WASHINGTON: Far-right backers of US President Donald Trump rebelled Friday after he ordered a missile strike to punish Syria for a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed 86 people.
Bandying the hashtag #Syriahoax, leaders of the "Alt-Right" white nationalist fringe lashed out at the president for abandoning his election campaign stances.
Some denied the suspected chemical attack took place. Others rejected the broadly accepted view that it was the hand of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Instead, they blamed anti-Assad fighters like the al-Sham Front, formerly al-Nusra, for a so-called false-flag attack meant to be pinned on Damascus.
Still others said Trump had fallen victim to the US "deep state," an ostensibly entrenched military-national security bureaucracy at odds with the new president's anti-Washington views.
"Anyone who claimed Trump had blind loyalty had a wake-up call today," said Mike Cernovich, one of the movement's most prominent leaders and a popularizer of often unfounded conspiracy theories.
"We all know that Assad would not poison his own people," he said in an online video.
"We do know that the Deep State does want war with Russia, and they are using the Syria gas attack, which is a hoax, to start World War Three with Russia."
Alex Jones, whose "Infowars" website is a hub for the far-right movement, but others allege is a wellspring of the "fake news" phenomenon, alleged that Tuesday's attack was launched by Syrian opposition.
"Why would Assad do that when he is winning?" he asked in a webcast.
Jones argued it was a ruse to force Trump into line with Washington's more traditional conservatives.
"If he gives in to this anti-Syria thing to prove he's not a Russian puppet, they're not going to stop. They are already saying Syria is his fault," Jones said.
- Breitbart stays neutral -
Most mainstream conservatives endorsed Trump's order to fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian military air base to punish and warn the Assad regime.
But the far right was angered over what it sees is an abandonment of Trump's nationalist and isolationist campaign positions.
Ann Coulter, a favorite pundit of conservatives, pointed to Trump's 2013 tweets opposing any increase in US military involvement in the Middle East.
"We should stay the hell out of Syria," said Trump, then a property tycoon mulling a White House bid.
On Thursday, Coulter tweeted: "Those who wanted us meddling in the Middle East voted for other candidates."
"Trump campaigned on not getting involved in Mideast. Said it always helps our enemies & creates more refugees. Then he saw a picture on TV," she said, referring to photographs of the 27 children killed in the chemical attack.
Such anger though did not extend to Breitbart, the news website formerly run by and still closely allied with Steve Bannon, Trump's anti-globalist White House strategist. Breitbart took a neutral stance in coverage of the attack.
John Binder, a Breitbart writer, argued via Twitter that Bannon was against the strikes. "He's the voice of #Americafirst voters in the administration," Binder said, without offering evidence.
Sebastien Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president, tried Friday to rally the critics back to the fold.
"It is essential for... those who voted for this administration to understand that the president in his fundamental outlook has not changed," he said on the radio broadcast of conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham.