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Fox Network’s Lara Logan Goes Full QAnon, Questions Moon Landing

Lara Logan, a Fox Nation host whose current relationship with the network is unclear, was interviewed by a QAnon influencer with ties to a QAnon group in Dallas that is awaiting the supposed return of the late President John F. Kennedy and his son. During the interview, the influencer directly invoked “Q,” the conspiracy theory’s central figure, and Logan appeared to suggest that the 1969 landing on the moon was somehow suspect.

In videos uploaded in separate parts on February 23 and 24, Logan -- who has been absent from Fox since comparing Dr. Anthony Fauci to the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele -- did an interview with Tom Sidney Bushnell, a QAnon influencer known online as “Tom Numbers.” Bushnell has been associated with Michael Brian Protzman, another QAnon influencer known online as “Negative48” who is leading a gathering in Dallas organized around the belief that John F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy Jr. will appear at the grassy knoll where the senior Kennedy was shot with former President Donald Trump.

Bushnell’s videos of his interview with Logan were uploaded to his own YouTube channel, despite the platform’s supposed QAnon crackdown, and even appeared to be monetized via ads.

During the interview, Logan alleged that there was some kind of secret technology that could have prevented the attack in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. She also seemed to suggest that there was something suspicious about the July 1969 moon landing, using air quotes when mentioning Neil Armstrong and (wrongly) claiming that the United States government officially sent astronauts to the moon only once. During the interview, Bushnell also directly invoked Q by claiming that Trump mentioned the number 17 -- referring to Q being the 17th letter of the alphabet -- during an event about the Space Force.

TOM SIDNEY BUSHNELL: I mentioned about the Space Force flag ceremony with President Trump, with POTUS in the Oval Office. And he specifically spoke very deliberately. I think there were a lot of codes -- well there were, but it’s interesting what you’re saying now. He said that there were a number of -- so he had people from the Space Force Command, he said, “Whether people like it or not, the future is space,” and he kept going on and on about it. And he shows the Space Force flag and the Space Force flag is the arrowhead, which is the same symbol as Star Trek.
And he talked about missiles and weapons, and he says -- and he kept repeating. He says, “We have — all these other countries have, you know, really quick missiles, but we have -- we have one that is 17 times quicker than any -- anyone.” ... And he kept repeating the word 17. Seventeen is Q, et cetera, but he kept saying it over and over again. Then he said, “Yeah, it’s faster than anything out there, and it’s 17 times quicker than any, you know, anything that either everyone else has got or we had with the U.S. industry.” I think he was making the point that the U.S. is behind China and Russia and other places, and theirs was a bit faster. But then this one that they’ve got now because of Space Force was 17 times quicker. And he kept reemphasizing that all the time. So I think it was loaded with code.

LARA LOGAN (FOX NATION HOST): You think the Chinese didn’t know we had a Space Force or the Iranians or the Russians and so on and so on, right? It’s ridiculous. So it becomes a bigger question that we forget to ask because we get caught up in the arguing, you know, this and that about Trump. Why was this kept secret from the American people? We put Neil Armstrong on the moon. That wasn’t a secret, right? And really, if you think about it, we’re supposed to believe that after putting Neil Armstrong on the moon, we never went back? We just decided to go to the moon once and then we decided, “Oh, we’re going to concentrate on going into Mars, deeper into space. Let’s go into deep space.” Come on. It’s not even logical. And yet all of us fall for these things, me included, you know, because we have this innate faith in our leaders and our institutions and our media, in our government. We know that they lie and this and that. But we sort of think that there’s a threshold below which they won't go -- well that used to be the case anyway. It’s not the case anymore. And it’s a very important question, why was Space Force classified in the first place?

Logan’s appearance with a QAnon influencer comes months after John Sabal, another QAnon influencer who is known online as “QAnon John,” initially claimed that Logan would be appearing at his QAnon conference in Las Vegas, which Fox later denied. This is not Logan’s first brush with conspiracy theory influencers, as she has previously collaborated with Mikki Willis, the director of the viral coronavirus conspiracy theory video Plandemic.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

How Gab Is Becoming A Platform For Neo-Nazi Propaganda

The CEO of Gab -- a social media platform known as a haven for white nationalists and extremism that is now attracting Republican political figures including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) -- has increasingly affiliated himself with a Holocaust-denying white nationalist with ties to the January 6 insurrection as part of efforts to create a “parallel economy” for far-right forces banned from other platforms.

Gab CEO Andrew Torba -- whose account all Gab users follow by default -- has increasingly praised white nationalist Nick Fuentes and his “America First” movement, announcing that the platform would be collaborating with Fuentes to sponsor his upcoming far-right conference, repeatedly promoting Fuentes and his group, and even sending America First content directly to Gab users. Torba has also defended him from backlash after some Gab users criticized the platform’s support for Fuentes, who has repeatedly attacked them.

The platform’s growing relationship with Fuentes and his organization highlights Torba’s own escalating extremism, which includes lauding the Capitol insurrection as it was happening and urging the insurrectionists to storm the U.S. Senate; endorsing a call for then-President Donald Trump to declare martial law and overturn the 2020 election; and endorsing the white nationalist “great replacement” conspiracy theory. Torba has also used Gab to undermine vaccination efforts and actively courted far-right figures to join the platform, including supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Fuentes is a Holocaust-denying white nationalist organizer and host of America First who has previously been banned by both YouTube and Twitter. In late 2019, Fuentes came to prominence leading a campaign to have followers of America First harass more mainstream conservative figures, which he called the “Groyper War” (his followers call themselves “Groypers”). He also attended the deadly 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and encouraged the 2021 Capitol insurrection. Last month, he was subpoenaed by the House January 6 committee over “his ‘America First’ group’s involvement in the run-up to the event.”

Torba announced in January that Gab would be sponsoring Fuentes’ upcoming America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC), calling the event “a group of grassroots young Christian thinkers who, like it or not, are the future of right wing politics in this country.” Fuentes thanked Torba for the sponsorship, claiming the “parallel economy and Gab alternative tech ecosystem are the future.” America First has since announced that Torba will also be a featured speaker at AFPAC.

Torba’s announcement fits with a larger pattern of the Gab CEO praising or promoting Fuentes and his group. A Media Matters review of Torba’s Gab posts since 2019 found that he has mentioned Fuentes or “America First” over 140 times. Torba’s references to Fuentes picked up significantly since the beginning of 2021, having made more than 120 references to Fuentes or “America First” -- over six times as many as in all of 2019 and 2020 combined.

Media Matters’ review also found that Torba has used Gab’s email list to promote content from Fuentes to users at least a dozen times since 2021, including: “Nick Fuentes unmasks gatekeeping Zionists who control the American political conversation”; “Nick Fuentes discusses the enshrinement of anti-white HATRED in public policy”; and a video of Fuentes claiming “the System HATES White People.”

Gab Fuentes video email6

Citation From an email from Gab in August 2021

Torba’s embrace of Fuentes also fits his pattern of pushing antisemitism alongside his own brand of “Christian Nationalism.” In April 2021, Torba shared a video of Fuentes criticizing the American Jewish Congress for being critical of Gab and wrote that Fuentes “is waking Conservatives up and shifting the Overton Window in the right direction. It's long overdue.”

In July, he wrote that Fuentes “and the millions of young Christian men and women like him are the future. … America First Christian Nationalism is inevitable.”

