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November 23, 2016

'Hillary 4 Prison' sign man moves on to Pizzagate conspiracy

Politics Investigations
11232016_Howard_Caplan Brian Hickey/PhillyVoice

Though he identified himself as a lifelong Democrat, the Wikileaks issue inspired 47-year-old Howard Caplan of Northeast Philadelphia to make a daily trip to Grant Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard to express his displeasure with Hillary Clinton's candidacy. Now he's feasting on another alt-right obsession: Pizzagate.

When news broke Tuesday that President-elect Donald Trump wasn’t inclined to pursue a deeper investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email situation – despite persistent indications to the contrary throughout the campaign  one person instantly came to mind.

Remember Howard Caplan? He’s the Northeast Philadelphia man who took to Roosevelt Boulevard hoisting a sign that read “Hillary 4 Prison” and shouting words to that effect at campaign events.

So, yeah, I wanted to check in to see how he’s taking the about-face news. We talked on Wednesday morning over the phone. 

Here’s what he had to say about it.

“I’m not an expert on who decides what to do and when, but I think it’s not really in his hands," Caplan said of Trump. "I’ve watched enough of the House Oversight Committee to know that they’re all over it.

“It’s strange that he just came out and did that when he’s in the middle of picking a cabinet. He’s a smart guy. Maybe it’s like that time he said Obama was born in the U.S. He brings all these military dudes out and is talking for 45 minutes or an hour (about other issues) when he says, ‘Obama was born in the US. Let’s get back to making America great again.'

“He can say it, but to be perfectly honest, the emails are not the story. The story right now is a child pedophilia ring that goes all the way up to Obama. In my mind, hopefully he’s saying that we may not get you on the emails, but we’ll get you on everything else.

“I don’t know what you’re allowed to write, but have you heard about Pizzagate?"

(I hadn’t, so he shared the hashtags #pizzagate, #littlelivesmatter, and #DCPedoRing. I’ve since read up on the “alt-right conspiracy theory" that’s put Comet Ping Pong Pizza in Washington D.C. into an unusual position of fending off wild accusations.)

“I went down to the pizza place earlier this week to demonstrate outside," Caplan said. "They were running things out of this place. So I was just standing out there and the owner came out to talk to us. Offering us coffee. I started videotaping and he’s just defending everything in very strange ways."

“He invited me inside for a tour. I asked if I could videotape it and he said, ‘Yeah, sure.’

“I’m hoping Trump’s just saying in his mind, ‘That’s fine, we won’t get you on the emails but we’ll hopefully get you on this.' This is way bigger than the emails anyway.

“If he’s really saying that he’s not going to prosecute her to let her ride off into the sunset, people aren’t going to go for that. He will lose a lot of credibility."