Appearing as a guest on Thursday's CNN Tonight, UC Berkeley professor and former Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich actually promoted a conspiracy theory that it was in reality a group of right-wingers -- perhaps linked to Breitbart News -- who were responsible for violent riots at UC Berkeley in reaction to Breitbart senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos planning to speak there. Rather than laughing off such a preposterous suggestion, host Don Lemon seemed to treat the "rumor" as plausible and asked conservative CNN political commentator Alice Stewart -- who was up against two liberal guests -- for her reaction.
At 11:17 p.m. ET, Lemon tagged Yiannopoulos as a "white supremacist" as he turned to Reich and posed: "This violence we saw at Berkeley -- we had it live here on CNN last night -- it ultimately -- does it -- it plays right into the hands of the right-wing white supremacists -- someone like Milo Yiannopoulos?"
Reich suggested that conservatives were to blame for the violence as he began:
It absolutely does, Don, and I want to be very, very clear. I was there for part of last night, and I know what I saw. And those people were not Berkeley students. Those were outsiders, agitators. I've never seen them before. There's rumors that they actually were right-wingers, they were part of a kind of a group that were organized and were ready to create the kind of tumult and danger you saw that forced the police to cancel the event.
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Moments later, Lemon followed up: "You think this was a strategy by Yiannopoulos or right-wingers to -- they put this on so they could -- in an effort to show that, you know, there's no free speech on a college campus like UC Berkeley?"
Reich repeated the tin foil hat theory:
I wouldn't bet against it, Don. You know, again, I saw these people. They were very -- they all looked almost paramilitary. They were not from the campus, and I've heard, you know, again, I don't want to say factually, but I heard that there was some relationship there between these people and the right-wing, and the right-wing movement that is affiliated with Breitbart News.
The CNN host responded: "It is interesting because there have been protests, but nothing this violent. We haven't seen anything to this level."
He soon turned to Stewart and posed: "Alice, what do you think of what Robert said? Do you think these could have been paid actors?"