And that same month Torba took his praise even further, calling Fuentes the “civil rights hero of our time” and writing a blog post claiming that “in an age where young, straight, White, Christian men who hold Biblical values are being treated as second class citizens for their political and religious beliefs, Nick Fuentes is a voice of reason.”

Torba Fuentes civil rights hero post

Torba also criticized those in conservative media who were critical of Fuentes, claiming that “they are not on our side” and that they were criticizing Fuentes “because what he says is TRUE.” Torba also defended Fuentes in response to criticism from The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro and promoted a quote from Fuentes that “denying Christ is far worse than denying the Holocaust, and Ben Shapiro and all the jews can take that to [the] bank.”

Torba Fuentes Holocaust post

In addition to praising and defending Fuentes on Gab, Torba has also repeatedly shared clips of Fuentes and America First. Media Matters found that Torba shared Fuentes and America First clips more than 20 times within just a four-month period alone in 2021, including a video titled “WAKE UP! ‘Holocaust RELIGION’ Is ANTITHETICAL To America First,” and a video of Fuentes saying the U.S. is a Christian nation and telling American Jews to move to Israel if they don’t like antisemitism, to which Torba wrote, “There are tens of millions of us who feel this way and we aren’t going away.

Torba Fuentes Holocaust video

In the days leading up to and right around Torba’s sponsorship announcement of AFPAC, he also created a Gab account on Fuentes’ streaming platform, where he began doing livestreams and openly expressed hope for a “partnership” between both platforms.

Torba also used Fuentes’ streaming platform to defend the AFPAC announcement against criticism from Gab users, saying it was “unbecoming” and “leftist-type behavior” and that Fuentes’ attacks on Gab users were simply cases of him being a “provocateur” like Torba. He said that the conference was “the best possible thing for Gab to sponsor” because it would “give glory to Christ” and feature “a bunch of young people who are the future.”


Gab’s Twitter account has also praised Fuentes, writing that he and Gab “embody the true and relentless spirit of American excellence, ingenuity, grit, and defiance in the face of tyranny.”

Fuentes has reciprocated Torba’s praise, calling the Gab CEO a “21st century Founding Father” and adding, “It was people like him that created this country.”

On an episode of Fuentes’ show in January, the host said that Torba was a “total rock star and Gab is blowing up,” pointing to the growing number of Republican political figures joining the platform as evidence. He later said that Torba’s involvement is “absolutely critical,” adding, “He’s going to be a very important figure. He is already, but his importance will grow because Gab is very important.” And on the day that Torba announced Gab’s sponsorship of AFPAC, Fuentes wrote: “I trust Gab because Gab is run by a faithful Christian. And not some Judeo-Christian either, a Christian.”

Fuentes has also repeatedly and directly lauded Gab, which he joined in the days after the Capitol insurrection, writing that it is the “one true free speech platform in the entire world” and “an amazing platform” because “without it there would be nowhere else on the entire internet for us to go.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

The QAnon Cult Isn’t Flaming Out, But Morphing Into A Dangerous Political Movement

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

In early 2021, there was speculation that the movement built around the QAnon conspiracy theory had finally reached an end, with “Q” -- the central figure of QAnon -- having gone silent in December 2020. But the year started with dozens of QAnon supporters participating in an assault on the United States Capitol, fueled by a belief in false claims of large-scale voter fraud the QAnon community helped spread. And the events of January 6 were the harbinger of what was to come: a year in which QAnon influencers and adherents promoted conspiracy theories and falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election, helped organize efforts to challenge or “audit” the election results, and aided in an alleged plot that, if successful, may help sway the outcome of future elections at the state and national level.

An alleged plot announced by Jim Marchant, a former member of the Nevada state Assembly and now a Nevada secretary of state candidate, is a primary example of how dangerous QAnon became in 2021. On October 25, Marchant took the stage at the QAnon-supporting “Patriot Double Down” conference, claiming that he lost his congressional campaign due to voter fraud. Marchant then said he was asked to “put together a coalition” in swing states “of other like-minded secretary of state candidates” -- referring to the officials that help run elections -- and that he had successes with the involvement and recruitment of QAnon-connected figures thus far.

Although there had been discussion about QAnon dying out in 2021, efforts like Marchant’s show that QAnon has continued to erode our democratic system and may even pose threaten a constitutional crisis -- even without “Q.” Though several social media platforms had finally announced crackdowns on QAnon by early 2021, these efforts were too little too late. By not dealing with QAnon earlier on (Facebook even spent years algorithmically promoting it), these platforms enabled the community to grow, becoming so big and organized that adherents no longer need their titular leader. Meanwhile, it’s become an easy vehicle for political figures to advance anti-democratic agendas.

Some Thought 2021 Was The Year QAnon Would Flame Out -- And They Were Wrong

After Q fell silent in December 2020, some speculated that 2021 would be the end of QAnon. The conspiracy theory had been around for more than three years at that point, starting in October 2017, when an anonymous figure known as Q posted on message board site 4chan (and later on 8chan/8kun), claiming to have “Q” government clearance and promising to have an inside scoop showing then-President Donald Trump had a secret plot that would take down his perceived enemies, the “deep state,” and a cabal of pedophiles.

Over the following years, the conspiracy theory grew on mainstream social media platforms, slowly but steadily building a network of Twitter hashtags, Facebook pages and groups, and YouTube channels, and it was boosted by other conspiracy theory figures like Infowars founder Alex Jones. During that time, some of its followers engaged in violent or threatening acts, including murders and kidnappings, and multiple government agencies issued internal warnings about it. (The FBI issued a warning as recently as June of this year).

The conspiracy theory had a breakthrough year in 2020, when consumption of QAnon-related content boomed on social media due to the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, two people who had expressed some level of support for QAnon were elected to Congress, and Trump praised the conspiracy theory’s followers.

But starting in summer 2020 and through January 2021, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok finally announced crackdowns on QAnon ( resulting in a decrease in QAnon-connected phrases on those platforms). Q went dark after December, and despite the January 6 insurrection and the QAnon community’s predictions that Trump would somehow stay in office, Joe Biden was inaugurated as president. Although this did confuse and disappoint some followers, the result was not the end of QAnon, but a shift in the community.

Rather than give up, QAnon supporters said that “the task of Q was completed” because “the Q team [had] put out enough info” and had “created an army of digital soldiers” that would not “exist if there was no Q.” Supporters also claimed that Q was “a way to teach people how to research and how to look into things themselves” and that thanks to Q’s “guidance,” it was now time for individuals to “fight for our country.” One QAnon show host (who participated in part of the insurrection) even said that additional Q posts were not needed as “the point had been made. They were meant to wake people up, to push us to stop looking outside ourselves.” In fact, throughout the year, the community -- including political figures like Marchant -- actively tried to escape the “QAnon” tag, echoing Q’s “camouflage” command in 2020, which asked followers to deny that QAnon existed.

QAnon also continued to gather significant support among Republicans. The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer said in November that a pollster told him that “QAnon’s never been more popular in her polls of fellow Republicans.”

A main reason for the QAnon community’s resilience is the motivating power of false claims that “we've got fraudulent elections … to deal with” and that Biden was not the rightful president, which meant the election -- and the presidency -- could be “restor[ed] … back to Trump.”

QAnon, Trump-connected Figures, And The Idea Of Trump’s 'Reinstatement'

After Biden took office, the QAnon community used false voter fraud claims to rationalize that somehow Biden was a “fake president” and would be removed from office, or that Trump and/or other forces were still in control.

