nearly-two-dozen-republicans-on-the-ballot-have-shared-conspiracies-online,-used-hashtags-linked-to-the-group-or-have-appeared-on-qanon-related-shows

Nearly two dozen Republicans on the ballot have shared conspiracies online, used hashtags linked to the group or have appeared on QAnon-related shows

Science

Washington (CNN) – In November 2017, Marjorie Taylor Greene, a small business owner in the suburbs of Atlanta, uploaded a nearly half-hour long video to Facebook outlining the elements of a new conspiracy theory known as QAnon, which casts President Donald Trump in an imagined battle against a sinister cabal of Democrats and celebrities who abuse children.

“Q is a patriot, we know that for sure,” Greene said in the video, which has since been deleted. “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,” she said, referring to Trump.

There is no factual evidence or foundation for the conspiracy theory. In the three years since the conspiracy was born, QAnon has grown from an American virtual cult to a global phenomenon. QAnon beliefs aren’t just divorced from reality but can instigate real-world violence; The FBI warned last year that QAnon posed a potential domestic terrorist threat.

And now the people who have engaged with the QAnon conspiracy theory, including Greene, are running for Congress.

Nearly two dozen Republicans across the country who have engaged with the QAnon conspiracy will also appear on the ballot this November in their congressional districts — or in two cases, statewide as Senate candidates — as well as one unaffiliated independent candidate and one Independent Party candidate. Every candidate on this list has engaged with QAnon to some degree; some engaged with QAnon content online before they sought political office on their personal accounts and later on their official campaign accounts; others have appeared on QAnon-related shows and talked about the conspiracy theory.

There are also other candidates who have made allusions or coded references to QAnon before — by citing human and child trafficking as a top campaign priority, for instance — but CNN is only including candidates in this list who have explicitly engaged with the conspiracy theory.

CNN reached out to every candidate for comment on how they engaged with QAnon and whether they were supporters of the conspiracy theory. Many did not respond to comment requests. Of those candidates who did comment to CNN, many tried to distance themselves from QAnon and said they preferred to focus on campaign issues. Some candidates claimed to know nothing about it, some referred to it as a “news source” while at least one candidate said they “100%” supported the “Q-Team.” Greene, who tried to walk back her support for QAnon after winning her congressional primary runoff, ignored the substance of the comment request and attacked CNN.

Most of these candidates are expected to lose their races, and some may lose handily as they are running against Democrats in blue districts. Only two candidates have a shot at winning this November: Greene, who is all but certain to win her seat after her opponent dropped out, and conservative businesswoman Lauren Boebert in Colorado, whose House race is rated “Tilt Republican” by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, a CNN contributor. Boebert defeated an incumbent Republican in the primary and faces Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush.

Republican officials have done little to take a stand against their candidates who have engaged with or embraced QAnon. Some GOP state parties, like the California GOP, have endorsed candidates who spread QAnon. In August, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy denounced the theory, saying “There is no place for QAnon in the Republican Party,” and recently voted for a bipartisan resolution condemning QAnon, but he also endorsed Greene, as has Trump himself. Trump recently refused to denounce QAnon supporters after he was told what the conspiracy theory was, saying “they are very much against pedophilia” and that he agreed with them.

CNN reached out to the California Republican Party and the National Republican Senatorial Committee for comment but they did not respond. A spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee, Chris Pack, said that the organization was “focused on issues voters care about, not fringe internet conspiracy theories” and blamed the media for focusing on QAnon.

Here’s what the candidates have said or posted about QAnon:

Josh Barnett

Republican candidate

Arizona, 7th Congressional District

Barnett recently told the Arizona Republic “I honestly don’t know much about ‘Q’ at all,” but shared a Facebook post with numerous QAnon hashtags, including #WeAreQ last October. In July, he responded to a news article about QAnon with, “Weird to be so paranoid about something that is not real, right?” More recently Barnett said he doesn’t believeQ” exists, but he has continually tweeted about it unprovoked and dismissed criticism of it. CNN reached out for comment multiple times but did not get a response.

