Fact check: No evidence of Hillary Clinton link with ship stuck in Suez Canal, trafficking

The claim: A ship that is stuck and blocking traffic in the Suez Canal is a human trafficking vessel connected to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

A shipping vessel that could clog the Suez Canal for weeks is the latest piece added to an ever-evolving conspiracy theory about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other members of a so-called “deep state” and links to human trafficking.

Communications channels where QAnon conspiracy theories spread were humming this week about a connection between Clinton and the quarter-mile-long ship that ran aground as high winds cut across the canal.

Those seeped into mainstream social media as well, including posts on Facebook and Instagram, where users tied Clinton’s Secret Service codename to the ship and suggested its radio call sign intentionally matched Clinton’s initials.

A Facebook user who shared the post did not respond to a request for comment. It speculates without evidence that Evergreen “is most likely a cover for human and sex trafficking.”

Others pushing the same theory allude to the containers being opened on television to reveal trafficked people inside. It is the latest potential disclosure related to the QAnon conspiracy theory that says former President Donald Trump was elected to thwart a deep-state cabal of pedophiles and cannibals, including Clinton.

This photo released by the Suez Canal Authority on March 25, 2021, shows Lt. Gen. Ossama Rabei, center, head of the Suez Canal Authority, with a team walking along the bank of the Suez Canal where the Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship, has become wedged across the Suez Canal and blocking traffic in the vital waterway. (Photo: Suez Canal Authority via AP)

How does the conspiracy theory connect Hillary Clinton to the ship?

At about a quarter-mile long, the ship was built in 2018 as one of the largest in the world, according to the Associated Press. It first got lodged in the canal at about 7:45 a.m. March 23, halting traffic in a key shipping channel between the Mediterranean and Red seas.

The conspiracy theory goes like this: The ship that is stuck in the canal, the Ever Given, is owned by Taiwan-based Evergreen Marine and carries the radio call sign H3RC. Clinton’s Secret Service code name is Evergreen, and her initials are HRC.

Those pushing the theory connect the ship to human trafficking but provide no evidence. Evergreen did not respond to a request for comment.

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CNN reported in 2016 that Clinton, then the Democratic nominee for president, was keeping the code name assigned to her when she was first lady. Code names for the president’s family generally start with the same letter as the president’s moniker. For example, President Bill Clinton’s code name was “Eagle” and Hillary Clinton’s was “Evergreen.”

Evergreen Marine was established in 1968, according to its website, when Clinton was still in college.

Ever Given’s call sign is indeed H3RC, according to MyShipTracking.com. But the initials are a coincidence as well.

The International Telecommunications Union in Geneva, Switzerland, regulates call signs. The union is a “specialized agency” of the United Nations.

The first two characters of a maritime call sign “constitute the nationality identification” for the ship, according to the 2020 edition of the agency’s radio regulations. The H3 characters are assigned by the union to Panama, under whose flag the Ever Given sails, according to those regulations.

This photo released by the Suez Canal Authority on Thursday, March 25, 2021, shows the Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship, after it become wedged across the Suez Canal and blocking traffic in the vital waterway from another vessel. (Photo: Suez Canal Authority via AP)

Another Clinton conspiracy theory

QAnon believers have targeted Clinton as part of several conspiracy theories.

In one, a decoded email allegedly implicated her and former President Barack Obama in child sex-trafficking. Another from 2018 claims there is video of Clinton and her former aide Huma Abedin sexually assaulting a young girl, according to FactCheck.org.

Earlier this month, a website wrote that Navy Seals acting on Trump’s order had arrested Clinton, even though Clinton made several public appearances after the alleged arrest.

Perhaps the most famous of the conspiracy theory involving Clinton is Pizzagate, a 2016 presidential election falsehood that claimed Wikileaks had released emails showing Democrats linked to Clinton were running a child-sex ring in the basement of a pizza shop in Washington. A North Carolina man was arrested after firing a rifle into the restaurant.

None of those conspiracy theories is true. Clinton responded to falsehoods spread about her during an interview with The New York Times in February.

“For me, it does go back to my earliest days in national politics, when it became clear to me that there was a bit of a market in trafficking in the most outlandish accusations and wild stories concerning me, my family, people that we knew, people close to us,” Clinton told the Times.

Then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens to then Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, on Oct. 9, 2016. (Photo: PAUL J. RICHARDS, AFP via Getty Images)

Our ruling: False

The claim that a ship stuck in the Suez Canal is a human trafficking vessel with links to Hillary Clinton is FALSE. Those pushing the conspiracy theory offer no proof that the ship is transporting people to be trafficked. The theory is another in a long line of falsehoods spread online about Clinton and human trafficking.

Our fact-check sources:

  • Twitter, March 24, Shayan Sardarizadeh, BBC journalist
  • BBC, March 26, “Suez Canal: How are they trying to free the Ever Given?”
  • The Associated Press, March 25, “Shipping losses mount from cargo vessel stuck in Suez Canal”
  • CNN, July 27, 2016, “Here are the Secret Service codenames for Trump, Pence”
  • Evergreen Marine, accessed March 26, Corporate Profile
  • MyShipTracking, accessed March 26, Tracking for the Ever Given
  • U.S. Coast Guard, accessed March 26, Navigation Center of Excellence
  • International Telecommunication Union, accessed March 26, About International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
  • International Telecommunication Union, accessed March 26, 2020 Regulations
  • USA TODAY, Jan. 23, “Fact check: Meme of fake email perpetuates conspiracy theory”
  • FactCheck.org, April 23, 2018, “No Evidence of ‘Horrific’ Clinton Video”
  • USA TODAY, March 8, “Fact check: Hillary Clinton was not arrested by Navy SEALs acting on Trump’s order”
  • USA TODAY, Sept. 17, 2020, “Debunked QAnon conspiracy theories are seeping into mainstream social media. Don’t be fooled.”
  • The New York Times, Feb. 5, “Opinion: QAnon Believers Are Obsessed With Hillary Clinton. She Has Thoughts.”

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