Some even called for a military coup against Biden, with one QAnon influencer, David Hayes (known online as “Praying Medic”), saying the military was “the last line of defense against tyranny, and I think they're going to be forced to step in.” This narrative played out most starkly when the QAnon community applauded Myanmar’s military in February for overthrowing the civilian government and imprisoning its leaders over claims of voter fraud, calling it a model for what should happen in the United States.

QAnon supporters also claimed Trump would somehow be reinstated as president -- even initially settling on a specific date of March 4. The false claim gained enough traction that it became one of the reasons almost 5,000 National Guard troops remained in Washington, D.C., after January 6. One QAnon supporter told an on-duty soldier outside the Capitol on March 3 that he was considering “test[ing] the National Guard tomorrow to see if they were loyal to the people or to the President.”

After nothing happened on March 4, some QAnon supporters continued to claim that Trump would be “reinstated.” In particular, some focused on claims from pro-Trump businessman Mike Lindell, one of four prominent QAnon-connected players -- along with Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn, and Patrick Byrne -- to push the reinstatement claim. And all four are central to QAnon’s political influence.

Mike Lindell

Lindell had met with Trump days before Biden’s inauguration to float the idea that Trump use martial law to stay in office, a call that had been pushed by QAnon supporters. Lindell also has other ties to QAnon, including helping the community financially.

Originally, Lindell claimed that based on the supposed evidence of voter fraud he had, “Trump will be back in office in August” -- a claim that Trump himself reportedly came to believe. Lindell moved the date back of this reinstatement and, in November, released a supposed complaint that he promised would get the Supreme Court to act.

In response to Lindell’s claim, one QAnon influencer named Terpsichore Maras-Lindeman, known online as “Tore,” launched a “#jointhesuit” campaign to urge her followers to get state attorneys general to sign on, with some of her followers saying they had spoken with Republican state officials in multiple states about it. Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers even participated in a #jointhesuit event to get the attorney general of Arizona to sign on, and Tore joined her in person.

Wendy Rogers Tore

Sidney Powell

Former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell is another QAnon-connected figure who promised Trump’s reinstatement. Powell helped Trump in his legal campaign to overturn the election, including by citing multiple QAnon-connected figures and claims, and Trump considered naming her a special counsel on voter fraud. At a QAnon conference in Dallas in May, Powell said that due to voter fraud, Trump “can simply be reinstated.”

Michael Flynn

Another figure with deep ties to the QAnon community is former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn -- whom Trump considered making the FBI director and who also met with Trump post-election. At one point before Biden’s inauguration, Flynn called for martial law, and at the QAnon conference in Dallas, he echoed the community’s support for a Myanmar-style coup in the U.S. On QAnon supporter Ann Vandersteel’s show in June, Flynn said that due to voter fraud, “you reinstate the guy [Trump] and you get rid of the guy [Biden] that’s there.”

Patrick Byrne

Former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, who has a number of connections to QAnon shows and influencers, also met with Trump post-election. Byrne has a significant number of QAnon connections, including apparently having a QAnon influencer on his group’s leadership committee and endorsing QAnon’sdigital soldiers.” He claimed, “You’ll see Donald Trump back in [office] sometime next year.” In separate videos, Byrne promoted Lindell’s Supreme Court complaint before it was released, along with Tore’s campaign for it.

In June, the Department of Homeland Security expressed alarm about the Trump reinstatement claim, noting its spread among “Qanon conspiracy theory adherents.”

QAnon, Arizona, and the “audit” and “decertify” movement

As part of this push for reinstatement, much of the QAnon community latched onto an effort to launch “audits” in swing states Biden won -- in particular Arizona -- to prove voter fraud. QAnon supporters believed that the supposed audit, launched by the Arizona state Senate to look into ballots cast in Maricopa County, would start a domino effect of audits in other states, leading states to “decertify” their election results and causing Trump’s reinstatement.

The Arizona audit was extensively intertwined with QAnon:

  • Doug Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, the company conducting the audit, was involved with efforts by Powell, Flynn, and Byrne to push voter fraud claims, along with QAnon-supporting attorney Lin Wood.
  • Logan helped with a lawsuit from lawyer Matthew DePerno in Michigan, where DePerno is also running for attorney general in 2022. DePerno appeared to follow and amplified multiple QAnon influencers including former 8kun administrator Ron Watkins (known online as “CodeMonekyZ”) and Praying Medic, the QAnon influencer who called for a military coup.
  • Some of the biggest boosters of the audit in the Arizona state legislature have affiliated themselves with QAnon. Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers has promoted QAnon and repeatedly gone on QAnon shows to promote the audit and other “decertification” efforts. State Rep. Mark Finchem (who is running for Arizona secretary of state in 2022) has promoted QAnon narratives. And state Senate Majority Whip Sonny Borrelli has also gone on multiple QAnon shows. All three (along with another state representative) attended a QAnon conference in Las Vegas to discuss the audit.

Another connection between the audit and QAnon was a conspiracy theory, based on a Q post, that Trump watermarked ballots so that Democrats would be caught cheating by using fake ballots without watermarks. The audit workers reportedly used UV light to examine ballots to look for supposed watermarks, and some 2022 state secretary of state candidates, including Arizona’s Finchem, have now called for watermarked ballots to prevent supposed fraud.

While the audit did not find the promised fraud, the audit movement did spread elsewhere -- along with more QAnon connections.

In Wisconsin, one of the most prominent advocates for the decertification of the state’s results was Wisconsin state Rep. Timothy Ramthun. Ramthun called for Cyber Ninjas to aid with an audit in the state in a video titled “The Calm Before The Storm” -- a key phrase in QAnon lore. He also appeared on a QAnon channel to push for an audit.

And in Pennsylvania, one of the most prominent advocates for an audit was state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who also visited Arizona to observe its audit. Mastriano has previously expressed support for QAnon. The founder of Audit The Vote PA -- a group associated with Mastriano -- is also a QAnon supporter.

An alleged QAnon-connected plot that could lead to a constitutional crisis

As the audit movement spread around the country, Nevada secretary of state candidate Jim Marchant took the stage at the QAnon conference in October in Las Vegas. Marchant -- who is friendly with the conference organizer, who is also a QAnon influencer -- baselessly complained that he was “a victim of voter fraud” in his 2020 congressional bid and said that he worked with Juan O. Savin, a QAnon influencer who some QAnon supporters believe is John F. Kennedy Jr., to supposedly “expose … the fraudulent election here in Nevada.”

Video fileVideo Player

Marchant suggested election fraud had supposedly been occurring “for a long time” and involved Democrats winning secretary of state offices around the country and “in key swing states.” He said that “we need to take back” those offices in 2022 because “they are the most important election in our country in 2022” as they “control the election system.” And he claimed he was asked to run for secretary of state in Nevada and to “put together a coalition of other like minded secretary of state candidates.”

Marchant said the “coalition,” which he developed with Savin, in May had its “inaugural meeting to start strategizing,” which included Lindell, Byrne, Jim Hoft and Joe Hoft of The Gateway Pundit, and Brian Kennedy of the Claremont Institute. The Gateway Pundit is a far-right blog that has previously given credence to QAnon and has played a major role spreading voter fraud misinformation. The Claremont Institute also has far-right ties.

Marchant named some secretary of state candidates who have expressed support for QAnon as part of this recruitment effort: Arizona’s Finchem and California’s Rachel Hamm, both of whom also attended the conference. Marchant also mentioned trying to recruit Pennsylvania’s Mastriano to run for governor because in Pennsylvania, the governor appoints the secretary of state. Another secretary of state candidate who attended the conference, Michigan’s Kristina Karamo, said she had been “asked to be a part of the coalition” and that “we came here to Vegas and we sat in the room and we met and we talked, all of us on the coalition together.”

