Political commentators and ordinary social media users took to Twitter to share their thoughts on Monday's devastating Notre Dame Cathedral inferno, with some linking it to hardline Islamists, the contentious issue of migration into Europe and even Michelle Obama.
Following the fire, right-wing YouTuber Paul Joseph Watson shared a video by Damien Rue, which appears to show Facebook users with Muslim names reacting to a video of the Notre Dame Cathedral fire with laughing and smiley emojis.
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) 15 апреля 2019 г.
“Instead of denouncing this vile rhetoric, BuzzFeed is claiming I made it up. This is why you suck. This is why no one trusts you”, Joseph tweeted, after BuzzFeed questioned the authenticity of the video.
In a separate development, Fox News host Shepard Smith quickly shut down a French caller's conspiracy theory claiming that the Notre Dame Cathedral may have been deliberately set on fire by potential terrorists.
“I was close to the scene when it happened, but I left because I wanted people to work. Everybody was in shock, even if nobody died it was like a 9/11, a French 9/11, you know? And it's a big shock. This church that was there for more than 850 years, and even the Nazis there didn't destroy it”, Philippe Karsenty said, recalling that the past year has seen a spate of Christian churches desecrated across France.
“So, of course, you will hear the story, the politically correct story, political correctness, that it is probably an accident”, he went on to say and was then interrupted by Smith who said that “we're not going to speculate here of the cause of something we don't know”.
Meanwhile, American conservative commentator Glenn Beck said "if this [the blaze] was started by Islamists I don't think you'll find out about it", though he stressed it might have been just an accident. He also said it would be very worrying if the inferno was started by someone with a "grudge" against France.
Glenn Beck speculates on the Notre Dame fire: "If this was started by Islamists, I don't think you'll find out about it." pic.twitter.com/Yvq5iRdUCw— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) April 16, 2019
YouTuber and political commentator Mimi al-Laham said she doesn't think Muslims were responsible for the fire — instead, she suggested President Macron is responsible for all the "chaos" France is currently facing.
Anyone trying to blame #NotreDame on Islam or Muslims are missing the ball.— Partisangirl 🇸🇾 (@Partisangirl) April 15, 2019
If it were muslims the media would have been talking about it non stop.
From bakeries exploding ‘accidentally’, churches, banks and stores burning, surrounded by the chaos is one man and his backers. pic.twitter.com/jHYC3ZDLUZ
Other far-fetched conspiracy theories were floated online, with some even suggesting Michelle Obama is to blame for the tragedy.
Far-right/conspiracy theory Twitter has now attributed the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral to:— Caroline Orr (@RVAwonk) April 15, 2019
— May/Merkel/Macron-orchestrated false flag
— Michelle Obama pic.twitter.com/9kt4txymYG
Earlier, Alice Weidel, a parliamentary group leader of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party, tried to link the Notre Dame fire to previous anti-Christian attacks in France.
"During Holy Week #NotreDame burns. March: second largest church Saint-Sulpice burns. February: 47 attacks in France”, Weidel wrote in a Tweet on Tuesday.
She also tweeted that “the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe speaks of a significant increase [in the attacks]”, singling out a link to a March article in a German Catholic magazine titled “Catholic churches desecrated across France”.
Heitz assured that investigators would do their best to define the cause of the fire and confirmed that witness hearings are still under way. In February, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported that at least ten attacks against Catholic churches, including arson and desecration, had taken place in France since the start of the year.