A Republican House member is urging both parties to denounce the widespread and amorphous collection of internet-fueled conspiracy theories known as QAnon, warning that it threatens to undermine democracy.
“We have to be extremely careful that insanity is not let out of the bag,” Virginia Representative Denver Riggleman said. “This was on the fringe, now it’s in the mainstream. It’s our responsibility to call it out.”
Riggleman is co-sponsoring a resolution with New Jersey Democratic Representative Tom Malinowski to condemn QAnon, which has moved from the fringes of American politics into the mainstream since appearing on the scene in late 2017.
At least a dozen candidates who’ve expressed belief in or support for QAnon ran to get on the November ballot for House seats. Two of them won Republican primaries in heavily GOP districts and have good chances of getting elected.
President Donald Trump has retweeted QAnon content on multiple occasions. Asked about the conspiracy theory at a news conference on Aug. 19, he said, “I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said she’s never heard Trump talk about QAnon and the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said on Fox News Sunday that “we don’t even know what it is” when asked if Trump would denounce the movement.
The conspiracy theory primarily focuses on the idea that Trump is battling a “deep state” cabal of Democratic politicians, celebrities and people in the government. It involves cannibalism, pedophilia rings, Satanism and secret judicial proceeding.
When Trump was pressed specifically on whether he is secretly battling a satanic cult of pedophiles -- as QAnon is supposedly doing -- he said, “I haven’t heard that, but is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing? I mean, you know -- if I can help save the world from problems, I’m willing to do it. I’m willing to put myself out there.”
Riggleman said that he believes Trump will publicly oppose its spread “once the president is educated more on the QAnon movement.”
With QAnon believers supporting Trump, some Republicans have tread carefully.
Michael McAdams, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, responded to a tweet from Malinowski about the resolution by attacking the Democratic Party, alleging they have not done enough to combat anti-semitism in their ranks. The Democratic-controlled House voted in 2019 on a resolution condemning anti-semitism.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said on Aug. 20 that “there is no place for QAnon in the Republican Party.”
One of the GOP candidates on the November ballot is Lauren Boebert, a Colorado bar owner and avid gun-rights activist who has said that she hopes Q is real “because it only means America is getting stronger and better.” The other is Marjorie Taylor Greene, the owner of a construction company, who, in a 2017 video, called Q “a patriot” who is “on the same page as us” and “is very pro-Trump.” She won in a Georgia Republican primary earlier this month. Trump tweeted after her win that she’s a “future Republican Star.”
Boebert and Greene both said on Twitter that they’ve been invited to the White House for Trump’s acceptance speech on Thursday. Boebert called the invite “an absolute honor,” while Greene said she’s working hard all over Georgia to help Trump win.
“Conspiracy theories that falsely blame secret cabals and marginalized groups for the problems of society have long fueled prejudice, violence and terrorism” Malinowski said in a statement. “It’s time for us to come together across party lines to say that QAnon has no place in our nation’s political discourse.”
Malinowski’s office said House leadership is being consulted about whether the resolution will get a vote.
Neither House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office nor McCarthy’s office responded to requests for comment.
Riggleman, who lost the GOP nomination to run for re-election earlier this year, said he’s been getting phone calls about his support for the resolution with Malinowski. He said some callers have asked him why he hasn’t sponsored a resolution to condemn Antifa, the loosely organized movement that Trump and many other Republicans blame for violence during protests this year.
He said denouncement of Antifa would have more impact if it came from a Democrat. “Whether it’s QAnon or 9/11 truthers,” politicians have a responsibility to denounce conspiracy theories, he said.
“We’re undermining representative democracy” with “all these conspiracy angles,” he said.
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