Trump has also endorsed some of the candidates connected to the effort. If elected, these figures could potentially try to use their office to cast doubt on or even reverse a future presidential election result.

Even without Q, QAnon has continued to corrode our democratic system -- and social media made that possible

Despite Q’s disappearance, the crackdowns by the platforms, and Biden’s assumption of office, QAnon did not go away. Animated by a belief that Trump was somehow still in power or would be reinstated, the community focused intensely on proving voter fraud. QAnon’s influence on the audit and the decertify movement, particularly in Arizona, is an extension of the influence QAnon had on Trump post-election, via some of the same figures.

The continued political influence of QAnon traces back to the original sin of the social media platforms. Failing to take action on QAnon sooner let it grow unchecked, becoming big and organized enough to influence politics. As Rogers herself said, the audiences of QAnon shows were, in part, helping “mov[e] the needle.”

And now this QAnon infrastructure -- in place due to the catastrophic mistake of the social media companies -- has helped cause an insurrection, struck at the integrity of our democracy, and sowed the seeds for a potential constitutional crisis.8

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

White Nationalist Gab Now Sabotaging Vaccination Effort

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Gab's Andrew Torba, the CEO of a site known as a haven for white nationalists, has been using his platform to actively help people avoid getting coronavirus vaccines in response to possible mandates from government agencies and private companies.

Torba founded Gab in 2016 and it aimed to be a place for extremist content under the garb of free speech that other platforms had banned. Since then, the site has become a haven for white nationalists and extremist users, including the man accused of killing multiple people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Torba has also made his activity central to Gab. All Gab users follow his account by default and his blog posts are sent directly to their email accounts. Now, Torba is using the platform to encourage people to avoid getting coronavirus vaccines, which are safe and extremely effective at preventing hospitalization and death.

Torba has made his anti-vaccine views clear for months and spread misinformation about the vaccines in blog posts sent to the platform's users, falsely calling them "an experimental vaccine" and "the largest science experiment in history." Torba has also shared messages he claims are from active-duty military users or their family members worried about a vaccine mandate, and his avatar on Gab openly promotes that he is "not vaccinated." (He also emailed Gab users a viral video of a man at a town hall meeting sharing vaccine misinformation, thereby playing a significant role in its spread.)

But in recent weeks Torba has ramped up his opposition to the vaccines and is now sending users materials that can be used to avoid taking it. In late July, Torba shared documents he claimed he got from a Twitter user, writing in a post that they contained "what the creator of the documents calls an 'air tight religious exemption request' for the COVID vaccine if it is mandatory for you at work, school, or in the military." These documents featured vaccine misinformation and also cite Solari Report, a site run by Catherine Austin Fitts, the star of a viral coronavirus misinformation video. Torba encouraged Gab users to "share" the documents "everywhere." Later in a video, he bragged about the documents, saying, "We've had a lot of great feedback on these. People are very thankful that we put these out there. You're not going to find these anywhere else."

Torba exemption documents wanting shares post

Torba's post featuring the documents, besides being shared on Gab, has also received more than 24,000 Facebook engagements, according to the tracking tool CrowdTangle. MultipleQAnon influencers also shared the post and those received hundreds of thousands of combined views. (A former candidate for chair of the Colorado Republican Party also sharedthe post.) Additionally, a user on the far-right forum formerly known as "TheDonald" wrote that Torba's post helped a family member get an exemption from the vaccine at college.

More recently, Torba launched another anti-vax initiative, announcing a Gab group that is meant to serve as a job board "for employers who are hiring and do not require their employees to inject an experimental substance into their bodies in order to retain employment." The group, which has more than 30,000 members, has featured numerous job listings for people looking to avoid taking the vaccines, including a posting from far-right and antisemitic outletTruNews, which listed positions "that will NEVER require you to get the jab." Torba has also used the group to promote another site for jobs not requiring vaccines and one with "a great religious exemption template for employees." The Gab group job board was also promoted onthe far-right forum formerly known as "TheDonald."

Torba job board announcement post

Around the same time, on August 24, Torba sent users yet another vaccine exemption template, this time for college students, writing, "My twin brothers received a letter from their College letting them know six days before they start classes that the college will be mandating vaccines for all students. … I worked with them to draft their exemption request and thought it could be helpful to other college students out there who are facing the same insane abuse of their religious liberty and bodily autonomy." (The post was shared on Facebook by an Arizona county Republican Party chapter.)

Torba and his platform have repeatedly shown support for extremism, such as courting QAnon supporters and antisemites (as well as pushing antisemitism), repeatedly promoting content from white nationalist Nick Fuentes to users, and cheering on the January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol as it was occurring. Torba has been trying to create his own services for Gab users who have been barred from using other sites for payment processing and more. These services include what Torba calls "an alternative to PayPal," Gab's own streaming service, and even its own phone. In his email announcing his anti-vax job board, Torba acknowledged these efforts, writing, "This job board aligns with Gab's vision of building infrastructure for a parallel economy and we hope to expand further on this job board initiative in the coming months."

New Anti-Vax Disinformation Video Got 30 Million Views On Social Media

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A viral video pushing misleading claims about coronavirus vaccines and masks has earned at least 30 million views from uploads directly on mainstream social media platforms. In addition to this extensive view count, the video has also seemingly received millions of Facebook engagements despite these platforms' rules against coronavirus misinformation.

Previously, Facebook claimed that it would remove content from its platform that pushes false claims about vaccines. YouTube has said it prohibits content "about COVID-19 that poses a serious risk of egregious harm" or "contradicts local health authorities' or the World Health Organization's (WHO) medical information about COVID-19." TikTok has said it prohibits "misinformation related to COVID-19, vaccines, and anti-vaccine disinformation," and Twitter has said it prohibits "false or misleading information about COVID-19 which may lead to harm."

Despite those rules, the new video promoting lies about the pandemic and vaccines has already spread extensively on these platforms in just a few days.

The viral video features a man named Dan Stock -- who has said he was at the United States Capitol building during the January 6 insurrection -- speaking in front of an Indiana city's school board, where he makes multiple false claims. Calling himself a "functional family medicine physician," Stock falsely suggested that coronavirus vaccines were not effective, saying, "Why is a vaccine that is supposedly so effective having a breakout in the middle of the summer when respiratory viral syndromes don't do that?" He also falsely claimed, "People who have recovered from COVID-19 infection actually get no benefit from vaccination at all," and inaccurately alleged that masks do not work, saying that "coronavirus and all other respiratory viruses ... are spread by aerosol particles, which are small enough to go through every mask." And rather than vaccines, Stock suggested people use the drug ivermectin to treat COVID-19 -- which the FDA has specifically advised against.

A review by Media Matters found that the video has earned tens of millions of views from direct uploads on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok combined.

On Instagram, uploads of the video have earned more than 4.6 million combined views. One upload, from right-wing host Sebastian Gorka, has received more than 3.5 million views alone. (In fact, Gorka's uploads of the clip on Instagram and Twitter appear to have contributed to nearly 30 percent of the known views of native uploads on mainstream social media platforms.) Another Instagram upload has nearly half a million views alone. And "Disinformation Dozen" member Sherri Tenpenny, who is ban evading on the platform, got thousands of views for her upload of the video.