Joyce Bentley

Republican candidate

Nevada, 1st Congressional District

Bentley previously shared a now-deleted tweet in October 2018 that linked to a QAnon video that alleged multiple conspiracies, according to the left-leaning website Media Matters. Bentley’s campaign website was last updated in 2018 when she ran unsuccessfully for Nevada’s 1st District in 2018, but her social media channels show she remains active. CNN reached out for comment multiple times but did not get a response.

Lauren Boebert

Republican candidate

Colorado, 3rd Congressional District

Boebert, a restaurateur and gun rights advocate, said she was “very familiar” with the QAnon theory, which she claimed was “more my mom’s thing,” and “hoped ‘Q’ is real” on a YouTube show in May. Following her primary upset over the GOP incumbent, Boebert said she was not a follower of the movement and her campaign has worked to distance her from the conspiracy theorists. Inside Elections rates her race as “Tilt Republican.” A spokesperson for Boebert’s campaign told CNN, “Lauren Boebert is on the record dozens of times saying that she is not a supporter of conspiracy theories. Any attempt by your organization to make such a connection would be wholly irresponsible.”

Mike Cargile

Republican candidate

California, 35th Congressional District

Cargile currently lists a QAnon-related hashtag in his candidate Twitter bio, which he explained as the “perfect sentiment for all Americans to have toward one another” and defended the QAnon movement. He wrote that “only a fool would look at the Washington landscape and conclude that the President has no enemies inside the beltway.” Cargile referred CNN to media interviews he gave on the subject, including one to ABC News. He said, “I started checking into it. And a lot of it I agree with. There’s some fringe elements I don’t agree with,” adding that he found the evidence compelling.

Erin Cruz

Republican candidate

California, 36th Congressional District

Cruz, who describes herself as an entrepreneur, retweeted QAnon “info” in November 2019, though she later acknowledged that the information from “Q” is “not 100 percent accurate.” She has called it a “data source” she’s willing to consider for her future constituents. Cruz sent a lengthy statement to CNN in which she said she wants to represent every person in her district. She rejected her candidacy being solely defined by the QAnon conspiracy.

Ron Curtis

Republican candidate

Hawaii, 1st Congressional District

Curtis unsuccessfully ran for a Senate seat in 2018, but is now running in Hawaii’s 1st District. He has shared QAnon conspiracy videos on his Facebook page that have been flagged as false information and later, the Twitter account was suspended and the video was deleted. He urged people to “decide for yourself” what’s true. Curtis told CNN that QAnon “by its nature it can lead to viewing everything through the lens of conspiracy” and cautioned supporters not to alienate their families.

Ben Gibson

Republican candidate

Louisiana, 4th Congressional District

An Air Force veteran, Gibson is running in Louisiana’s 4th District. Gibson shared several posts with #QAnon on his Facebook and in his photos, according to the left-leaning website MediaMatters. CNN reached out for comment multiple times but did not get a response.

Marjorie Taylor Greene

Republican candidate

Georgia, 14th Congressional District

Greene, labelled as a “future star” of the Republican party by the President, praised “Q” as a patriot in a video from 2017 and spread baseless conspiracies such as “pizzagate,” which is linked to QAnon. After her primary win, Greene walked back her support and said the QAnon candidate label “doesn’t represent me.” Running unopposed for a vacant and solid Republican seat, she is all but certain to win. Greene responded to CNN’s comment request by ignoring the substance of the questions and attacking CNN.

Alison Hayden

Republican candidate

California, 15th Congressional District

Hayden, a 60-year-old special education teacher, has referred to QAnon as “another news outlet” and frequently shares its conspiracies and other controversial material on social media. “It’s digital soldiers amalgamating information — you wouldn’t otherwise know about various topics that are swirling the internet with a conservative viewpoint that supports the President,” Hayden told LA Magazine. CNN reached out for comment multiple times but did not get a response.

