Was Ashli Babbitt’s Death ‘Exposed as a Hollywood Stunt’?

A blog with a history of publishing weaponized disinformation attempted to use the death of one of the rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol in January 2021 as grist for another conspiracy theory.

The “story,” posted on Before It’s News on February 9 2021, has no byline and a deceptive citation, on top of a lack of evidence. The entire piece reads:

Compelling analysis of video clips reveal a botched attempt at a Hollywood-style capitol shooting drama.

Is Ashli Babbitt alive and well? — Babbit was initially identified as “Roberta Paulsen” until it was officially debunked by alleged “fact checkers”.

The smoking gun is the failure of law enforcement to be prepared when it was known by U.S. Capitol Police, that alleged “insurrection” at the capitol was planned for weeks by people and groups claiming to be Trump supporters but now revealed to be hired actors. (TIME MAG)

Notice the fake “Plastic” appearance of the Swat Guy’s assault rifle.

“Breakaway glass” used in movies is usually made from a thermoplastic or two component resin that is poured into a flexible silicone mold to harden. Some brand names are Piccotex / Piccolastic (Eastman) and SMASH (Bentley Chemicals) and others.

The mention of “TIME MAG” is a link to a Time magazine story on the breakdown in the response of the Capitol Police to the attack, which caused the deaths of five people. That story does not, however, show that “paid actors” were behind the riot.

Likewise, there is no truth to the claim that Babbitt, who did in fact die after the attack, was initially identified as “Roberta Paulsen.” Users attempting to troll reports of her death seized onto that name — a play on the name of a Fight Club character — prior to Babbitt being identified.

As the Washington Post reported, the 35-year-old San Diego native was shot and killed as she and a group of rioters tried to break into a hallway that would have allowed them access to the House of Representatives chamber. According to the newspaper’s analysis:

Babbitt and others were attempting to breach a barricaded door inside the Capitol building on Wednesday afternoon, angrily demanding that three U.S. Capitol Police officers who were guarding the door step aside, one of the clips shows. The officers moved away as colleagues in tactical gear arrived behind the rioters, according to the clip and other video posted online.

Roughly 35 seconds after the officers moved away, as she climbed up toward a broken section of the unguarded door, Babbitt was shot by an officer on the other side.

That Before It’s News would attempt to spin a conspiracy theory around her death is in keeping with the blog’s history. The media analysis site Media Bias/Fact Check has rated the blog as a “questionable source,” citing its promotion of pseudo-science, and “routine publication of fake news,” among other poor practices:

Anyone can publish news on this website which has resulted in it becoming a haven for conspiracy theorists and pseudo-scientists. Although Before It’s News proclaims to vet articles for factual accuracy, it seems they actually choose to publish the opposite. For example, they promote anti-vaccination propaganda, chemtrails, false flags, anti-climate change info, and the right-wing Clinton Body count conspiracies. In general, Before It’s News is one of the most discredited sources on the internet that promotes pseudoscience and right-wing conspiracy theories. They are also on Politifact’s fake news list. Finally, during the Coronavirus outbreak, they frequently promoted false and misleading information.

The “false flag” rumor bears a strong resemblance to the weaponized disinformation that professional propagandists and other bad actors have whipped up in the wake of every mass shooting. “Hoaxers” have spent years denying the reality of the deaths, going so far as to harass victims’ loved ones at funerals and memorial events and posting their addresses online to “prove” that those killed were “paid actors.”

Two years to the day of her death, Babbitt’s mother, 58-year-old Micki Witthoeft, was arrested for blocking a road along with other demonstrators on Capitol grounds during a pro-insurrection protest:

Law enforcement officials said that the far-right protesters did not have a permit.

Update January 6 2023, 1:54 p.m. PST: Updated to reflect the arrest of Micki Witthoeft two years after Babbitt’s death. — ag