Gorka Instagram Stock video

Uploads have also circulated on Facebook, with copies of the video earning at least 100,000 views. A page called Hancock County Indiana Patriots, which claims to have first uploaded the viral clip, got more than 90,000 views for its upload of the video which was then shared by John Jacob, a Republican member of the Indiana House of Representatives. (Jacob also earned thousands of views for his own upload of the video.)

John Jacob Hancock County Indiana Patriots Facebook Stock video

On YouTube, uploads of the video have earned at least 6.5 million views. One version earned well over 3.6 million views before it was taken down for violating YouTube's community guidelines. Multiple uploads of the video -- including the one with millions of views -- also carried ads, meaning YouTube had profited off of spreading these harmful COVID misinformation claims.

Dan Stock YouTube video ads1

On Twitter, uploads of the video have received more than 5.5 million views. Similar to Instagram shares, most of the Twitter views come from an upload by Gorka which was shared on the platform by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and The Daily Wire's Candace Owens, among others. Gorka's upload was ultimately blocked from being shared on Twitter, but only after days of remaining active.

Jordan Gorka Twitter Stock video

And on TikTok, one user's upload of the video (divided into two parts) earned roughly 14 million views alone. A member of the major TikTok conservative group Republican Hype House also uploaded the video, getting thousands of views.

TikTok Stock video

That a new coronavirus misinformation video was not just able to go viral but apparently surpass the wide spread of previous COVID conspiracy theory videos suggests that many social media platforms continue to struggle with enforcing their policies against misinformation about vaccines and COVID-19. Similarly, the video's ongoing reach shows that efforts by these platforms to label or take it down are not happening nearly fast enough to contain the spread of such harmful misinformation.

Research contributions from Olivia Little, Camden Carter, Spencer Silva, Nena Beecham, Jeremy Tuthill, Kayla Gogarty & Carly Evans.

’Stop The Steal’ Impresario Will Now Push Voter Suppression Campaign

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

"Stop the Steal" organizer and far-right figure Ali Alexander said in an online stream on July 27 that "several members of Congress and their chiefs of staff have asked if they could see" a new "election integrity memo" he is allegedly releasing.

In the online stream, Alexander said the memo would make "a very compelling case that Republicans must address election integrity, that state legislative bodies must pass reforms, and that failure will reduce turnout." Alexander also said the memo calls for a "full frontal offense" over the January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol, adding that he was "really excited" about a press conference from Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) over the treatment of what he called "political prisoners" who were arrested for their alleged participation in the insurrection. (He also claimed "none of them were plotting an actual insurrection" and falsely claimed that "none of them took guns into the Capitol.")

He promised that the memo would help coordination for "all of these groups that are running around asking for some guidance, asking for some slogans, asking for stats so that they can confront their lawmakers," adding, "We're going to arm everybody with a big ol' political bazooka." He also told his followers to "tell everybody on Twitter, 'Ali Alexander is back.'"

(Due to technical issues while obtaining the audio recordings, some typing and clicking can be heard in the background.)

During the same stream, Alexander urged followers to use his "movement memo" to aid the Arizona "audit" and other possible state "audits" pushing false voter fraud claims. Alexander told his followers regarding his memo, "I want you to print it out. I want you to give it to your state lawmakers. I want you to memorize it. I want you to be equipped to better organize these audits and these protests that need to happen around the audits." He also said the memo "calls out a lot of idiots that are blocking election integrity."

Alexander also said that in addition to "all these grassroot leaders" and "people who coordinate ... state capitol protests" receiving the memo, "several members of Congress and their chiefs of staff have asked if they could see it."

Alexander also claimed that former President Donald Trump "used the Stop the Steal press release that we sent out on the 21st [of July]" to target House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in his released statement. He also credited his supporters with sharing the press release on social media, saying that it was "pretty rewarding" to see that "it made it to the president." Alexander thanked his supporters for being "the firepower that I need to get things done inside the Republican Party and the conservative movement."

Alexander has previously claimed that he was in touch with figures in Trump's orbit and administration as well as in Congress regarding his "Stop the Steal" efforts leading up to the insurrection. With the latter, he has specifically said that Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Mo Brooks (R-AL), and Gosar helped plan his January 6 rally (Gosar's chief of staff has also said he kept in regular contact with Alexander).

Following the insurrection, Alexander claimed he was waiting for certain "legal liabilities" to expire the "further away I get from January 6th" before resuming political activities. In June, he promised to "return to ... political activity here soon." But by then he was already advocating for state "audits" of the 2020 presidential election and harassment of government workers. (In July, he claimed he would resume his public activities once there are three state "audits.")

Alexander has also called for violence against his perceived enemies and threatened authorities, encouraging his followers to prepare for "civil war" and a possible "revolution."

Wacky Advisers Have Roped Trump Into Their QAnon Restoration Fantasies

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Former President Donald Trump reportedly believes that he will somehow return to office in the coming months, a belief that fits with claims from supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory and far-right message boards. And it appears to have come through his QAnon-connected orbit of advisers who have egged on his voter fraud grievances and who continue to suggest Trump can and should be reinstalled into office based on those false claims.

The New York Times' Maggie Haberman reported on June 1 that Trump "has been telling a number of people he's in contact with that he expects he will get reinstated by August." As Haberman noted, Trump's expectation has no basis in reality. But it echoes a claim that MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has pushed. Lindell -- who has been making false claims of voter fraud for months -- appeared on Steve Bannon's show War Room: Pandemic in March and said that "Trump will be back in office in August" based on supposed evidence of voter fraud. At the time, Lindell's baseless statement -- which he also made around that time on multiple shows -- was hyped by some QAnon supporters and on far-right message boards.

Other figures influencing Trump since last November have also claimed that Trump could somehow come back into office. Attorney Sidney Powell, appearing at a QAnon conference in Dallas on May 29, said that due to supposed voter fraud, Trump could be "reinstated" into office and President Joe Biden forced out of the White House.

The following day, at that same QAnon conference, former national security adviser Michael Flynn was asked why a military coup could not happen in the United States like it did in Myanmar. In response, he said, "No reason. I mean, it should happen here." Although Flynn later tried to walk it back, his statement echoed the widespread praise of the Myanmar coup among the QAnon community and its members' hope of a similar situation in the United States.

These three figures had not only advised Trump following the 2020 election, but they also have multiple other connections to QAnon. Lindell, who met withTrump in the days before Biden's inauguration, had at that time floated Trump using martial law to stay in office, a call that had been pushed by QAnon supporters. Lindell has also shared voter fraud conspiracy theories from the QAnon community, including content from 8kun, the message board site where the central figure of QAnon is based. Since Biden's inauguration, Lindell has associated with the hosts of a QAnon show, which he has appeared on and praised, and is apparently signing QAnon merchandise for auction. Lindell has also apparently offered "QAnon" as a promo code on MyPillow.

Powell and Flynn have even more explicitly promoted QAnon. Before speaking at the QAnon conference, Powell had repeatedly amplified QAnon influencers, tweeted QAnon language, and appeared on QAnon YouTube shows. Following the election, she cited Ron Watkins, the onetime administrator of 8kun, and other QAnon-connected figures and claims in her lawsuits seeking to overturn the election results in certain states.

Similarly, Flynn (whom Powell has represented) had taken a QAnon oath, signed books with the QAnon slogan "wwg1wga" (short for "where we go one, we go all"), helped sell QAnon merchandise, appeared on QAnon-supporting shows, and hung out with the same QAnon influencer Lindell has become friendly with. Flynn, like Lindell, also encouraged Trump to declare martial law after the election.

