Pai campaigned to repeal an Obama-era policy on net neutrality, which prevents internet service providers from controlling the speed at which some websites load.
Repealing net neutrality — which the FCC voted to do earlier today — is widely seen as good for corporations and bad for consumers, who could be asked to pay for higher internet speeds. Abolishing net neutrality also allows service providers to block access to certain websites, for example torrenting sites that allow users to download content illegally.
To promote his plan, Pai filmed a video with the Daily Caller that many have called cringe-worthy. In it, he says users will still be able to upload selfies to Instagram and run memes into the ground. He also does the Harlem Shake with some of the Daily Caller's staff. (Baauer, who recorded the song, seems interested in net neutrality. He didn't return a request for comment.)
The accompanying article was written by Benny Johnson, who was previously fired from BuzzFeed for plagiarism.
Markota's video focused on the term “cheese pizza,” which is one of the “code words” conspiracists point to when justifying Pizzagate.
“My family didn't know what Pizzagate was, but a lot of our viewers do and are well-informed on the subject,” Markota says in the video. She then talks about knowing what the term “cheese pizza” was “independently of the campaign.” There are also humorous shots of Markota eating some cheese pizza.
The video itself was produced The Proud Boys, a right-wing group headed by Canadian co-founder of Vice Gavin McInnes. The Proud Boys were present during the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, when a driver plowed into the crowd of counter-protesters and killed Heather Heyer. A member of the group, which later distanced itself from the violence, was one of the rally organizers.
The debunked Pizzagate theory started after Democratic National Committee chairman John Podesta's emails were leaked following a 2016 hack. Some conspiracy theorists extrapolated bogus meanings from pizza orders in the emails to say orders like “cheese pizza” were codewords that proved Democrats were running a pedophelia operation in the basement of the Comet Ping Pong pizza parlor in Washington, DC.
The theory burst into the mainstream after a gunman entered the pizza joint and fired his weapon while “investigating” the conspiracy, which he said he'd read about online. Nobody was hurt and he has since been sentenced to four years in prison.
When BuzzFeed News reached out to Markota for comment, she said the video was in response to reports that a New Jersey man was busted for child pornography after posting about “cheese pizza” on Craigslist.
When BuzzFeed News asked whether Markota believes in the Pizzagate theory, she did not deny it. “Embrace the mystery,” she wrote over Twitter direct messages.
Smith, who's an electronic musician, told BuzzFeed News he was wondering who was sharing the video, which is when he found Markota's profile and website. His tweet went viral.
He also said the Daily Caller's article and video made a poor case for repealing net neutrality. “It didn't make me mad or anything, it was just a very infantile article about how you can still take Instagram photos of your food even without net neutrality, which isn't a compelling defense to me personally,” he said.
The full video and article weren’t received much better. Reddit users, who frequently support conservative publications and movements, dubbed the video cringe-inducing.
On Twitter, Pai got ratio-ed — with thousands of responses compared to only a few hundred likes and re-tweets after posting the Daily Caller article.
While we’re at it, catch up on today’s net neutrality vote here: