House Republicans won’t expressly reject the QAnon conspiracy theory

  • Insider spoke with a dozen House Republicans about QAnon, a conspiracy theory that alleges a cannibalistic child-sex-trafficking cult has taken over the Democratic Party and global elites. Most of them would not denounce it.
  • The absence of a strong and unified stand in the GOP against QAnon suggests that Republicans have little appetite for alienating their party’s most extreme voters, with fewer than 50 days before Election Day.
  • A supporter of the outrageous conspiracy theory that has taken root in the Republican Party, Marjorie Taylor Greene, is favored to win a Georgia congressional seat in the November elections. House GOP leaders are ready to welcome her.
  • “I don’t think it’s a big deal,” said Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a close ally of President Donald Trump who has embraced QAnon supporters. Other Republican lawmakers deflected, saying they’d instead like to see a stronger condemnation for Black Lives Matter activists protesting police brutality.
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QAnon has been labeled a terrorism threat by the FBI and is linked to violent incidents across the country, but many Republican members of Congress Insider interviewed this week would not outright disavow it or call for a stronger condemnation by the party’s leadership. 

Only a handful of elected Republicans have voiced concern about the wild conspiracy theory that has infiltrated the party’s base.

Of the more than a dozen Republican lawmakers Insider talked to, only one — Rep. Peter King of New York — expressly denounced QAnon and its adherents. 

The absence of a strong and unified stand in the GOP against QAnon raises questions of how seriously the party is willing to take a dangerous conspiracy theory animating a part of its base. It also suggests that some Republican lawmakers have little appetite, with fewer than 50 days before Election Day, for alienating their party’s most extreme voters.

In interviews with Insider on Capitol Hill this week, some Republicans claimed ignorance, even though QAnon has received significant media coverage since at least 2018. A resolution denouncing QAnon is pending in Congress, and even President Donald Trump has commented on it.

Other members expressed skepticism about QAnon’s seriousness. At least three lawmakers deflected, saying they’d instead like to see stronger condemnation of racial-justice protesters and the Black Lives Matter movement’s call to “defund the police,” a rallying cry for reforms in American law enforcement. 

Those who did criticize QAnon demurred when asked if House Republicans should take a stand against the QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican congressional candidate who is all but certain to win in November after her Democratic opponent suddenly dropped out last week.

Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said she hadn’t “spent time looking into” QAnon.

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a close ally of Trump, downplayed it.

“I didn’t know anything until y’all started talking about it, and I haven’t taken the time to research it,” Jordan told Insider. “I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

Trump has acknowledged QAnon supporters as people who “like me, which I appreciate.”

And the National Republican Congressional Committee, which works to elect GOP lawmakers, is issuing talking points similar to QAnon themes — such as accusations of pedophilia — to attack Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and other Democrats.

A QAnon conspiracy theorist holds a sign during a protest in Salem, Oregon, on May 2.

Photo by John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A terror threat

QAnon adherents broadly believe that a satanic, cannibalistic pedophile ring has infiltrated the upper ranks of the Democratic Party and societal elite and that Trump will soon purge them with mass arrests. 

A recent trend of the conspiracy theory alleges widespread child sex trafficking, and believers have co-opted the hashtag #savethechildren to push this ideology. Supporters have organized rallies across the country throughout the summer and made dozens of donations to Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party.

The FBI last year labeled QAnon a domestic terror threat as the conspiracy theory spread through major social-media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, as well as less-mainstream corners of the internet. 

But it burst into the political conversation as several conservative House and Senate candidates, including Greene, have this cycle either supported the fiction or flirted with some of its assertions.

On Tuesday, Lauren Witzke won the GOP Senate primary in Delaware. The Daily Beast reported that she had previously worn a QAnon T-shirt and used associated hashtags, though she said in January she no longer followed the movement. She is unlikely to beat the incumbent, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, in November.

When Insider asked Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois whether he was worried about Greene and other QAnon-supporting candidates coming to Congress, he said they would make up only a small fraction of the party membership.

“There are 435 members of Congress. They come from all over different districts, and they will represent their people who sent them to Washington,” Shimkus said. “One or two out of 435 is such a small percentage. I think it’s irrelevant.”

Instead, he said he’d like to see leadership focus on condemning “members who don’t support law enforcement and … who are breaking the law and destroying businesses.”

House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy with Jordan, Rep. Liz Cheney, and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

‘I’m not going to speak for leadership’

Three of the top House Republicans have publicly condemned QAnon, but two of those leaders appear ready to welcome Greene. The party as a whole hasn’t put out a strong unified statement rejecting QAnon and its wild conspiracy theories.

Greene, who is running to represent Georgia’s 14th District, has a history of making Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, and racist statements. In the past, she has supported conspiracy theories around the 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia, protests and the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.

She has called “Q,” the mysterious figure at the heart of the QAnon conspiracy theory, a “patriot.” She won her primary runoff on August 11 in a deep-red district and is assured victory after her Democratic rival, Kevin Van Ausdal, dropped out on September 11, citing family reasons.

Trump last month described Greene in a tweet as a “future Republican Star,” and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office told Politico he was “looking forward” to her joining the caucus. The California Republican’s office confirmed she would receive committee assignments, which could give her access to sensitive or classified information.

Greene has recently attempted to walk back her past statements, telling Fox News in August that the description of her as a QAnon candidate “doesn’t represent me.”

Republican leaders McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, have cited Greene’s about-turn to explain their support.

“I’ve seen some statements where she’d actually moved away from that,” Scalise told Insider on Monday. “She’s going to be a new voting member of Congress; we’re going to bring in a lot of members.”

A spokesperson for Rep. Liz Cheney, the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, didn’t comment but referred Insider to previous statements the Wyoming lawmaker had made to Politico describing QAnon as a “dangerous lunacy that should have no place in American politics.”

Rank-and-file Republicans demurred when Insider asked if they wanted leadership to take a tougher stance on Greene and the QAnon conspiracy theory.

“I’m not going to speak for leadership,” Rep. Roger Williams of Texas said, adding that he was more concerned about the military and police. 

Not all Republicans in Congress will welcome Greene or QAnon with open arms, and some have raised alarms about the conspiracy theory’s encroaching grip on the party.

“Qanon is a fabrication,” Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger tweeted the day after Greene’s primary win, adding that there was “no place in Congress for these conspiracies.”

King, the retiring New York Republican, told Insider that QAnon “is wrong” and “it’s going to damage the party,” but stopped short of calling for GOP leadership to act.

“I strongly oppose it and I can only speak for myself,” King said. “It’s up to them how they want to handle it. All I know is how I feel about it.” 

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