Before Biden's inauguration, Trump had floated making Powell a special counsel on election fraud and Flynn the director of the FBI or White House chief of staff.

But these three are also not the only people through whom QAnon theories were reaching Trump. Former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne -- who has gone on multiple QAnon shows to push voter fraud claims and recently has associated with the same QAnon influencer Lindell and Flynn have associated with -- met with Trump post-election. And Lin Wood, a QAnon-supporting attorney who has falsely claimed that Trump is still president, had been aiding Trump's campaign post-election.

Fundamentally, this voter fraud orbit around Trump -- Lindell, Powell, Flynn, Byrne, and Wood -- is part of a pipeline from QAnon supporters and far-right message boards promoting the conspiracy theory that Trump will somehow come back into office. This theory has taken a variety of forms, including claims that Trump would be inaugurated as president on March 4 and/or that the military would install Trump back into office and throw out Biden, whether on a specific day or some day in the future. QAnon supporters have also pointed to and are involved with a supposed election audit in Arizona that they believe will result in Trump returning to the White House. Lindell, Powell, Byrne, and Wood have all been involved with that audit, and Trump in turn is reportedly "fixated" on it.

This pipeline between QAnon supporters and far-right message boards, this group of figures who have advised Trump, and Trump himself partly fueled his voter fraud grievances that helped lead to the January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol. And now it threatens to further ensnare Trump -- and in turn, much of the Republican Party and the voting public.

Insurrectionists And White Nationalists Gather On Chinese-Owned Trovo Site

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Multiple far-right and white nationalist figures -- including some involved with the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol -- have shifted to the gaming-streaming platform Trovo, including using it to monetize their content. Some have used the platform to specifically defend the insurrection; one such person appears to be part of a special Trovo program that can help them raise additional money. Trovo's policies seemingly prohibit white nationalist content and content not related to video games.

Following the insurrection, streaming platform DLive, known for hosting many far-right figures -- some of whom used the platform to livestream the riot -- announced that it would ban several of those accounts. It also announced it would demonetize content that is "deemed to only be appropriate for mature audiences," which it says covers "virtually all non-gaming content."

Since then, multiple far-right figures have started migrating to Trovo, a streaming platform from Tencent still in beta testing. (Tencent is China's largest company and the operator of WeChat.) Trovo's terms of service prohibit content that is "overly violent or promotes or depicts events involving self-harm, harm to another person or harm to animals" and content that is "threatening, abusive, libelous, slanderous, fraudulent, defamatory, deceptive, or otherwise offensive or objectionable." The platform's content guidelines also allow only content that is "relevant to video games and pop culture," and they prohibit "overtly political or religious content that imposes upon others."

Despite those rules, multiple far-right figures have used the platform, often uploading content that is not related to those specifically allowed topics. They've also sometimes used the platform to monetize their content indirectly -- or possibly directly, as the platform provides an avenue for creators to monetize via its digital currencies. Some of these figures have been directly tied to the insurrection.

Vincent James Foxx, a white nationalist who attended the January 6 rally and who is banned from YouTube and DLive, joined Trovo in January. From the platform, James has earned "subs" and "spells," part of the platform's digital currencies which potentially can be converted into actual money. His channel also promotes a link to his Entropy page, a platform from which people can pay creators. On Trovo, James has criticized former President Donald Trump for not "back[ing] his supporters during the Capitol siege" and for not pardoning them after.

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MurderTheMedia, a channel affiliated with the far-right gang Proud Boys and which was banned by DLive following the insurrection, joined Trovo in January. Two members of the channel, Nicholas DeCarlo (also known as "Dick NeCarlo") and Nick Ochs (the head of the Proud Boys' Hawaii chapter), were charged by authorities for being part of the insurrection and were photographed giving thumbs up next to the scrawled words "Murder the Media" at the Capitol during the siege. One of them was also wearing a shirt with the "Murder The Media" logo at the time. On Trovo, MurderTheMedia has earned "spells" that can potentially be converted into actual money. The account has also aired a stream featuring NeCarlo trying to raise funds for his legal case and saying he would "fight" authorities and "punch a motherfucker in the face in the courtroom."

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Ali Alexander is a far-right figure who was a key organizer of the "Stop the Steal" efforts that culminated in the January 6 rally leading to the insurrection. Alexander, who has since been banned from multiple platforms, joined Trovo in February. Since then, he has used the platform to call for the free press "to be abolished" and has threatened to meet authorities on the "battlefield" if they attempt to arrest him.

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Some white nationalist "Groypers" who attended the insurrection have joined Trovo as well.

Other white nationalist and far-right figures have also made a home on Trovo since the insurrection.

  • Trovo.
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As Biden Takes Office, QAnon Cultists Struggle With New Reality

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Supporters of the false QAnon conspiracy theory are struggling to respond to President Joe Biden taking office.

The conspiracy theory has been centered around former President Donald Trump and a secret plot to take down his perceived enemies, the "deep state," and a cabal of satan-worshipping pedophiles. Supporters of the conspiracy theory, which has gained an extensive influence in the American political process and hampered the response to the coronavirus pandemic, had been in denial about Biden's victory throughout the transition. They repeatedly claimed that somehow Trump would stay in office -- possibly via military means and martial law -- even when he made clear otherwise.

That denial about Biden's presidency carried through in the morning hours of Inauguration Day (though there were signs by the day before of a splintering in support for the conspiracy theory).

First, QAnon supporters began to claim that the number of American flags behind Trump at his farewell speech at Joint Base Andrews was a signal to QAnon.

Some QAnon followers also suggested a line in Eric Trump's farewell message saying "the best is yet to come" proved the conspiracy theory.

Multiple QAnon influencers even claimed that as he took office, Biden would reveal he was part of the conspiracy theory all along.

Obviously, none of this happened, and Biden has now been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Leading up to and following the inauguration ceremony, some QAnon supporters began to worry that they had been deceived and others denied that it was possible. Other QAnon influencers are still urging supporters to still believe in the conspiracy theory, with some claiming the military may step in to prevent Biden's presidency (or seeming to suggest people will commit violence to stop it), a sign that the conspiracy theory in some form is likely here to stay -- even if its central figure is no longer president.

QAnon Backers Predict New  Deputy Attorney General Will Arrest Trump ‘Enemies’

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Multiple influencers supporting the false QAnon conspiracy theory have praised the appointment of new Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, claiming that he will carry out mass arrests of President Donald Trump's political opponents and fulfill the conspiracy theory.

QAnon is premised on a belief that an anonymous user posting on a far-right message board and calling itself "Q" is actually a secret government official working with Trump to take down the "deep state," his perceived enemies, and a global cabal of pedophiles (of which Democrats are a part), who will ultimately be arrested and sent to face military tribunals.

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Facebook Permits Promotion Of Campaign To Ditch Face Masks En Masse

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

A campaign urging people to burn and get rid of face masks en masse on September 15 has been spreading on Facebook and Instagram, despite multiple state laws and health experts' guidance to wear them.

As the novel coronavirus pandemic has spread throughout the United States, both public officials and health experts have urged people to wear masks to decrease the spread of the coronavirus. Numerous states have also instituted mandates for people to wear masks when in public.

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Reddit Finally Bans Pro-Trump Forum After Multiple Threats Of Violence

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Reddit has finally banned the notorious subreddit "r/The_Donald," following its users and moderators repeatedly violating the platform's rules. The ban comes a year after Reddit quarantined the subreddit following Media Matters' reporting on its users issuing calls to violence, and months after they had abandoned the subreddit for their own backup site.

