A U.S. presidential candidate is attempting to loaf controversy behind, as Canadian Twitter users have spent weeks following a trail of crumbs allegedly connecting him to a 2017 price-fixing scandal.
Responding to the brewing conspiracy theory that Pete Buttigieg helped artificially inflate the price of bread in Canadian grocery stores while working for consulting firm McKinsey & Company, the candidate’s campaign team released a series of statements Wednesday denying any involvement.
“He had nothing to do with this bread pricing issue and had never heard of it until recently,” campaign spokesperson Sean Savett told CNN.
Savett explained to Buzzfeed that Buttigieg “was part of a team that ran analytics and put together a model to help this supermarket chain determine how much — and in what stores — they could make certain items more affordable in order to gain new customers.”
The statements seek to end weeks of theories and memes linking Buttigieg and the biggest bakery-related scandal of the past century. But how did Canadians get so obsessed in the first place?
The price of bread
The so-called “great Canadian bread price-fixing scandal” refers to allegations of a coordinated effort between some of Canada’s largest grocery stores to steadily increase the price of packaged bread. At least $1.50 was artificially baked into the price of a loaf, according to the Canadian Competition Bureau.
The price-fixing allegedly took place from 2001 until 2017, according to an affidavit released last year. The Competition Bureau named Loblaw Companies Ltd., Walmart Canada Corp., Sobeys Inc., Metro Inc. and Giant Tiger Stores Ltd.
It was a big deal, leading to several class-action lawsuits, many of which are still working their way through the courts. In late 2017, Loblaws admitted its guilt in the whole thing and offered Canadians a $25 gift card as an apology, but for many that wasn’t enough.
WATCH: Loblaws offers $25 gift card for bread price-fixing. Story continues below.
Court cases around the scandal are still ongoing. Mostly recently in September, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that it would not hear an appeal of a lower court decision to maintain confidentiality for key witnesses in the Competition Bureau’s investigation.
The truth is out there
The theory that Buttigieg — the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who is currently polling in the top five of a tight race for Democratic presidential candidate — is somehow involved can be traced back to Twitter. User @ChalicothereX started posting excerpts from Buttigieg’s memoir “Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model For America’s Future” on Nov. 18.
The excerpts describe the candidate’s time working for McKinsey in Toronto and specifically with Canadian grocery chains.
“What are the chances Pete Buttigieg was involved either in the great Canadian bread price-fixing scandal or the disastrous Target Canada rollout?” they wrote.
In an ensuing thread, other users jumped in with their own theories and evidence, including the timing of Buttigieg’s work with Canadian grocery stores in the middle of the period the price-fixing was occuring.
It was even discussed on a Nov. 18 episode of the popular left-wing political podcast Chapo Trap House, in which the hosts questioned the mysterious nature of Buttigieg’s work with McKinsey.
Over the ensuing weeks, @ChalicothereX and other accounts continued to push the theory.
On Tuesday, Buttigieg released a list of his McKinsey clients, which included Loblaws. In a statement, he said he worked for six months in Toronto analyzing “the effects of price cuts on various combinations of items across their hundreds of stores.”
McKinsey was not named in the Competition Bureau’s investigation into price-fixing.
Buttigieg tried to clear up confusion by describing his work with McKinsey in an interview published in the Atlantic that same day. However, this only stoked interest in the alleged connections, including from Americans new to the “Mayor Pete bread-truther train.”
Let’s get that bread
The Twitter investigation led to its fair share of high-quality memes — made even better by the fact that of course Canada’s biggest connection to the U.S. presidential election has been about something as simple as bread.
Other countries have collusion and corruption. We have carbohydrates.
The originators of the theory even encouraged people to show their support through emoji.
Despite Buttigieg’s official denial, bread truthers are still questioning how he could work in grocery pricing at the same time the price-fixing was happening and not know a single thing about it.
So if you see 🍞📈 in someone’s handle, now you know that they want to believe — believe in the bread.