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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Now that Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, are out of the hospital but still self-quarantining after their coronavirus diagnosis, the QAnon conspiracy crowd—which had descended on Hanks on social media, claiming the diagnosis was a cover story for Hanks’ arrest for his role in a global pedophilia ring—has moved on to a fresh new target amid the pandemic: Oprah Winfrey.

According to the QAnon-generated—and entirely, risibly false—rumors, Winfrey also was diagnosed with COVID-19, similarly signaling her imminent arrest as part of the first wave of “The Storm,” the imagined flood of arrests being secretly arranged by Donald Trump. The rumors became so widespread on Twitter that Winfrey herself took to the medium to thoroughly debunk them.

“Just got a phone call that my name is trending. And being trolled for some awful FAKE thing. It’s NOT TRUE. Haven’t been raided, or arrested. Just sanitizing and self distancing with the rest of the world. Stay safe everybody,” Winfrey wrote. Neither has Winfrey been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

That did not prevent a wide swath of QAnon enthusiasts from spreading the falsehoods far and wide. One avid QAnon figure—a Florida man named “Tank”—posted a video that was seen widely on YouTube in which he rambled for about seven minutes while standing in front of a random vacant parking lot in Long Island, claiming that Winfrey’s residence “in Boca Raton, Florida,” was being raided by law enforcement officers. The raid was in the process of uncovering, with excavation equipment, the pedophilia ring’s secret “tunnels” in which the children were kept, he claimed.

The only problem with this claim: Winfrey doesn’t own a home in Boca Raton, or anywhere else in Florida, for that matter.

Another QAnon fan posted a video of a police raid at a modest home in suburban Detroit and claimed that it was actually Winfrey’s secret pedophilia den. (In reality, the footage came from a 2012 Detroit SWAT team raid; the account describes itself as “satirical” in its “About” section.) Other QAnon fans with YouTube accounts chimed in with their own far-flung speculations on the “#PandemicHoax.”

Winfrey has been among the many celebrities identified previously as a likely participant in the ostensible global pedophilia ring overseen by liberal political and media figures, in QAnoners’ bizarre alternative universe. She is believed to be connected to the pedophilia ring primarily through her long friendship with disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein, who they connect to the late Jeffrey Epstein, whose sex-trafficking operations are central to the QAnon theories.

One prominent QAnon account described Winfrey once, during speculation she might run for the presidency, as “Procurer of the United States,” and Weinstein as her “No. 1 customer.”

Some QAnon fans even openly acknowledge that the Winfrey rumors are utterly bogus, but eagerly promote them on social media anyway because they help propel the Q theories into mainstream media. As journalist Travis View, who tracks the QAnon phenomenon closely, observes: “Extremists don’t care if their propaganda is true. They just want it to spread.”

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.