The subreddit, dedicated to supporting President Donald Trump, had hundreds of thousands of users and helped spread narratives and content used by Trump himself. Trump's social media director, Dan Scavino, was known to monitor the subreddit, and Trump did an "Ask Me Anything" question-and-answer session on the forum in 2016.

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Facebook And Twitter Permit Anti-Semitic Network On Their Pages

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

An anti-Semitic Telegram channel known for targeting Jews created new Facebook and Twitter accounts to cross-post its harassing content. Despite their policies on harassment and hate speech, neither Facebook nor Twitter has taken action on the new accounts, with Facebook claiming the page does not violate its policies.

The channel, as Mother Jones‘ Ali Breland wrote in September, has been compiling “an online list of Jewish people who are critical of white nationalism”  since it was created last summer. The list includes “archived tweets from individuals criticizing white supremacy, misogyny, and other types of bigotry,”  along with tweets “in which the person in question describes themselves as Jewish.”

Breland noted that the list “includes many who are not public figures, or who have only modest profiles as rank-and-file activists, journalists, or social media figures.”  Breland added that the channel had become “the fastest-growing alt-right group”  on Telegram at that time. In February, he tweeted that other white nationalist Telegram channels had forwarded the channel’s “content around the time of” a pro-gun rally in Richmond, Virginia, that white nationalists had organized around.

On February 25, the channel posted that “Operation ‘Mass Kvetching’ is underway,” and urged its supporters to “follow [it] on the following platforms,” posting links to both Facebook and Twitter accounts.

On its Facebook page, the account was already cross-posting its content targeting multiple people for harassment (Media Matters has removed and blurred out images and names from the posts). Despite explicit policies prohibiting bullying, harassment, and hate speech, Facebook wrote in response to Media Matters flagging the page that the page “was reviewed and it doesn’t violate our Community Standards.” Facebook has also recently failed to enforce its policies on harassment and extremism.

Additionally, the channel’s new Twitter page — which is also cross-posting its harassing content — comes a few months after Twitter had permanently banned another account the channel had created on the platform. That means the new account is evading a Twitter suspension — a clear violation of Twitter rules. It is also violating Twitter’s policies prohibiting “hateful conduct” and “targeted harassment.” But as of this posting, Twitter has taken no action against the account. The platform has repeatedly struggled to detect accounts evading their bans, and it continues to have a white nationalist problem.

Lara Trump Promotes Video By QAnon Conspiracist

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Lara Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law and a senior adviser to his reelection campaign, tweeted a YouTube video from one of the biggest QAnon accounts on the internet.

On February 21, Lara Trump — who also hosts an online show for the campaign — tweeted, “The best is yet to come,” along with a link to a YouTube video titled “The Best Is Yet To Come – Trump 2020.”

Lara Trump JoeM

The video was posted on YouTube by “JoeM,” who has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and is a devotee of the QAnon conspiracy theory (he co-authored a bestselling book about it). The theory has been tied to multiple violent incidents, including murder and attempted kidnapping, and it has been flagged by an FBI field office as a potential domestic terrorism threat. 

JoeM, who uses the handle StormIsUponUs on Twitter and whose “introductory video” about QAnon is often used to introduce people to the conspiracy theory, has his own ties to extremismbigotry, and harassment: Last April, the account instigated a baseless conspiracy theory that a California school fundraiser was somehow connected to former FBI Director James Comey, forcing the fundraiser to be cancelled. In May, after his Twitter account was briefly suspended, he used his Instagram account to instigate a harassment campaign against a woman. And last February, his QAnon introductory video was posted on the YouTube account of the parents of a man arrested for trying to burn down a pizzeria that was at the center of the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory.

This isn’t the first time people in Trump’s orbit — along with Trump himself — have amplified and interacted with QAnon accounts and their content.

Besides Lara Trump, other major figures who shared JoeM’s video — which has garnered more than 120,000 Facebook engagements and over 24,000 Twitter shares — included the following:

GOP’s ‘QAnon’ Conspiracy Followers Running For Congress

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Updates (1/7/20 and 1/8/20): This article has been updated with more congressional candidates. We will continue to update it as we find more congressional candidates supporting the conspiracy theory.

Multiple supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which got its start on far-right message boards, are running campaigns for Congress in 2020.

The conspiracy theory, which revolves around an anonymous account known as “Q,” started on far-right message board 4chan, later moving to fellow far-right message board 8chan, which has since relaunched as 8kun. (Beyond the QAnon conspiracy theory, 8chan/8kun has been linked to multiple instances of white supremacist terrorism, including the 2019 massacre in El Paso, TX.)

The “Q” account claimed — and the conspiracy theory’s premise — is that President Donald Trump was working with then-special counsel Robert Mueller to take down the president’s perceived enemies, the “deep state,” and pedophiles. Multiple adherents to the conspiracy theory have been tied to acts of violence, including multiple murders and an attempted kidnapping, and an FBI field office released a memo in May that listed QAnon as a potential domestic terrorism threat.

Below is a list of 2020 congressional candidates who have endorsed the conspiracy theory or promoted QAnon content.

Jo Rae Perkins (Oregon)

Jo Rae Perkins is a Republican candidate running in Oregon’s 4th Congressional District and a former chair of the Linn County Republican Party. She has repeatedly tweeted in support of QAnon and posted the QAnon slogan “Where we go one, we go all,” often abbreviated as “WWG1WGA,” on Twitter and both her personal and campaign Facebook pages. Perkins has also said she follows the “Q team.” Her activity has included pushing a “#QProof” (supposed evidence that “Q” posts are accurate), posting links on Facebook to multiple QAnon YouTube videos, and linking to a site that collects “Q” posts. She has also demanded that reporters ask Trump “the #Q,” referring to a belief among the conspiracy theory’s supporters that Trump would confirm “Q” as real if asked.

In a January 3 interview with Right Wing Watch’s Jared Holt (formerly of Media Matters) that she livestreamed and which featured a “WWG1WGA” sticker in the background, Perkins expanded upon her belief in QAnon, saying there is a “very strong probability/possibility that Q is a real group of people, military intelligence, working with President Trump” and compared the “Q” posts to secret codes used during World War II. Later in the interview, she claimed that “Q is most likely military intelligence … and they’ve been out there watching what’s been going on in our country for decades and they are partnered with President Trump to stop the corruption and to save our republic” and compared believing in “Q” to believing in Jesus Christ. Perkins also said her QAnon support is part of her campaign strategy and claimed that “there’s a lot more people that are running for political office that follow Q than are admitting to it.”

Danielle Stella (Minnesota)

Danielle Stella is a Republican candidate running in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District. Stella has repeatedly posted in support of QAnon, worn QAnon apparel, and shared QAnon videos. An apparent aide for Stella told Right Wing Watch that the candidate “stands 100% behind the principles of patriotism, unity/inclusiveness (WWG1WGA!) and love for country that Qanon promotes,” although a former campaign staffer dubiously told The Daily Beast that Stella’s support for QAnon was “a ruse” to get support. Yet Stella is also a member of a small QAnon group on Telegram, where she has posted about being in a “#QArmy” and praised her “Qfamily.” Stella has also endorsed another baseless conspiracy theory originating from 4chan that accused her would-be opponent, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), of hiring a hitman to assassinate a woman. Stella was later banned from Twitter for suggesting that Omar be hung for treason.

