Zinke added birther conspiracy theorist to his super PAC's board: report

Zinke added birther conspiracy theorist to his super PAC's board: report
© Greg Nash

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule Future of controversial international hunting council up in the air Overnight Energy: Advisory panel pushes park service to privatize campgrounds | Dems urge Perry to keep lightbulb efficiency rules | Marshall Islands declares national climate crisis MORE filled a top position at his super PAC with a right-wing commentator who promoted the so-called birther conspiracy theory against former President Obama, CNN reported Tuesday.

Retired Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, who joined Zinke's super PAC Special Operations for America as a board member in July 2012, reportedly regularly espoused the false claims that Obama was born outside the U.S. and is Muslim, two long-standing fringe conspiracy theories on the right.

Vallely on Zinke's radio show also promoted a false theory that a Saudi national was behind the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, CNN's KFile reports.

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Zinke has called Vallely a "great patriot" in at least one radio appearance. In a statement to CNN, the Interior Department did not deny Vallely's relationship with Zinke but also did not confirm whether Zinke challenged his beliefs.

"Ryan Zinke is a retired Navy SEAL commander who respects the general's service and respects the sacrifice of the Vallely family who lost their son while he was serving in the Army," said Interior Department press secretary Heather Swift.

In a statement to CNN, Vallely said that questioning Obama's birthplace does not make him a "birther," despite claiming in 2010 that there was "no proof that I've seen that he was born in Honolulu."

"I just questioned, along with others, where he was born. That doesn't make me a birther," Vallely told CNN.

"I always admired [Zinke's] military performance, his honesty, and then he ran, started running for political office — I can't remember the year — and I attended a number of events in support of Ryan and I've been a close friend ever since and I'm very happy that he's doing well in the administration," he added.

Vallely is one of several right-wing commentators who appeared on Zinke's radio show and espoused the birther conspiracy.

Earlier in April, CNN reported that a co-founder of an unrelated super PAC, Special Operations Speaks, Larry Bailey, joined his radio program and discussed questions about Obama's college records with Zinke.

In 2012, Bailey said that Obama was not born in the United States and called himself a part of the birther movement, according to the news network.

This story was updated at 4:27 p.m. to correct an error misidentifying Special Operations Speaks and Special Operations for America as the same organization.