| Arizona Republic
Trump on QAnon conspiracy theory: ‘They like me very much’
QAnon has been classified by the FBI as a domestic terror threat, according to an internal memo first published by Yahoo! News.
Two Republican candidates for Congress from Arizona have posted frequently on social media about QAnon, a conspiracy theory that imagines a child sex-trafficking ring run by politicians and celebrities will soon be exposed by President Donald Trump.
Josh Barnett, who is running against Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego, and Daniel Wood, who is running against Democratic Rep. Democrat Raúl Grijalva, join a host of congressional candidates nationwide who have expressed an interest in Q.
Additionally, two Republican candidates for the Arizona Legislature, Suzanne Sharer, of the Ahwatukee Foothills area of Phoenix, and Justine Wadsack, of Tucson, are followers of Q.
Two sitting Republican state legislators, Vince Leach of Saddlebrooke and Jay Lawrence of Scottsdale, have also posted about Q on Twitter, though Lawrence later said he regretted it, calling some of the movement’s followers crazy.
Another lawmaker, David Farnsworth of Mesa, according to the Arizona Mirror, exchanged text messages with a Mesa man in which he supported Q theories about sex trafficking.
Farnsworth, in an interview with The Arizona Republic on Wednesday, clarified that he does believe that powerful people are involved in an international sex-trafficking ring, but said he didn’t care much what it was called.
“I get irritated when people ask about QAnon because I’m ignorant about it,” he said. But, he said, he had no doubt about the sex-trafficking conspiracy. “The only question is who’s involved and how far-reaching it is.”
Barnett, who is making his first run for Congress in District 7, has said in recent weeks on Twitter that he doesn’t believe in Q. But, in previous months, he shared posts about the theory without voicing skepticism.
Wood, in a phone interview, said that he was trying to stay neutral on the topic, but added that he followed the postings of Q and found truths in them. He also expressed frustration that The Republic was calling to discuss QAnon and not the issues facing District 3, which he hopes to represent.
A theory inspires violence
Followers of the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory believe that an anonymous government insider known as Q has been sharing classified information with the public through cryptic postings on obscure internet bulletin boards.
The government insider, who claims to have Q-level security clearance, first posted in October 2017 that the arrest of Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and first lady, was imminent.
Q has since given infrequent bits of information, leaving followers to parse their meaning.
There are offshoots of theories, but the central narrative involves Trump working to expose generational corruption that has manifested itself in a ring of powerful individuals who use children for sex and for occasional nourishment.
Followers of Q have been arrested for a host of crimes motivated by their belief, including two murders, one in Washington and another in New York.
In Arizona, authorities arrested one man who parked an armored vehicle loaded with ammunition for weapons he was armed with across the traffic lanes of a bridge near the Hoover Dam. He was advocating that Trump release a report that Q had promised was coming.
Another QAnon follower occupied an abandoned tower in Tucson convinced it was where children were being held.
Learning of Q from a Trump rally
Wood, whose congressional bid is his first foray into politics, wrote a lengthy post on Facebook in August explaining why he follows the conspiracy postings.
He said that a majority of people who follow it “want America free of corrupt politicians and believe in bringing power back to the people and away from the over-reach of big government.”
Wood, in a phone interview on Sept. 18, said he found out about Q while watching a Trump rally and seeing people holding up Q signs.
“I said, ‘What is this?’” Wood said. “Then I started researching it.”
Wood said that in his research he saw that years ago Q had predicted mass riots and a COVID-19-like virus. “And now we’re here,” he said.
Wood said his research convinced him there was “enough for me to say there’s something there to keep in mind.”
Wood did not want to detail what aspects of Q’s writings he believes, nor whether he believes a global ruling cabal runs a child-trafficking ring.
Though, he said he has noted recent arrests of various celebrities for child prostitution.
“I look at the facts,” said Wood, a retired law enforcement officer. “Let’s say QAnon is saying that (about sex trafficking). Then, I see documented arrests.”
In February, Wood predicted that “we are about to witness something very profound,” punctuating it with the hashtag, #TheGreatAwakening. For Q followers, the great awakening phrase has been used to describe the event when the powerful elite are imprisoned by the military and made to atone for their many crimes.
Though in the interview, Wood said that the promised “great awakening” could also be a takeover of Congress by Republicans and Trump’s reelection.
‘I don’t believe Q is a real thing’
Barnett, the other congressional candidate who has posted about QAnon, said he knew next to nothing about Q. He did say he thought it was interesting so many liberals were obsessively worried about others following it.
“I honestly don’t know much about Q at all,” he said during an interview on Thursday, adding that he didn’t know what websites or other places where he could learn more. “I don’t know anything more than anybody else.”
In an Aug. 15 post, Barnett said all he knew about Q “was that it exists.” He said, “I don’t believe Q is a real thing.”
In a Sept. 7 posting, Barnett feuded with a man who called QAnon a domestic terrorist threat, as the FBI labeled the group in August 2019.
But Barnett wrote, “I only see Antifa causing problems and burning up cities. I have never seen ‘Q’ doing anything like that so I do not know what you are referring to as ‘terroristic’ threat.”
Barnett, that same day, wrote that he only became familiar with Q “somewhat recently.”
However, three times between October and April, Barnett reposted missives that contained QAnon phrases.
In October, he sent out a message from a QAnon account that said, “Nothing can stop what’s coming,” followed by a string of QAnon hashtags that included #WeAreQ #WeAreLegion and #SheepNoMore.
And in March, Barnett wondered why the phrase “Who is Q” was trending on Twitter. “Is there something I don’t know happening?” he wrote.
Barnett, in the interview, said he didn’t pay attention to hashtags accompanying posts he shared. He said those were “irrelevant.” He said he didn’t recall why he sent the “Who is Q” Tweet in March.
Barnett, however, does raise as a signature issue what his website calls the “legalized child trafficking” done by the Arizona Department of Child Safety.
Barnett said that he believes the agency has a profit motive for removing children from homes, citing the money paid to foster families for each child.
He also cited a statistic about how many children who report being sexually trafficked came out of the foster care system. Barnett said he thought some children in state custody end up in the hands of sexual predators after payments are made.
“It needs to be looked into,” he said. “Why it’s happening and who’s letting it happen.”
Barnett said he didn’t think the state’s link to sex trafficking was a conspiracy theory, but fact. He said he hoped proof could come from investigations done at the federal or state level.
“Q, I don’t care or know what that is,” he said. “For me, it’s about child trafficking or human trafficking.”
Conspiracies about Ducey, COVID-19, wildfires
Wood, the other candidate who has posted about QAnon, has also shared other conspiracies.
In April, he posted a story that suggested Gov. Doug Ducey stood to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic through his largely ceremonial position on the board of directors of TGen, the nonprofit biotech company that has been working on a potential vaccine and tests.
Wood stood by that belief in a phone interview. “His involvement with pushing tests out to Arizona,” he said, “he needs to step down from it.”
Wood, this month, also shared a photo of men he said were members of Antifa who were posing in wildfire tactical gear in order to intentionally set wildfires.
While there have been isolated arrests for arson, mainly in urban areas, the FBI issued a statement dismissing that wildfires were deliberately started by left-wing activists.
Wood said in the interview on Sept. 18 that he had read information that led him to believe the FBI statement itself was untrue.