A candidate who has expressed enthusiasm for QAnon knocked off a Trump-endorsed Republican incumbent in Colorado’s House primary Tuesday night, becoming the latest in a string of victorious GOP candidates who have embraced the conspiracy theory.
Bar owner and gun rights activist Lauren Boebert, 33, defeated five-time incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton in Colorado’s Third Congressional District, which encompasses the mostly rural western half of the state. Boebert ran to Tipton’s right, saying he wasn’t supportive enough of President Trump.
Boebert is the owner of Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colo., a restaurant where the waitstaff carry holstered handguns. She has been outspoken in her opposition to social distancing lockdowns put in place to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“Our freedom and our Constitutional rights are on the ballot this November and Republicans just sent a loud and clear message that they want me there to fight for them,” she said in a statement issued from her campaign.
In May, Boebert appeared on a right-wing online show and was asked what she thought of the “Q movement.”
“I am familiar with that,” she replied, smiling. “Everything I’ve heard of Q — I hope that this is real. Because it only means America is getting stronger and better and people are returning to conservative values.”
However, Boebert said Wednesday that while she is glad the Justice Department is “investigating deep state activities that undermine the President,” she denied being a believer in the conspiracy theory. “I don’t follow QAnon,” she told Yahoo News in a statement.
QAnon is a convoluted conspiracy theory that, to some extent, means different things to different people. The gist is that Trump is working behind the scenes to expose and disrupt a vast conspiracy involving nefarious “deep state” bureaucrats and global elites who may engage in a pedophilia ring.
The narrative is fed by cryptic posts on internet message boards from an anonymous person or persons named Q, who followers believe to be a high-ranking intelligence official, or possibly even Trump himself. Popular YouTube and social media pages promulgate and analyze Q’s vague and largely inscrutable messages, turning the obsession into something of a game for many followers.
Last year, Yahoo News reported that an FBI document had identified QAnon adherents as “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists” who presented potential terrorist threats.
“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts,” the document states.
According to Open Secrets, Boebert won despite raising just $133,000, compared with $1.1 million for Tipton. She ends the primary race with just $13,000 cash on hand, versus over $600,000 for Tipton.
Boebert may be the favorite in November’s general election because of the district’s conservative leanings. She will face Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, a former county commissioner and state representative who lost to Tipton in 2018. Bush lost by 8 percent, or roughly 27,000 votes.
Although the president has never explicitly said he supports QAnon, he has embraced other conspiracy theories. Trump was a leading proponent of “birtherism,” the false claim that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya. And during the 2016 campaign he repeatedly floated the baseless notion that the father of a GOP primary rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, was somehow involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
When asked about the presence of QAnon supporters at a Trump rally in 2018, then-White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sidestepped the question.
“The president condemns and denounces any group that would incite violence against another individual, and certainly doesn’t support groups that would promote that type of behavior,” Sanders said at a White House briefing. “We’ve been clear about that a number of times since the beginning of the administration.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee expressed no concerns about Boebert’s QAnon sympathies when asked Tuesday night.
“We’ll get back to you when Cheri Bustos and the DCCC disavow dangerous conspiracy theorists like Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff who have pushed without evidence their wild-eyed claims that the President of the United States of America is actually a secret Russian double agent under control of the Kremlin,” NRCC spokesperson Bob Salera told HuffPost.
Boebert’s QAnon support pales in comparison to that of some other Republicans who have found success so far in 2020. Marjorie Taylor Greene earned the most votes in June’s primary in Georgia’s 14th District but will still face neurosurgeon John Cowan, a pro-Trump Republican, in an Aug. 11 primary runoff.
“Q is a patriot. ... He is someone that very much loves his country, and he’s on the same page as us, and he is very pro-Trump,” Greene said in a 2017 video posted to YouTube, adding, “Now there’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it.”
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported in August 2019 that Greene “posted a series of tweets defending QAnon, including one encouraging her followers to message her with questions so she can ‘walk you through the whole thing.’” Those tweets are now deleted, but Greene appeared in another video where she called Q a “patriot” and “worth listening to.” In 2018, she also tweeted #GreatAwakening — a pro-QAnon hashtag — at Infowars host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Greene was eventually disavowed by Republican leaders after Politico surfaced Facebook videos in which she expressed racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views. In the videos, she suggested that Muslims don’t belong in government, said Black people are held as slaves to the Democratic Party and called Jewish Democratic donor George Soros a Nazi.
“These comments are appalling, and Leader McCarthy has no tolerance for them,” said Drew Florio, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.
If Greene were to win the runoff, she may have a solid chance at heading to Congress, as the 14th is a heavily Republican district that spans the western edge of the state. Trump won 75 percent of the vote in the district in 2016.
In May, former Republican county chairwoman Jo Rae Perkins won the U.S. Senate primary in Oregon, earning a chance to unseat Democratic incumbent Jeff Merkley, who is a heavy favorite in the race. Perkins made multiple references to QAnon on Election Day.
“Where we go one, we go all,” she said in a tweet published prior to the results coming in, quoting a popular slogan from the conspiracy theory. “I stand with President Trump, I stand with Q and the team. Thank you Anons, and thank you patriots. Together, we can save our republic.”
During a victory speech live-streamed to social media, Perkins concluded by saying, “As we Q people like to say, ‘Where we go one, we go all.’”
The next day, she deleted both of the election night videos containing QAnon references but said she regretted it.
“Am I bummed I took it down?” Perkins told Oregon Public Broadcasting. “Yeah, I am really bummed. But I also hired a consultant whose job it is to ‘protect me.’”
According to tracking from the liberal watchdog group Media Matters, at least 59 former or current Republican candidates appear to have voiced support for the conspiracy theory so far this cycle. The Greene and Perkins campaigns did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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