Donald Trump went there on Wednesday morning and endorsed a crank conspiracy theorist who recently won the GOP primaries for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, calling her a “future Republican Star” and a “a real WINNER!”
Construction executive Marjorie Taylor Greene ran a fanatically pro-Trump campaign that ended with her crushing her closest challenger, neurosurgeon John Cowan, by a 14.4 percent margin in runoff elections on Tuesday. She is also a QAnon supporter who believes that a Satanic cult is secretly in control of most of the world and Trump is the country’s last hope to destroy it.
QAnon, for those still blissfully unaware, is a far-right conspiracy theory birthed on extremist corners of the internet that centers around the idea that a high-ranking government official (“Q”) is leaking information about a secret war Donald Trump is waging against a “deep state” cabal of Satanic pedophiles that harvest the blood of children. QAnon devotees believe this Illuminati-style plot is being carried out Democratic politicians, the media, antifa, socialists, Hollywood, and what have you, and that Q is alerting them to its existence by leaving cryptic posts on imageboards like 4chan, 8chan, and 8kun. They also espouse everything from anti-Semitic tropes (such as the aforementioned blood libel) and openly racist rhetoric to antivaxx propaganda.
The movement has infested Facebook a rate that is simultaneously alarming and the predictable outcome of the way the site’s model amplifies extremism. Fan groups on Facebook, which already had hundreds of thousands of members, have exploded during the novel coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protests against police racism and brutality. They are now estimated to be in the hundreds, with millions of collective members. On Wednesday, the Guardian reported that over 170 groups on Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram collectively have 4.5 million members.
The White House sees QAnon as a flattering paean to Trump and a collection of his most hardcore, unquestioning fans—after all, the many conspiracy theories spread by the president line up with the QAnon narrative perfectly. Trump and numerous personalities close to the administration have steadily encouraged it by sharing content from QAnon accounts, and Trump even invited one top QAnon promoter to the Oval Office. That’s helped bring the movement somewhat closer to mainstream, or at least tolerated, in the Republican Party.
Following in that tradition, Trump’s endorsement of Greene is less an approving nods towards QAnon than it is an uncomfortably sweaty hug.
“Trump has quote tweeted or retweeted QAnon accounts nearly 200 times, so his endorsement of Greene isn’t surprising,” Travis View, a pseudonymous conspiracy theory researcher and co-host of the QAnon Anonymous podcast, told Gizmodo. “It’s simply not in Trump’s nature to distance himself from a fervent supporter of his just because they promote deranged beliefs.”
Greene, who is heavily favored to win her race for Congress later this year after spending almost $1 million of her own money to defeat Cowan in the GOP primary, hasn’t kept her views a secret. In a video this summer, she claimed that “Q is a patriot” and that there’s a “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.”
In a TV ad in June, Greene threatened “antifa terrorists” with a rifle. The same month, Politico reported that in numerous videos, Greene spouted racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic hate speech. Greene reportedly asserted in the clips that Muslim men have sex with “little boys, little girls, multiple women” and practice incest; that Muslims shouldn’t be seated in Congress; that Black Lives Matter is like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis; and that Black people are “slaves to the Democratic Party.” She also said that George Soros, a liberal financier and Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, aided the Nazi genocide in Hungary during World War II, and that the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting might have been a false flag operation.
At her primary victory party on Tuesday night, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Greene booted reporters and told the crowd, “We’re going to kick that bitch [Nancy Pelosi] out of Congress.”
Republicans in Congress and the national Republican Party have done little to stop Greene, and in many cases are on her side. Per Politico, backers include the House Freedom Caucus’s fundraising arm, Rep. Jim Jordan, and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. In June, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the representative found Greene’s remarks “appalling.” But a McCarthy spokesperson told Politico around the time of the election that McCarthy had a “good and productive relationship” with both Cowan and Greene.
“The popularity and influence of QAnon has only grown, Republican leadership is generally unwilling to denounce the movement, Greene proved that open Qanon support isn’t a dealbreaker for voters, and Trump himself encourages QAnon followers by boosting them on Twitter,” View told Gizmodo. “Based on the current trajectory, I don’t see a scenario in which QAnon goes back to being a fringe oddity within the GOP.”
Update: 4/1/2021: This article has been updated to explicitly note that Travis View is a pseudonym.