Corrected, Nov. 6 | QAnon is heading to Congress, as Marjorie Taylor Greene, a supporter of the baseless and complicated pro-Trump conspiracy theory, won a House seat in Georgia, and Lauren Boebert claimed a House seat in Colorado.
While those victories are the first by Republican candidates who publicly backed the wide-ranging delusion centered on allegations of a “deep state” undermining President Donald Trump and liberals trafficking children, they will join a GOP conference that may already host some “Q-curious” members.
Greene and Boebert were among at least a dozen Republican congressional candidates who had endorsed or given credence to QAnon’s unfounded belief that Trump is the last line of defense against a cabal of child-molesting Democrats who seek to dominate world power.
Rhetoric of QAnon adherents is steeped in racist and anti-semitic tropes and has led to violence. An early supporter opened fire at D.C. pizza joint Comet Ping Pong; in April, authorities arrested a woman who traveled from Illinois to New York and threatened to kill former Vice President Joe Biden.
The unfounded QAnon conspiracy theories emerged in late 2017, when an anonymous person or persons with the username “Q” began posting on message boards alleging evidence of a variety of worldwide criminal conspiracies involving top Democrats and their “deep-state” allies. Q claims to have a security clearance that would give inside access to info about such plots.
Online conservative political circles and platforms have fueled the explosion in followers of Q and spread the central idea that prominent Democrats are the source of deep-rooted corruption and criminal activity, with Trump cast as a heroic figure trying to expose it all.
Greene’s win was no surprise, as she was running unopposed in Georgia’s deep-red 14th District. When the Associated Press called the race at 9:16 p.m. Tuesday night, Greene had 74.8 percent of the vote.
“Q is a patriot, we know that for sure,” Greene said in a video from 2017, in which she recapped some of Q’s predictions and why she supports them.
“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.
Trump congratulated Greene after her primary win in August, calling her a “future Republican Star” who is “strong on everything.”
In western Colorado, Boebert, a gun-rights activist, expressed support for QAnon but does not describe herself as a “follower” of the anonymous leaders she’s praised.
Asked in a May interview about the Q theory, Boebert said, “I hope that this is real. It only means America is getting stronger and better, and people are returning to conservative values, and that’s what I am for.”
Boebert said in a statement to CQ Roll Call, “I’m glad the [inspector general] and the [attorney general] are investigating deep state activities that undermine the President. I don’t follow QAnon.”
In a recent interview with Colorado Public Radio, Boebert reiterated that she is not a follower of QAnon, but added “I don’t believe that’s a radical notion to want to get rid of people trying to undermine the president of the United States.”
Boebert owns a restaurant that is known for its servers who openly carry firearms on the job. A newcomer to electoral politics, she surprised five-term incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton in the June 30 GOP primary and became the heavy favorite to defeat Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush.
Other QAnon candidates
But most of the other QAnon candidates faced long odds, running for reliably Democratic seats.
Jo Rae Perkins, a GOP Senate candidate in Oregon, posted what has become known as an oath for QAnon adherents. Perkins declared in May, “I stand with Q and the team.” She was handedly defeated by Democratic incumbent Jeff Merkley.
Mike Cargile was one of a number of QAnon-linked Republicans to challenge incumbent Democrats in California for House seats, lost by a wide margin to Rep. Norma Torres. His Twitter bio includes #WWG1WGA, a shortened version of the QAnon motto “Where We Go One We Go All.”
Both Boebert and Greene say they want to go to Congress to “stop socialism.” After winning their primaries they sought to distance themselves from their previous statements about QAnon to varying degrees.
Trump invited both women to attend his Republican National Convention speech at the White House in August. Trump has retweeted QAnon accounts and spoken favorably of Q’s followers, fanning the flames of the movement.
Since Election Day, Greene has fully committed to the false narrative supported by Trump that Joe Biden is “stealing” the election and that states should stop counting mail-in ballots. Twitter has placed warnings on at least 16 of her tweets for containing “misleading” information about the election and civic process.
Leaders keep their distance
In Congress, most Republican leaders have not taken a hard stand to combat the spread of QAnon within their ranks. The official campaign arm of the House GOP leaned into the conspiracy, pedaling allegations of supporting child sex abuse against Democrats in an effort to turn their districts red.
In August, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy denounced QAnon on Fox News, saying, “There is no place for QAnon in the Republican Party.” But he stayed neutral in Greene’s primary runoff, despite initially calling her comments “appalling” and saying he has no tolerance for them.
Greene has already been feuding on Twitter with Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who has called QAnon a “fabrication” and said there is no place in Congress for the theories.
Greene’s no-compromise approach may cause headaches for GOP leadership, who will be challenged if she continues to call House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “bitch” and attack reporters whom she’ll now face every day in the halls of Congress.
But Greene and Boebert may find themselves among a handful of colleagues open to the QAnon ideology, even if they are much quieter about it.
In early October the House overwhelmingly approved a resolution condemning QAnon. The measure passed 371-18, with one Republican voting “present.”
The measure was sponsored by New Jersey Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, who was repeatedly accused of lobbying on behalf of sexual predators, a claim that is completely unsubstantiated. The smears came from the House Republicans’ official campaign operation and use messaging that feeds right into the QAnon conspiracies about sex trafficking.
The House GOP campaign operation did not relent on the attack, saying Malinowski “must live with the consequences of his actions.” And the campaign operation continues to attack other Democratic incumbents for their relationship to Malinowski based on this unsubstantiated claim.
A CQ Roll Call analysis of campaign and congressional Twitter accounts of the “nay” voters on the resolution shows that the accounts follow a significant number of users who include “QAnon” or “WWG1WGA” in their bios.
Of the Twitter users followed by Texas Rep. John Carter’s accounts, @JudgeJohnCarter and @JudgeCarter, more than 5 percent were loudly QAnon adherents at the time the analysis was conducted in early October. For the most recent 10,000 people followed by Ohio’s Rep. Warren Davidson, QAnon followers made up about 2 percent; and about 1 percent of the accounts South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan‘s recently followed were avowed QAnon supporters.
Ryan Kelly contributed to this report.
Correction: Rep. John Carter was misidentified in the original version of this report.