- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 26, 2020

Connecticut state Sen. Eric Berthel apologized Friday for placing a QAnon sticker on his car after a leading fellow Republican called him unfit for office for promoting the conspiracy theory movement.

Mr. Berthel, who is up for reelection, said in a statement given to local media that he was unaware of the more “extreme” aspects of QAnon when he placed the sticker on his car’s rear windshield.

His apology fell short of denouncing QAnon, however, whose followers the FBI have warned may pose a potential terror threat and have prompted widespread condemnation from across the political spectrum.

Evidence of the lawmaker’s association with QAnon emerged earlier this month when a photo started circulating on social media showing the QAnon sticker among several visible on his vehicle’s backend.

Above stickers of the U.S. flag and GOP logo, the decade read simply “#WWG1WGA” in white lettering. The abbreviation is short for a slogan popular among QAnon proponents, “Where We Go One, We Go All.”

Mr. Berthel addressed the sticker in the initial aftermath of it starting to circulate by attempting to distance himself from QAnon’s more bizarre elements while embracing others nonetheless.

“I don’t believe in many of the wild-eyed theories reportedly associated with the movement about pedophile conspiracies or satanic cults,” Mr. Berthel said in a statement on Sept. 11. “However, stopping corruption in politics, holding government accountable and protecting individual freedoms are values I do believe in, which the movement has come to represent.”

State Rep. Arthur O’Neill, the longest-serving Republican in the state House of Representatives, subsequently called for the senator to resign in a blistering statement issued on Wednesday this week.

“Berthel’s support of QAnon proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Eric Berthel lacks the character, common sense and common decency to hold the office of state senator,” said Mr. O’Neill.

“That he now claims his support is somewhat ‘limited’ is an insult to the intelligence of the voters,” Mr. O’Neill said in a statement.

The Connecticut Post reported that Mr. Berthel then sent an apology to Hearst Connecticut Media which published it in full on Friday.

“I’m deeply sorry to anyone who has been offended and to my constituents who have questioned my action,” Mr. Berthel said in part.

“At the time of placing the sticker on my car I understood the movement stood for stopping corruption in politics, holding government accountable and protecting individual freedoms — all of which are values I strongly believe in,” Mr. Berthel reiterated. “My failure to look into the movement more deeply, which I take full responsibility for, led me to overlook the extreme views of the movement which I don’t subscribe to and find abhorrent. It was my lack of fully understanding this movement that led me to put these words on my car for which I deeply regret.”

QAnon emerged online in late 2017 and has mutated considerably in the years since to incorporate a number of baseless and unfounded beliefs.

“We view QAnon as essentially less of an organization and more of a sort of complex set of conspiracy theories, and certainly we have had properly predicated cases involving violence where people have been motivated by some of those conspiracy theories,” FBI Director Christopher A. Wray testified during a hearing held before the House Committee on Homeland Security last week.

Mr. Berthel, 53, has represented Connecticut’s 32nd District since March 2017. Democratic challenger Jeff Desmarais is running against him in November.

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