WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Georgia businesswoman’s win in a U.S. House of Representatives primary this week set a path for supporters of the online conspiracy theory known as “QAnon” to get a toehold in the U.S. Congress this fall.
As many as a dozen Republican candidates have voiced some measure of support for the theory, which posits President Donald Trump has been working to take down a global child sex ring. At least two, including businesswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, appeared to be on paths to winning their districts.
QAnon is a conspiracy theory propagated online that the FBI included last year in a warning about “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists.” The theory claims without evidence that “deep-state” traitors and child sex predators including prominent Democrats are plotting against Trump, who in turn is leading a plot against them.
Greene, who won a Tuesday primary to run for a seat representing a strongly Republican northwest Georgia district, has spoken strongly in favor of the theory. Her victory followed one by Colorado restaurant owner Lauren Boebert, who bested incumbent Republican Representative Scott Tipton in a June primary.
Since her victory, Boebert has sought to distance herself from her May comments to a conservative podcast that “I hope that this is real.”
Greene’s position drew criticism on Wednesday from former Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who said on Twitter: “If the GOP wants to be a relevant political force in the future, it cannot endorse those who embrace QAnon and other conspiracy theories.”
Greene shot back by denying that QAnon was a conspiracy theory: “I haven’t embraced any conspiracy theories. You did. You literally lost your mind and your Senate seat because of the Russiagate conspiracy theory. I don’t think the GOP needs to take any lessons from you, Snowflake.”
In a video posted online this summer, Greene said: “Q is a patriot,” referring to the supposed operative at QAnon’s center. “There’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out.”
Greene’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
About a dozen Republican candidates for Congress have expressed some support for QAnon, according to U.S. media reports. They include Senate candidate Jo Rae Perkins of Oregon, who told Axios she credits QAnon for “connecting the dots,” and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who posted a QAnon-related meme in the final days of his unsuccessful campaign to win back his old Senate seat in Alabama.
Facebook Inc <FB.O> and Twitter Inc <TWTR.O> have suspended or taken down QAnon-related accounts, saying they had repeatedly violated their policies.
This summer, a spokesman for House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy reproached Greene for inflammatory comments she made about Muslim, Jewish and Black people in a video unearthed by Politico.
House Republican Whip Steve Scalise endorsed Greene’s primary opponent John Cowan, donated to his campaign and did a fundraiser for him, a spokeswoman said.
But the House Freedom Fund, the Trump-aligned political arm of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, endorsed Greene’s candidacy.
Trump himself welcomed Greene’s victory Wednesday, saying on Twitter, “Marjorie is strong on everything and never gives up – a real WINNER!”
A McCarthy spokesman welcomed Greene’s win – but sought to change the subject from QAnon.
Republicans look forward to Greene and the party’s other candidates “winning in November so that we can enact policies to renew the American dream, restore our way of life, and rebuild the greatest economy in the world,” the McCarthy spokesman said.
Other Republicans, however, were less reticent.
“QAnon is a fabrication. This ‘insider’ has predicted so much incorrectly,” Republican Representative Adam Kinziger wrote on Twitter. “No place in Congress for these conspiracies.”
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio)