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Even as His Big Conspiracy Theory Crumbles, Darren Beattie’s Star Continues to Rise in Trump World

The creator of Revolver News was praised by Trump and fired by Biden in the same week.
January 18, 2022
Even as His Big Conspiracy Theory Crumbles, Darren Beattie’s Star Continues to Rise in Trump World
Darren Beattie speaking with attendees at the 2020 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

Last Friday, the White House demanded the resignations of six members of an obscure government body, the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad. All six of the individuals ousted by the Biden administration were Trump appointees—including Darren Beattie, a conspiracy-mongering darling of the far right.

The firing came at the end of a week that started with praise being lavished upon Beattie by the former president. Trump, via a statement, extolled Beattie and his website, Revolver News:

The story of how Beattie went from being an unknown speechwriter fired from the Trump White House in 2018 to a prominent propagandist fired by the Biden White House in 2022 is worth recounting for what it tells us about the chaotic Trumpian right. It is not a particularly encouraging story. Beattie rehabilitated his relationship with MAGA World not by cleaning up his act but by showing an unflagging commitment to Trump and demonstrating a real knack for promoting conspiracy theories. That Trump is eager to promote Beattie—that Trump finds Beattie useful—is yet another indicator of everything that is disturbing about the ex-president’s hold on the GOP.

Beattie’s ouster from the Trump White House back in August 2018 came in the wake of revelations that he had participated in a conference alongside prominent white nationalists. According to reporting at the time, Beattie was asked to resign but refused on the grounds that he was not racist and had done nothing wrong—forcing the Trump White House to fire him.

Beattie’s transition out of government in 2018 wasn’t perfectly smooth. For example: His firing created a minor crisis and controversy for the Claremont Institute, the California think tank that houses John Eastman, now infamous for being the author of the “coup memo.” A decade earlier, Beattie had participated in one of the Claremont Institute’s summer fellowship programs, and when he was fired by Trump he allegedly appealed to Claremont’s listserv to, as he later explained, “apprise them of the disgusting smear campaign against me by CNN.” The responses to Beattie’s inquiry became so racially charged that the Claremont Institute’s president, Ryan Williams, soon had to permanently shut down the listserv. As Williams put it at the time, “We host many forums for civil discourse, and the unmoderated Listserv had ceased to serve our alumni community well.”

In 2019, Beattie worked for a stint with Trump sycophant Rep. Matt Gaetz (where he was apparently paid via a contractual arrangement that sparked controversy). According to the byline on a 2019 article published by Claremont, Beattie was working on a “book in defense of Trumpist Nationalism.”

By May 2020, though, he had founded Revolver.News. The site prides itself on being the “new Drudge”—a comparison Trump himself made in a September 2020 tweet. In October 2020, Revolver.News published a story repeating allegations from an unnamed supposed source claiming to have seen inappropriate photos of underage girls on Hunter Biden’s laptop—part of an intense and bizarre smear campaign that was peaking as election day came nearer. On November 4, 2020, the day after the election, a Revolver article (presumably written by Beattie) claimed that Democrats were on the verge of stealing the election and outlined steps that Trump should take to prevent Biden from coming to office—including the suggestion that Republican-controlled legislatures “seat Trump electors” if there is “clear evidence of electoral fraud.” The article concludes: “American patriots everywhere need marching orders. Game on.” Michael Anton, of “Flight 93” article fame, linked to the piece in one of his own early Claremont Institute pieces about “the Biden coup.”

A few weeks later, Trump appointed Beattie to the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, an unpaid position. Given Beattie’s prior firing, the appointment was immediately controversial. (Perhaps the controversy is why the commission, strangely, never updated its roster online to list Beattie as a member.) It is unclear how, if at all, Beattie participated in the commission’s work.

On January 6, 2021, during the insurrection at the Capitol, Beattie put out several repulsive, racist tweets, in which he declared that various black individuals and groups (Tim Scott, Ibram X. Kendi, Kay Coles James, and BLM), must “learn [their] place” and “take a knee to MAGA.” (He has since deleted some but not all of those tweets.)

It is worth noting that the very next day, Claremont Institute President Ryan Williams promoted a livestream featuring Beattie. (Williams later deleted the tweet.)

In sum: Beattie’s website helped spread lies about Hunter Biden; it also played a role in seeding the Stop the Steal conspiracy; and Beattie exposed a vulgar and vicious racist side of himself on Jan. 6th. Until not so long ago, such actions would have been disqualifying for engagement in mainstream politics. Not so nowadays.

Ever since the mob attack on the Capitol, Beattie has proven a prolific inventor and propagator of conspiracy theories about the FBI’s involvement in Jan. 6th. This, more than anything else he has done so far on Revolver, is what has brought him to the forefront of the MAGA mind.

A handy list, “The Essential Revolver News January 6 Reading List,” shows eight articles about alleged FBI inside involvement in the events of Jan. 6th. Five of them are about “unindicted co-conspirators,” and the other three explore the game-changing impact that Revolver has allegedly had on the unfolding national story.

