President Donald Trump, who’s suggested that Sen. Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the JFK assassination, that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and that a George Floyd protester whose skull was fractured after he was shoved by a police officer was acting, will have some like-minded company on the ballot with him in November.
A half-dozen Republican congressional candidates who will be on the ballot on Nov. 3 have promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory that Trump is leading a secret battle against a sprawling and powerful liberal child sex trafficking ring — and more could be joining them.
A survey by the progressive site Media Matters found 53 candidates running for Congress in 2020 have promoted QAnon. Thirty have already dropped out or been defeated in primaries, and most are Republicans running in solid Democratic areas. But one candidate in Georgia has emerged as the favorite to win her conservative district in Georgia.
The QAnon conspiracy “is ludicrous because it’s so detached from reality, but as a political movement, it’s a tremendous success story,” Travis View, a conspiracy theory researcher who hosts the podcast “QAnon Anonymous,” told NBC News.
The state with the most Q-friendly candidates was California, which at one point had 11. Three finished in the top two in the March primary and will be on the ballot in November.
Florida at one point had nine Q-promoting candidates but four dropped out. Two are running against each other in the 19th District in the August 18 primary and two are running against each other in the 22nd District.
Long shot candidates who’ve promoted QAnon messages are on the ballot in next week’s primaries in New York and Kentucky, while another, Lauren Boebert, is challenging incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Tipton in the Colorado primary on June 30.
Trump had already endorsed Tipton by the time restaurateur Boebert joined the race, portraying herself as more in step with the president’s positions.
Boebert made headlines last year when she traveled to an event then-Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke was holding and challenged his proposed gun buyback program.
“I was one of the gun-owning Americans who heard you speak regarding your ‘Hell yes, I’m going to take your AR-15s and AK-47s.’ Well, I’m here to say ‘Hell no you’re not,’” she declared.
She made headlines again in May by violating state coronavirus guidelines and reopening her restaurant Shooters Grill.
She’s been endorsed by Colorado on the Ground Bikers for Trump, and in May made an endorsement of her own — appearing on a QAnon-friendly Internet show, Boebert was asked what she thought of “Q.”
“I am familiar with that,” she smiled. “Everything I’ve heard of Q — I hope this is real. because it only means America is getting stronger and better and people are returning to conservative values.”
Most QAnon supporters believe that “Q” is an anonymous government official sharing information about a secret battle between Trump and a powerful cabal of Democratic politicians, liberal celebrities and the “deep state.”
The conspiracy posts, first shared through the website 4chan in 2017, also hint at a much darker plot in which many of those figures control a worldwide child sex-trafficking ring.
“The basis of the QAnon theory is that a group of high level officials close to Trump are leaking cryptic messages” about the secret conspiracy involving Democrats, the media and the “deep state,” View said. Believers view Trump “as savior of not just the country, but humankind,” and the person “who’s going to expose the Satan-loving deep state pedophiles once and for all,” he said.
“They are very worshipful of the current leader of the Republican Party,” who, View noted, “rose to political prominence on the back of ‘birtherism’” the unfounded conspiracy theory that alleged Obama was an illegitimate president because he was supposedly born in Kenya instead of his actual birthplace of Hawaii.
Trump has continued to weigh in on conspiracy theories from the Oval Office — retweeting a post suggesting that his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton was involved in the death of multimillionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein — and done nothing to discourage the movement. View noted that Trump had quote-tweeted or retweeted QAnon followers 136 times as of last week.
On Saturday Eric Trump posted an image on Instagram of an American flag with a giant Q superimposed over it and a QAnon hashtag while promoting his father’s rally in Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday. Under the post, Eric Trump wrote, “TULSA OKLAHOMA HERE WE COME!!!”
Of the 23 Q-friendly candidates still running in 2020, six have already qualified for the ballot on Nov. 3. Some are considered long shots — Angela Stanton-King, who’s repeatedly tweeted the QAnon slogan, ran unopposed for the Republican nomination in Georgia’s 5th Congressional District. She is running against Democratic Rep. John Lewis, the longtime congressman and civil rights icon who’s so popular in his district that he ran unopposed in the general election in 2018.
In Oregon, Jo Rae Perkins, who’s openly embraced QAnon theories, captured the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in May. After her win, her campaign issued a statement walking back her support of the QAnon that she said left her “in tears” and then quickly refuted.
“My campaign is gonna kill me,” Perkins told ABC News afterward. “How do I say this? Some people think that I follow Q like I follow Jesus. Q is the information and I stand with the information resource.”
Perkins is running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley who’s widely favored to win in November.
Another Q-friendly candidate, however, is considered a favorite in the fall.
Marjorie Taylor Greene is running for the open House seat in Georgia’s solid red 14th District. She’s been outspoken in her support for the movement, saying in a 2017 YouTube video that “Q is a patriot. He is someone that very much loves his country, and is on the same page as us, and he is very pro-Trump. He appears to have connections at the highest levels.”
She also expressed her excitement about the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it.”
She’s in an August runoff with neurosurgeon John Cowan, who she finished 20 percentage points ahead of in the June primary. Her bid has the support of Rep. Jim Jordan, a top Trump ally.
But her road to easy victory might have hit a bump this past week after Politico reported that she’d expressed numerous racist and anti-Semitic views in Facebook videos, leading Republican leadership to rebuke her and back Cowan. A spokesman for Jordan did not respond to a request for comment about whether he still supports Greene.
View said a rebuff from mainstream Republicans might not necessarily hurt Greene and predicted that she would try to lean into their criticisms. “She could use their attacks as proof of her populist credentials,” View said.
Greene has since done just that, issuing a statement saying she wouldn’t be “whipped into submission” and “I’m sick-and-tired of watching establishment Republicans play defense while the Fake News Media cheers on Antifa terrorists, BLM rioters, and the woke cancel culture, as they burn our cities, loot our businesses, vandalize our memorials, and divide our nation.”
Whether Trump wins or loses in November, View said the potential addition of QAnon-aligned members of Congress won’t contribute to the level of discourse in Washington.
“If you have legislators that believe the opposition party is full of child traffickers, that could impact the prospects of bipartisan legislation,” View said.