Selweski: Candidate Pushes Conspiracies and Video Calling Orlando Deaths 'Hoax'

June 27, 2016, 12:12 AM

Chad Selweski covered state and regional politics for The Macomb Daily for nearly 30 years. He contributes to Deadline Detroit and blogs at Politically Speaking.

By Chad Selweski

A candidate running for a state House seat in Macomb County, who works as a senior intelligence analyst for a Defense Department contractor, has urged his friends and supporters to view a video he posted online that claims the mass shooting in Orlando was a hoax. 

Michael Shallal

Two days after the massacre at The Pulse night club that killed 49 people and wounded 53 more, Sterling Heights Republican Michael Shallal posted a YouTube video on Facebook with this title: “100% PROOF Orlando Shooting Was a STAGED HOAX...This Is All You Need To See.”

Shallal tells Facebook followers: “Did anyone see this video? Not sure, but very interesting facts.”

The narrator of the 6½-minute, profanity-laced video, which shows news footage filmed outside the club, suggests that wounded victims are actors. The video, played nearly 720,000 times in 13 days, draws comments insisting doctors tending to the injured were fake and that grieving relatives of those reported killed were a part of the conspiracy. Other comments sharply criticize people for believing the conspiracy theory. 

Shallal has also engaged in other online comments and sharing of items that are controversial, if not extremist. The list of subjects is practically a what's what of fear-mongering conspiracy theories: fluoride in the drinking water, vaccines injected in kids, chemtrails in the air, smart meters in houses, and Muslims coming into America.

Fringe theorists believe the shootings in Orlando and in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 were staged by the government as a pretext for confiscating Americans’ firearms. At least 16 other videos also claim the tragedy was fiction.

Shallal is a member of the National Rifle Association. When questioned by Deadline Detroit, he backpedals, insisting that he does not believe The Pulse massacre was a hoax.

“I shared a video. Someone mentioned it to me and I thought it was interesting,” the candidate says, characterizing the video as “not relevant” to his campaign.

Primary Competition

Shallal is running in the August GOP primary for an open seat in the 30th House District, a territory that includes the western half of Sterling Heights, Utica and a portion of Shelby Township.

He faces three other Republicans, including Diana Farrington, wife of 30th District Rep. Jeff Farrington, R-Utica, who is term-limited and cannot run again. In addition, two Democrats seek their party’s nomination Aug. 2.

Shallal has worked with contractors with the U.S. military in the Middle East and has held various Department of Defense contractor jobs. He is currently working as an analyst for a Defense Department contractor, and his campaign website says that he holds "a prominent government security clearance." His campaign literature features a photo of him in military fatigues, though he did not actually serve in the military. (An earlier version of this column incorrectly said he did serve in the military).

Shallal’s chances of winning the 30th District race may hinge on his ability to secure broad support from fellow Chaldeans – Iraqi Christians. The district features a relatively large Chaldean population, particularly along the Dequindre Road border.

Shallal’s two Facebook pages – one a personal page, the other for his candidacy – offer an array of items related to conspiracy theories:

  • Posts that says “smart meters” installed by utilities for electricity use billing cause severe health problems.
  • Numerous anti-Muslim posts, One claims President Obama is sneaking Muslims into the country as refugees.
  • A link to a site that insists many bottled water brands have unsafe fluoride levels.
  • A site’s assertion that the Los Angeles Public Schools teaching that Allah is the one true God.
  •  An article that accuses NASA of spewing dangerous chemicals, known as “chemtrails,” into the atmosphere to alter people’s brains.
  • A story that declares the routine assurances indicating that child vaccines are safe is based on “fraudulent science.”
  • Posts that support Ammon Bundy, the rebel rancher who took control of a building on federal land in Oregon last January in a four-week standoff that resulted in one death. 

Making his third run for office in Macomb County, Shallal apparently is disavowed by some Republican insiders. Joe Munem, a former longtime campaign consultant from Sterling Heights, said he believes GOP voters will shun Shallal on Aug. 2.

“Michael Shallal is not a serious candidate,” Munem said. “He is yet another nut in a bumper crop of nuts running for office this year.”

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