After critics pummeled Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) for nonsensically blaming the “usual pedo grifters” for America’s infant formula shortage, her office reportedly then insisted that is not what she meant at all.
A spokesperson for the extremist lawmaker said she wasn’t blaming “pedophile” grifters, but intended “pedo” to mean “children,” writer and activist Parker Malloy reported Saturday — which still makes no sense.
“Pedo” or pedophile is a well-known dogwhistle to QAnon conspiracy theorists who are baselessy convinced “pedo” Democrats are running an international child sex trafficking operation.
The weird contortion after Stefanik’s outrageous Twitter post was captured in a recorded phone call to the lawmaker’s office by an unidentified “constituent,” Malloy reported in “The Present Age.”
Neither Stefanik nor a representative could immediately be reached for comment, and HuffPost could not confirm the speaker on the recording was a Stefanik spokesperson. But the recorded voice appeared to be identical to one on an answering machine responding to calls to a Stefanik constituent office.
The unidentified caller asks who the “usual pedo grifters” are that Stefanik refers to in her tweet.
“First off, this is her personal Twitter. Just have to note that,” the staffer responds, pointing out that the office had received a number of calls about the issue. “And No. 2, ‘pedo’ is not short for ‘pedophile, it is ‘pedo,’ as in ‘children.’”
“So these are people who are grifting their children?” asks the confused caller. “How are they grifting their children? Or are they children who are grifting?”
The person responds: “No, not children who are grifting … people who are grifting on behalf of children.”
When asked to explain how that works, the spokesperson says he “can’t really analyze it.” The full phone call can be heard here:
A staffer on Friday gave a slightly different version of “pedo grifters” to The Independent, saying they were Republicans in The Lincoln Project — but apparently didn’t even try to begin to explain that one.
Mediaite was also told Friday, apparently without explanation: “Pedo grifters refers to the Lincoln Project.”
The Lincoln Project is a PAC founded and run by Republicans critical of Donald Trump. There is nothing linking the Lincoln Project to the infant formula shortage — or to pedophilia.
Critics on Friday warned that Stefanik’s irresponsible “pedo” tweet could trigger violence against imagined enemies. A gunman opened fire in 2016 in a Washington, D.C., pizzeria that was baselessly identified as a headquarters for a supposed child trafficking operation. No one was injured. The “Pizzagate” gunman was sentenced to four years in prison.
Stefanik was also ripped for her heartless call in her tweet to deny infant formula to immigrant babies being processed or detained in federal facilities. The government is required by law to provide necessities in such situations.
Stefanik blames the Biden administration for the current shortage of infant formula in America. The administration does not manufacture formula; it’s created and sold by three major companies, which have little competition and a powerful control of the market.
The shortage was triggered in part by pandemic-related supply chain issues combined with a massive safety recall by the largest formula producer, Abbott Nutrition, which was forced to close its Michigan plant earlier this year due to contamination concerns.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.