Matthew Lusk (Florida)

Matthew Lusk is a Republican candidate currently running unopposed in the primary for Florida’s 5th Congressional District. Lusk has tweeted multiple QAnon videos and has an “issue” page on his campaign site specifically called “Q” featuring the text “who is Q.” Lusk also appeared in a video on NBC News about his support for QAnon, which he demonstrates partly by including a “Q” on the back of his campaign signs. 

Lusk has expanded upon his belief in QAnon in multiple interviews. He told the Florida Politics blog, “Q is one of my issues because it’s definitely a leak from high places.” In an interview with The Daily Beast, Lusk said that posts from “Q” are a “legitimate something” and that they are a “very articulate screening of past events, a very articulate screening of present conditions, and a somewhat prophetic divination of where the political and geopolitical ball will be bouncing next.” And in an interview with NBC News, Lusk said “Q” is “like an advanced news warning,” adding that “it might come out in the mainstream media a week or two weeks later. So I think there’s a lot of inside sources, whoever this person is.”

Matthew Lusk QAnon campaign site

DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero (California)

DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero is a Republican candidate running in California’s 12th Congressional District who has repeatedly tweeted about QAnon and the QAnon slogan, including tweeting about QAnon to a major QAnon account. In a since-deleted tweet, she also wrote that “Q is real.” In an interview discussing “Q” with The Daily Beast, Tesoriero said, “I wouldn’t say that I believed in him or the group or anything, but I do believe in some of the issues that he discusses.” She has also expressed support for the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory but declined to confirm that support to The Daily Beast.

DeAnne Lorraine Tesoriero QAnon Twitter

Rich Helms (Texas)

Rich Helms is a Republican candidate running in Texas’ 33rd Congressional District. The candidate has repeatedly tweeted the QAnon slogan, including one time directly in response to a tweet about a “Q” post, and he has also retweeted a post about his candidacy containing another slogan connected to QAnon, “#TheGreatAwakening.”

Rich Helms QAnon Twitter

Steve Von Loor (North Carolina)

Steve Von Loor is a Republican candidate running in North Carolina’s 4th Congressional District who has repeatedly tweeted the QAnon hashtag and QAnon slogan.

Steve Von Loor Twitter QAnon

Michael Bluemling (Florida)

Michael Bluemling is a Republican candidate running in Florida’s 21st Congressional District. The candidate has tweeted the hashtag “#Q” and other hashtags associated with “TheStorm,” another reference to the QAnon conspiracy theory. He has also endorsed the Pizzagate conspiracy theory.

Michael Bluemling Twitter QAnon

Erin Cruz (California)

Erin Cruz is a Republican candidate running in California’s 36th Congressional District. According to NBC News, Cruz believes some of the “Q” posts are “valid information,” saying, “I think that the biggest thing with QAnon is there’s information coming out. And sometimes it is in line with what’s going on in government.” She also told NBC that she believes “there is someone out there putting information on the internet” as part of QAnon, adding that “a conspiracy theory only sounds crazy until it’s proven.”

Patrice Kimbler (California)

Patrice Kimbler is a Republican candidate also running in California’s 36th Congressional District. She has repeatedly tweeted the QAnon slogan, including quote-tweeting a major QAnon account.

Patrice Kimbler QAnon Twitter

Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia)

Marjorie Taylor Greene is a Republican candidate running in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District. In 2018, she posted on Facebook about an “awesome post by Q.” She has posted the QAnon slogan on Facebook and on Twitter, the latter in response to a tweet defending the legitimacy of “Q” where she also wrote, “Trust the plan” (another catchphrase QAnon supporters use). She also has tweeted the QAnon-connected hashtag “#GreatAwakening” to far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Greene “has posted a series of tweets defending QAnon, including one” — now deleted — “encouraging her followers to message her with questions so she can ‘walk you through the whole thing.’”

Marjorie Taylor Greene QAnon

Michael Moates (Texas)

Michael Moates is a Libertarian candidate running in Texas’ 26th Congressional District. Moates, a conservative writer who has previously spread falsehoods, suggested support for QAnon in a series of since-deleted tweets in 2018, according to Right Wing Watch. Using the QAnon hashtag, Moates urged people to “keep an eye on” QAnon and wrote that his “goal in life is to ask POTUS about” it. Moates later that year was accused of sending inappropriate messages to several underage women. Moates has also since been suspended from Twitter, and he has launched another account for his campaign, violating Twitter’s ban-evasion rules.

Joe Walz (Texas)

Joe Walz is a Republican candidate running in Texas’ 22nd Congressional District. He has repeatedly tweeted the QAnon slogan.

Joe Walz QAnon Twitter

Right-Wing Sites Spread Fake News Attack On Rep. Waters

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

A fake quote from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) calling for an “illegal immigrant” to be selected for the Supreme Court is spreading on Twitter and Facebook. Multiple radio stations have also pushed the quote on air.

On June 28, a Twitter account that labeled itself as a “parody” of CNN, with the account name @CNNPoltics, tweeted, “Rep @MaxinePWaters: ‘The next Supreme Court Justice should be an illegal immigrant.” The tweet also included a fake CNN chyron saying, “Waters: SCOTUS Pick Should Be Illegal Immigrant.” Twitter has suspended the account.

Many people spread the tweet as real, including:

  • a co-anchor of Los Angeles TV station KTLA, who wrote, “What do her constituents in Los Angeles and the South Bay think about this?”
  • Daily Beast correspondent and Tablet columnist Jamie Kirchick
  • FoxNews.com contributor Stephen Miller
  • New York Post writer Kirsten Fleming, who called the quote part of Waters’ “sanity tour”
  • Bryan McGrath, a deputy director at the conservative think tank the Hudson Institute, who called Waters “the face of the left”
  • the chairman of the conservative Young Americans for Freedom

All of them subsequently deleted their tweets, but most were captured by the social media tracking app CrowdTangle. The fake quote is still spreading on Twitter, such as from right-wing social media companyAppSame, which wrote, “The Left has gone completely crazy Meet their leader @DNC Maybe a parody account doesn’t mean it not (sic) something she would say.”

The fake quote was also pushed as real by the fake news site RedStateWatcher, which pushed the debunked Pizzagate hoax in 2016, along with “The Donald” subreddit and 4chan’s “politically incorrect” forum(where a user wrote the tweet shows, “Bitch not only looks like a mudslide but thinks like one too”).

On Facebook, pages shared a photo that had the fake CNN image with the added words, “Read that again- slowly- and let the full depth of abject stupidity and desperation behind the statement, uttered on nationwide television, sink in fully….” That meme has been shared more than 78,000 times and has, in turn, also been shared on Twitter and on 4chan. Other memes with the fake quote have been shared — including from the fake news network America’s Freedom Fighters — more than 36,000 times on Facebook, and have been posted in multiple pro-Trump Facebook groups.

Multiple radio stations also shared the fake quote on-air as real. A host on Tennessee talk station WWTN-FM said the quote showed Waters was “the dumbest person ever to serve in Congress.” A host on Georgia talk station WYAY-FM said, “You’re not going to believe what Maxine Waters has just said on CNN.” And on Texas talk station KFYO-AM, a host said the quote showed Waters “couldn’t begin to pass the IQ test that [President Donald] Trump aced” and is “demented.”

similar kind of smear campaign through social media was recently aimed at Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Waters has also previously been the target of a series of fake and misleading stories.

Header image by Melissa Joskow  / Media Matters