Bob Lancia

Republican candidate

Rhode Island, 2nd Congressional District

A former Rhode Island state representative and Navy chaplain, Lancia is running in Rhode Island’s 2nd District. His campaign retweeted two QAnon memes, one of which featured Trump’s signature according to the left leaning website Media Matters. Lancia denied to a local news outlet that he was a QAnon supporter and said he had “no idea” what QAnon was. “I actually had to look it up myself. I don’t know anything about them really. I’m not involved with them and I have no idea.” CNN reached out for comment multiple times but did not get a response.

Tracy Lovvorn

Republican candidate

Massachusetts, 2nd Congressional District

Lovvorn, a licensed physical therapist, has shared the QAnon slogan and conspiracies about Jeffrey Epstein on social media about child sex trafficking. After the President declined to denounce QAnon, Lovvorn attacked her opponent for calling Trump’s denial “scary.” Lovvorn told CNN she shared the QAnon slogan to signal that “we are in this together” as the coronavirus pandemic unfolded. She sees QAnon overall as a “good thing” for bringing attention to child sex trafficking, though she denounced the violence from the group.

KW Miller

Independent candidate

Florida, 18th Congressional District

Miller, who says he’s a registered Republican running as an Independent, frequently shares QAnon hashtags and engages with conspiracies online. He has promoted the ideas on his congressional Facebook page through ads, according to Media Matters. Miller told a local newspaper that he doesn’t endorse QAnon but that the group’s followers “follow me.” Miller told CNN, “Mr. Miller is NOT affiliated or involved in any form with QAnon” and referred CNN to a press release threatening legal action toward a local news outlet.

Buzz Patterson

Republican candidate

California, 7th Congressional District

A former Air Force pilot, Patterson tweeted “Yep!” in response to a Twitter user asking if he supported QAnon. Patterson later deleted the tweet and told Axios he does not follow QAnon. Patterson, like three other Californians on this list, was endorsed by the California GOP. CNN reached out for comment multiple times but did not get a response.

Jo Rae Perkins

Republican candidate

U.S. Senate, Oregon

Following her primary victory this spring, Perkins pledged her support to “Q” in a now-deleted video. Her campaign tried to distance her from the movement, but Perkins reiterated her support for QAnon. In a statement, Perkins told CNN, “I 100% support the Q-Team, whomever they are under the 1st Amendment” and noted that “they have the right to post their views, values and opinions.”

Nikka Piterman

Republican candidate

California, 13th Congressional District

Piterman tweeted QAnon hashtags and tweeted his support for expressing conspiracies, writing that Trump was standing up to the “deep state” coordinating child sex trafficking rings. CNN reached out for comment multiple times but did not get a response.

Billy Prempeh

Republican candidate

New Jersey, 9th Congressional District

Prempeh, a 30-year-old first generation American and Air Force veteran, posted a photo of himself next to a “Q” flag on Facebook and has shared QAnon hashtags on social media. Prempeh said that his association to QAnon is “fake news.” Prempeh said in a statement that CNN was ignoring his political and professional background “in favor of trying to paint me a crazy far right person” and attacked CNN.

Catherine Purcell

Independent Party of Delaware candidate

Delaware At-Large Congressional District

Purcell, an Independent Party of Delaware candidate running for Delaware’s only congressional seat, has repeatedly posted QAnon hashtags and content on Instagram (though she claims that “not all posts are my beliefs”) and on Twitter as well as conspiracy theories. CNN reached out for comment multiple times but did not get a response.