Beattie’s basic idea is this: Since several individuals were caught on camera promoting the breach of the Capitol, or were otherwise alleged to be involved in organizing the events of Jan. 6 in some way, but hadn’t yet been indicted as of the time of Beattie’s writing, there was obviously something afoot:

We at Revolver News have noticed a pattern from our now months-long investigation into 1/6 — and in particular from our meticulous study of the charging documents related to those indicted. In many cases the unindicted co-conspirators appear to be much more aggressive and egregious participants in the very so-called “conspiracy” serving as the basis for charging those indicted.

For Beattie, the fact that so many “mostly harmless tourists” and “harmless ‘MAGA moms’” had been treated as insurrectionists is absurd (“That many of these people are being held in prison, without bail, under harsh conditions, amounts to an unacceptable and outrageous abuse of basic human rights”). But also according to Beattie, the real problems come from the people who hadn’t yet been arrested. Never mind that Beattie’s theory leaves a theoretical no-man zone between too many arrests and too few, or between legitimate prosecution based on evidence and the rampant abuse of power on the part of the Department of Justice: The unindicted co-conspirators were a sufficient smoking gun for Beattie’s claims. These were people who should have been immediately swept up by the law but weren’t—the individuals who, because they suspiciously remained free, were likely guilty parties.

The headline of the first story listed in Revolver’s “essential” list (from June 14, 2021) reads: “Unindicted Co-Conspirators in 1/6 Cases Raise Disturbing Questions of Federal Foreknowledge.” According to its analysis:

If it turns out that an extraordinary percentage of the members of these groups involved in planning and executing the Capitol Siege were federal informants or undercover operatives, the implications would be nothing short of staggering.

With the big opening “if” this claim is true enough. But then the article continues in such a manner that the main qualifications are removed:

There are what appears to be upwards of 20 unindicted co-conspirators in the Oath Keepers indictments, all playing various roles in the conspiracy, who have not been charged for virtually the exact same activities — and in some cases much, much more severe activities — as those named alongside them in indictments.

For Beattie, the failure to indict various members of the Oath Keepers group, in particular, was a clear sign that some of these men were inside operators. The next two of the eight “essential” Revolver pieces focus on Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes. “The federal government is protecting Mr. Rhodes, and we would like to know why,” Revolver—presumably Beattie—peremptorily declares.

A later Revolver article, published last September, griped about how the House Jan. 6th Committee had supposedly shown no interest in Rhodes. But by November, the committee had subpoenaed him. So, naturally, Revolver shifted gears, taking credit for supposed “pressure generated” on the committee regarding Stewart. Thus Beattie tries to have it both ways: If a person isn’t being investigated, that’s suspicious, and once a person is being investigated, Beattie pathetically attempts to claim credit. And the presumption is always that Revolver News and Darren Beattie understand what’s going on better than the people at the Department of Justice or the Jan. 6th Committee. Never mind the fact that Beattie has no professional experience with investigative and prosecutorial procedure, let alone access to all the evidence available to the DOJ and the committee.

Beattie’s website was also a major source for conspiracy theories about Ray Epps, a man who appeared on early FBI “most wanted” lists because he was seen on video organizing groups and encouraging people to enter the Capitol. The case of Epps is, admittedly, a strange one, but presumably it is less so to those with access to the evidence, and who are charged with actually following the processes of the law (as opposed, again, to Revolver’s armchair sleuthing). According to news reports, there was no evidence that Epps ever entered the Capitol himself, and he was later interviewed by the House committee, and cleared. He is no longer on the FBI list, but is apparently back on his homestead in Arizona.

Revolver refers to him as “Fed-protected provocateur.”

All these articles have brought Beattie a lot of attention. He has been a regular on Tucker Carlson’s shows about Jan. 6th and surrounding conspiracies, and he played a prominent role in Carlson’s propagandistic Patriot Purge movie about Jan. 6th. Beattie’s loose relationship with the facts has been called out in the mainstream press, but that hasn’t stopped Carlson from gushing all over him as recently as this week.

On Thursday, January 13, federal prosecutors announced that they had charged Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes with seditious conspiracy, along with ten other individuals. They are unindicted conspirators no more. So much for Beattie’s cockamamie conspiracy theories about government protection of Rhodes.

Later in the day on the 13th, Beattie was on Steve Bannon’s podcast, “War Room.” An intellectually honest person would have conceded the momentous challenge that this turn of events posed for his theory; would have asked soul-searching questions about how he could have gotten things so wrong; might have admitted to feeling torn up about the civic consequences of all the high-stakes, misleading information that he had been peddling for so long.

Not Beattie. He began by vigorously denying that the arrests debunked his big theories. Rather, he suggested, the arrest of Stewart Rhodes “intensified” the very questions that he had been asking all along; indeed, it signaled “a much more interesting dynamic than we may have anticipated.”

Moving goalposts, perverse inversions, incoherence: the marks of morally and intellectually unserious individuals who either have no integrity or sacrifice it in order to kiss up to the likes of Bannon, Carlson, and Trump.

At times during the last year, Beattie described himself in his Twitter bio as “serving the Biden Admin”—a trolling reference to his continued perch on the heritage commission. After he was finally fired from the commission on Friday, Beattie preened. Presumably in so doing he moved himself still one step closer to the inner sanctums of Mar-a-Lago.

Laura K. Field

Laura K. Field is a senior fellow at the Niskanen Center and a scholar in residence at American University. Twitter: @lkatfield.