White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Sunday avoided disavowing the QAnon conspiracy theory, claiming he did not know anything about the movement and that he didn’t see it as something legitimate enough to address.
The comments followed a week in which several Republican lawmakers spoke out about the conspiracy theory, which posits that President Trump is working to expose an elite group of Democrats and media figures who are running an international child trafficking ring.
Trump, however, offered measured praise for followers of the baseless theory last Tuesday, saying he wasn’t familiar with the movement but that they appeared to be people who support him and love the U.S.
Asked on “Fox News Sunday” whether the president condemned the theory, Meadows said, “we don’t even know what it is.”
“I can tell you, you’ve spent more time talking on it than we have in the White House,” Meadows added, claiming that it was “appalling” for Trump to face questions about the conspiracy theory during a press briefing. Meadows called it “ridiculous.”
“I don’t know anything about it, I don’t even know that it’s credible,” Meadows said. “If we want to talk about conspiracies, let’s get back to talking about how the FBI and others within the FBI spied on the Trump campaign.
During the interview, Fox News host Chris Wallace noted that the the FBI in May 2019 labeled the QAnon conspiracy theory a potential domestic terror threat and that QAnon has been identified as a hate group. The theory has also been held responsible for violent incidents.
In response, Meadows said this president is “not for hate.” But he claimed several other matters should take priority as well, including domestic terrorism, Antifa “and a number of other areas.”
“I don’t see it as a legitimate thing we have to address, and so we’re not going to address it, we’re going to talk about things that are important to the American people,” he said.
Once a fringe movement, the QAnon conspiracy has gained a following in recent years, with some congressional candidates expressing support for it.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, who previously endorsed the theory, won the Republican primary in Georgia’s 14th District earlier this month, prompting GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) to demand leaders denounce the movement. Greene has since distanced herself from her previous supportive remarks.
“Let me be very clear,” House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) said on Fox News last week. “There is no place for QAnon in the Republican Party. I do not support it and the candidate you talked about has denounced it.”
Vice President Pence also told CBS News that he did not know anything about the theory, however said he dismissed it as “out of hand.” Pence also pushed back on suggestions that Trump’s comments amounted to him embracing QAnon.
“You said the president seemed to embrace it. I didn’t hear that,” Pence said on CNN while speaking with anchor John Berman. “I heard the president talk about he appreciates people who support him.”
Originally published: 2020-08-23 16:41:57