Theresa Raborn

Republican candidate

Illinois, 2nd Congressional District

Raborn retweeted a video of former Trump national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn taking a QAnon pledge as well as the QAnon slogan #WWG1WGA, which means “Where We Go One, We Go All.” Raborn told CNN that she “had no idea [the video] had anything to do with QAnon” and defended posting the slogan because it’s “a unifying quote, about teamwork” from the 1996 movie “White Squall.” “I don’t support nor [sic] oppose QAnon because I don’t know enough about it to have an informed opinion,” she told CNN.

Angela Stanton-King

Republican candidate

Georgia, 5th Congressional District

Stanton-King, a criminal justice advocate and former convict who was fully pardoned by the President in February 2020, engaged with QAnon hashtags and coded language online, tweeting “the storm is here” and posted a “Q” video. Stanton-King told The Guardian she believed in tenets of the movement while denying she herself was a QAnon follower. “I don’t know anything about QAnon. You know more than I know,” she said. CNN reached out for comment multiple times but did not get a response.

Johnny Teague

Republican candidate

Texas, 9th Congressional District

Teague, a pastor, is running against longtime Democratic Rep. Al Green. Teague’s campaign Twitter account retweeted a QAnon meme and hashtag #WWG1WGA, which stands for “Where We Go One, We Go All.” CNN reached out for comment multiple times but did not get a response.

Rob Weber

Republican candidate

Ohio, 9th Congressional District

A US Army veteran, West Point graduate and attorney, Weber has promoted QAnon hashtags and conspiracies on his social media accounts. In May, Weber congratulated a Twitter user on being “17’d,” which in the QAnon conspiracy theory parlance refers to being linked to “Q,” the anonymous government official who posts on the deep state (Q is the 17th letter of the alphabet). CNN reached out for comment multiple times but did not get a response.

Philanise White

Republican candidate

Illinois, 1st Congressional District

White, a Republican political operative, has repeatedly tweeted the QAnon slogan on her social media accounts. Her campaign website also features a link to a video detailing what Trump has done to end human trafficking, a nod to a core QAnon belief that Trump is dismantling human trafficking rings. White didn’t clarify to CNN whether she believed in QAnon, and said she is instead focusing on the constituents in her district and getting elected.

Lauren Witzke

Republican candidate

U.S. Senate, Delaware

One of two identified QAnon supporters to run for Senate, Witzke has promoted QAnon hashtags and slogans, and also conspiracy theories. She tweeted that Q supporters should be “welcome in our party” and said it was “very weird” of Democrats to want the supporters to be labeled as domestic terrorists (The FBI labelled QAnon as a potential domestic terrorist threat last year, not Democrats.) Witzke responded to CNN’s comment request with a statement about other conspiracies, before saying “we’re starting to think the QAnon people might be onto something!”

Daniel Wood

Republican candidate

Arizona, 3rd Congressional District

A US Marine veteran and former police officer, Wood repeatedly tweeted QAnon hashtags before deleting them. In a Facebook post from August, Wood said, “I do follow QAnon at times” and that while he’s cautious about the movement, “it has millions of followers who really want our country to succeed.” CNN reached out for comment multiple times but did not get a response.

Photo credits: Josh Barnett for Congress/Facebook; Joyce Bentley for Congress CD1/Facebook; David Zalubowski/AP (Boebert); Cargile for Congress/Facebook; Leon Bennett/Getty Images (Cruz); roncurtis808.com; bengibsonforcongress.com; Dustin Chambers/Getty Images (Greene); Alison4Congress/Twitter; boblanciaforcongress.com; Tracy4Congress/Twitter; K.W. Miller Congressional Committee/Facebook; Lt Col Buzz Patterson/Facebook; PerkinsForUSSen/Twitter; Nikka Piterman/Twitter; billy2020nj.com; electcatherine.com; Theresa J. Jacobs-Raborn/Facebook; stantonkingforcongress.com; Johnny Teague for Congress/Facebook; Rob Weber for Congress/Facebook; Philanese White campaign; Lauren Witzke for Delaware/Facebook; Daniel Wood for Congress 2020/Facebook