Already grappling with a House candidate in the Chicago suburbs who is an avowed Nazi, there's virtually no chance the Illinois GOP was going to stand by when a downstate candidate for Congress was discovered to believe the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were an inside job.
So it should come as no surprise that last week any support state party leaders had for Bill Fawell, running locally against Rep. Cheri Bustos, evaporated after wider reporting of that issue. So did any possible shot at support from the Peoria County Republicans, it seems.
Nearly 17 years later, it might surprise some to hear the fervor with which Fawell still espouses his views. Or maybe not, given what's being talked about.
In late July, Fawell came to our offices for a meeting about a separate issue. While here, we asked him about his published belief that 9/11 was a "false flag" attack — something set up by a government to make it look like they were attacked by outsiders.
In his blog — now deleted, but recoverable on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine site — Fawell predicted in 2014 that New York City would be struck again by an attack. He wrote then that "just like 9/11, it will be a production of our shadow U.S. Deep State government and our CIA, NSA, Israel's Mossad, and a little help from their friends in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's covert military force."
He's also referenced that belief elsewhere.
Fawell is fond of lengthy soliloquies on issues. He's not a single-sound-bite kind of guy. So his explanation to us started with a reference to November 1968, months after the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. That's when, he says, he realized while sitting at his table at age 14 that "I've been lied to my whole life." And it started an attitude in which he decided "I am going to start building my world based on what I see, what I can prove to myself."
As to whether he actually believes 9/11 was an inside job? Well, his statements in the interview vacillated on that, if only somewhat.
When we pressed him on having said it was, he denied it briefly until we produced the blog entry with the quote above. He referred to it as having come from a prior website of his, and said, "You know, you're selling books, you're writing all kinds of things. You're writing to a certain group. And I said, you know, that's nonsense. You write that because you're trying to get people's attention because that's what works."
So, we asked him, you don't believe that?
He agreed the prediction of another attack destroying New York City in 2014 wasn't accurate, but about 9/11 being a government conspiracy he said, "but, you know, it might be true. I don't know. That's why more of a study needs to be made."
On that score, he points to work he says he's done himself and a small plastic baggie of dust he carries around that he says he collected from several blocks away from Ground Zero a few weeks after the attacks. Fawell said he had the chemical composition analyzed and points to what he believes is an abnormal amount of magnesium in the sample, drawing a straight line from there to the fact that magnesium and steel together are a combustion risk.
It's not a long hop in the conversation from there to referencing the burning points of jet fuel and steel, a favorite talking point by adherents to this conspiracy theory. Nor does it take long to reference a comparatively minuscule collection of architects and engineers who have signed on to versions of that theory. More research is needed, he says.
Fawell says he understands that — as well as a belief in a coming revolution in the nation prospectively ending in a civil war — makes him sound outside the mainstream.
"It absolutely sounds out the mainstream," he told us. "But you know what? I deal in the truth. And if it makes people feel uncomfortable, you know, I'm sorry."
Those aren't the only subjects where he might be described as being wildly at odds with everyday views.
Media Matters also uncovered links to tweets and other online posts, some of which also date back to Fawell's write-in campaign for the same 17th District seat in 2014. In some of those he links to material claiming the massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School as another false flag attack, and that the principal killed in the attacks is somehow alive.
Elsewhere, CNN reported on other items in his previously deleted blog that referenced singer Beyonce Knowles as having ties to the Illuminati. (Fawell claimed CNN pulled bits and pieces from his broader writings selectively, but, notably, didn't deny to us the accuracy of any material they used.)
Peoria County's Republicans are having none of it. The party typically doesn't endorse candidates at the federal level, but if candidates ask they weigh giving monetary or logistical backing, and permit them to use the local headquarters, show up to local party events and to be included in local get-out-the-vote efforts.
"To date, Mr. Fawell has not requested financial support, has not used Peoria County Republican Party resources, and has only minimally participated in events in Peoria County," local chairman Stephen Morris tells us.
If Fawell were to ask for any backing? The central committee would have to give it a vote. But, given where the state party is on Fawell, Morris believes he wouldn't get local backing at all. He emphasizes that Fawell's views and opinions don't reflect the local party's.
"Suggesting that 9/11 and Sandy Hook are anything other than horrible, national tragedies is beyond offensive to the memory of those who lost their lives and to the families left behind," Morris says. (C.K.)
Chris Kaergard covers politics and government. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.