White House Shooter Fan of Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones

The 21-year-old Idaho man who shot at the White House earlier this month was a fan of antigovernment conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, The New York Times reports today.

Oscar Ortega, the Mexican-American waiter from Idaho Falls who on Nov. 11 fired a semiautomatic rifle out of his car window while driving by the president’s residence, allegedly believes that he is the “modern day Jesus Christ” and that Obama is the antichrist. His friend Jake Chapman, who sold Ortega the AK-47 used in the shooting, told the Times that about a year ago, he and Ortega watched Jones’ 2009 “The Obama Deception,” a feature-length film promulgating the theory that the president is the puppet of shadowy agents of the New World Order who plan to transform America into a totalitarian state resembling Nazi Germany.

Chapman, 21, said he had never heard Ortega discuss violent action.

Ortega’s sister Yesenia Hernandez told the Times she thinks her brother was motivated by mental illness. Research psychiatrist Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center in Arlington, Va., agreed, telling reporters that Ortega’s behavior, and the age at which it started, suggest a “textbook case of schizophrenia”

Hatewatch asked Torrey about the extent to which a schizophrenic person’s thinking might be affected by conspiracy theories like those Jones espouses.

“There are all kinds of crazy people putting out all kinds of crazy ideas, that’s been true forever and now it’s been magnified by a thousand by the internet,” Torrey said in a phone interview this morning. “People whose brains are working normally can hopefully work it out and realize, ‘this is a crazy idea.’ But if your brain is not working normally, you have less ability to work it out. Assuming Mr. Ortega has schizophrenia, he has less ability to sort through crazy ideas.”

Ortega is not the only violent extremist to whom Jones’ antigovernment conspiracy theories have appealed.

Byron Williams, the would-be terrorist who was arrested in July 2010 after a shootout with cops on his way to San Francisco, where he allegedly planned to kill employees at the offices of the ACLU and the Tides Foundation, also followed Jones. Another fan was Richard Poplawski, a white supremacist who was sentenced to death in September for the 2009 shooting deaths of three Pittsburgh police officers. Shortly after the murders, his friend Edward Perkovic told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Poplawski, 22, followed Jones, and that among other things he feared an attack on gun rights and thought that U.S. troops would be used against citizens – exactly the sort of conspiracist speculation that Jones specializes in.

True to form, a Nov. 18 article posted on Jones’ website, InfoWars, suggests that Ortega was a plant, possibly even a Mossad agent. “There are interesting facts surrounding Oscar Ortega-Hernandez and this case. At this point in time, we are left with more questions than answers,” it says. “How was it possible for a reportedly mentally challenged person to fire multiple high-caliber rounds into the White House from Constitution Avenue and escape the immediate security area without being detained? … More facts will undoubtedly filter out as this case proceeds.”