As the GOP struggles to distance itself from the unhinged QAnon conspiracy theory, at least one congressman — Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin — has indicated a willingness to work with believers who are elected to Congress. Indeed, Grothman appears to have encouraged them during a recent interview in which he referred to QAnon-supporting candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene as a “free spirit.”
According to the QAnon conspiracy theory, President Trump is secretly working to bring to justice a number of elite, Satan-worshiping pedophiles. This will culminate in an event called “the Storm,” in which tens of thousands of people will be arrested simultaneously. Moreover, hints about this operation are being revealed on 8chan/8kun by an anonymous government official known as “Q.”
The conspiracy has been endorsed by people connected to President Trump, including Carter Page — the former foreign policy advisor to his campaign — and disgraced former national security advisor Michael Flynn. And as noted by Alex Kaplan of Media Matters, some 77 current or former congressional candidates have embraced the conspiracy.
One of those candidates, Marjorie Taylor Greene, won a primary run-off in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District. Due to how heavily the district skews Republican, Greene is all but certain to coast to victory in November. Greene has repeatedly tweeted slogans associated with the conspiracy — e.g., “Trust the plan” — and in a June video referred to Q as a “patriot” who is “worth listening to.”
As revealed by POLITICO, Greene has also espoused racist and antisemitic rhetoric.
She said the election of representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib in 2018 was part of an “Islamic invasion of our government,” adding that “anyone that is a Muslim that believes in Sharia law does not belong in our government.” She tweeted an image depicting George Soros — a Holocaust survivor — as vampire who controls “every single Democrat politician.”
And she scoffed at racism being a problem in modern-day America. “Guess what?” she said. “Slavery is over.”
While some Republicans initially condemned Greene’s racism, after her August victory the Republican Party quickly embraced her. During an August 14, 2020 appearance on Fresh Take, a Wisconsin-based political podcast, Rep. Glenn Grothman downplayed the extremity of Greene’s beliefs, depicting her as a “free spirit” joining a political body of “conformists.”
Grothman told host Josh Dukelow that he was not a believer in QAnon, and that “gadflies all over the country” would “win primaries” throughout the country. Dukelow reminded Grothman that Trump endorsed Greene, calling her a “future Republican Star” and a “real WINNER” on Twitter, and asked Grothman for his thoughts on the candidate.
“Well you know, maybe she’s a free spirit,” Grothman told Dukelow. “You know, sometimes free spirits are good. You don’t agree with free spirits all the time, but sometimes they speak up and say things that other people are afraid to say.” Grothman added that he thinks “a lot of times you have too many conformists in Congress,” and that it might be beneficial to have someone who’s willing to say “the emperor has no clothes.”
“I think overall we have a lack of free spirits in Congress, and adding a few more free spirits is never a bad thing,” he said.
When reminded that Greene believes President Trump had been chosen to destroy a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles, Grothman replied that he doesn’t know “whether she believes that exactly.” (She does.) Even being told that Greene is a 9/11 truther who doesn’t believe a hijacked plane was crashed into the Pentagon didn’t faze him.
Instead of condemning these unfounded conspiracy theories, Grothman volunteered to “ask her some questions” when she gets to Congress and “report back” to Dukelow.
In an apparent effort to normalize her beliefs, Grothman admitted that he, too, believes outlandish things. “I believe that there was a conspiracy there involving John Kennedy being shot,” he proclaimed. “Some people make fun of me for that, or some people may not like it, but I’ve read many books on the topic and I don’t think [assassin] Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.”
Make no mistake, though. Believing in QAnon is not some endearing personality quirk. And it is not normal.
Proponents have created complex QAnon maps which string together, among other things, the CIA, Hollywood, black helicopters, the Freemasons, the Rothschilds, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the COVID-19 5G conspiracy, and the Illuminati. They’ve circulated forged flight logs for Jeffrey Epstein’s “Lolita Express,” smearing innocent people as pedophiles.
QAnon believers have also engaged in harassment, assault, kidnapping, and murder. Last August it was reported that an FBI document identified fringe conspiracy theories — including QAnon — as a domestic terrorism threat.
And while Grothman’s defense of Greene is worrisome, it is par for the course for the Republican Party. Not only did President Trump congratulate her over her primary victory, he recently offered tacit support to QAnon when asked about it during a press conference. “I don’t know much about the movement, other than I understand they like me very much,” he said.
Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida tweeted that he was “proud” to be in Greene’s corner. Meanwhile House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said through a spokesperson that he “look[s] forward” to Greene’s victory in November, before backtracking and announcing that there is “no place for QAnon in the Republican Party.”
Other Republicans, like Rep. Adam Kinzinger of llinois, have offered a significantly stronger condemnation. Sen. Ben Sasse called the movement “nuts” and said “real leaders call conspiracy theories conspiracy theories.” Even Greene herself seemed to get the message, unconvincingly telling Fox News that she’s changed her mind about QAnon.
Unfortunately when it comes to Marjorie Taylor Greene, what we’ve seen is what we’ll get when she comes to Congress. And the ramifications of that are frightening indeed.