had been under investigation for bilking his Democratic clients, was arrested yesterday and charged with bank fraud while trying to leave the country.

His case would ordinarily be a minor, if interesting, political scandal. But because Awan is Muslim, and a Pakistani national with close ties to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, supporters of Donald Trump have turned his arrest into a snowballing conspiracy theory.

Here are the hard facts

“Law enforcement authorities for months have been looking into how Awan may have double-billed the House for equipment like computers, iPads, monitors, keyboards and routers,” Fox News reported last night. “Several relatives of Awan worked for House Democrats and were fired months ago. Awan, however, was kept on staff by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., even though he was no longer allowed access to the House server network.”

Following Awan’s arrest, a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz told news outlets that he had been fired.

Awan’s family members were also reportedly investigated for possible improper cloud storage and stealing office equipment, though no charges have been filed.

The family business has apparently reaped between $1.3 and 2 million from House Democrats in the last decade, according to POLITICO. Yet Awan is apparently bad with money, as he declared bankruptcy in 2012.

Also, Awan has been described as “a charming, dishonest manipulator with an unquenchable thirst for money,” so it is understandable that he allegedly tried to scam a lending institution.

Awan is accused of attempting to defraud the Congressional Federal Credit Union by obtaining a $165,000 home equity loan for a rental property, which is against the credit union’s policies since it is not the owner’s primary residence. Those funds were then included as part of a wire transfer to two individuals in Faisalabad, Pakistan.

After pleading not guilty at his arraignment, Awan was allowed to return to his Virginia home and await trial on the condition that he wear an ankle monitor and submit to a “high intensity supervision program.”

How the story took a hard right turn into wingnut fantasy-land

You may have noticed that nothing about this story applies to the Democratic National Committee, or its stolen emails, or John Podesta’s stolen emails, or WikiLeaks, or the Muslim Brotherhood. But that hasn’t stopped irresponsible people from pretending that Imran Awan is somehow linked to all of those things.

For example, Geraldo Rivera was eager to pretend that the House Democratic caucus and the DNC are the same thing, which of course they are not. And Sean Hannity — the same guy who nearly got himself fired for spouting conspiracy theories about murdered Democratic staffer Seth Rich — was eager to give Rivera a platform for his madness.

Of course, the next step in any good Fox News fake news campaign is to pressure the rest of the media into covering the story, thus consuming oxygen that might otherwise fuel the fires of other controversies about health care and Jared Kushner’s search for a back channel to the Kremlin.

For the rank-and-file of the #MAGA Twitter team, it was time to accuse those same media organizations of secretly taking part in the Imran Awan conspiracy theory because a completely different person with the same name wrote something about Islamophobia once.

Of course, no right wing fake news freakout would be complete without 4chan and Trump subreddits adding their special insanity through the usual free association game of amateur internet detectives.

For weeks now, the same ghouls who convinced themselves that Hillary Clinton was running a pedophile ring out of a Washington, DC pizzeria’s nonexistent basement have said that Wasserman Schultz and Imran Awan are somehow connected to the still-unsolved murder of Beranton Whisenant, a federal prosecutor who was found dead on a Florida beach in May.

As a result, the news of Awan’s arrest unleashed a torrent of memes and raving posts all across social media. The only thing missing was any actual proof that any of this stuff is connected at all. Evidence? Who needs evidence when you have belief?

But the real prize goes to Tucker Carlson’s website The Daily Caller and their “investigative reporter” Luke Rosiak, who has doggedly pursued the Awan story all along.

For example, his report that the FBI found smashed hard drives at Awan’s home has not been corroborated, but it has certainly provided easy fodder for half-witted, uninformed speculation on Twitter. And that’s all one really needs to succeed in this game, isn’t it?


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