QAnon morphed from a Trump-centric conspiracy theory into a catchall for wild beliefs, and now Democratic lawmakers are channeling the “QAnon cult” into political attacks against the Republican Party, hoping to dent the GOP’s image and cast conservatives as beholden to the loosely organized group’s crazy conspiracy theories.
They have put a QAnon bullseye on freshman GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, of Georgia, over her history of espousing half-baked conspiracy theories, trying to sideline her from congressional committees.
They’ve gone after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, for Ms. Greene’s appointment to the budget and House Education and Labor committees.
Some Republican leaders have tried to distance the party from QAnon, though the group has taken root in some parts of former President Donald Trump’s fiercely anti-GOP establishment base.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of House Democrats, launched a television and online ad campaign Tuesday attacking Mr. McCarthy and seven House Republicans from swing districts for being “too weak to stop the QAnon mob’s takeover of their party.”
DCCC Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney said the GOP has chosen “to cave to the murderous QAnon mob that has taken over their party.”
“Washington Republicans are trying to have it both ways – refusing to hold those responsible for the attack on the Capitol accountable, offering nothing but empty words after years of hyping up lies and conspiracy theories,” he said. “There is no middle ground, but their actions have made one thing clear — no American will be safe from the QAnon mob if Washington Republicans are in power.”
It could be the perfect political cudgel.
The DCCC says its internal polling found that 68% of Americans are familiar with QAnon and 65% view the group negatively.
But former Rep. Thomas Davis III said it is a stretch to cast the entire party as beholden to QAnon because of a few outliers in the 211-member House GOP caucus.
“This has basically been exaggerated by Democrats to brand the party in a negative way,” Mr. Davis said. “I don’t think they have a footprint in the party of any real stature.”
Ask most Republicans about QAnon and they will respond with a “blank stare,” the Virginia Republican said.
Some Republicans and conservative insiders who previously dismissed QAnon as a wacky, fringe sideshow are now struggling to get a handle on what it’s all about.
The central QAnon conspiracy theory is that Washington Democrats, Hollywood elites, billionaires and spiritual leaders such as Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama are part of a global satan-worshipping, human trafficking and pedophile ring.
The movement was born in 2017 on online messaging boards.
An anonymous poster — who went by the pseudonym “Q” and claimed to be a government insider with top-secret security clearance — started pedaling conspiracies about the Trump administration’s top-secret war against a “deep state” and the dark forces behind child-sex trafficking.
It escalated during the 2020 election after QAnon prophesied Mr. Trump would retain power and take out the child-abusing elites who, according to the theory, ran the world.
Its followers were involved in the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead.
Since then there have been some signs that QAnon has lost some of its luster after its prophecies that Mr. Trump would retain power never came to fruition.
A Morning Consult poll released Tuesday found that the number of Republicans who had heard of QAnon and said they believed QAnon’s claims dropped from 38% in October to 24% last month.
Democrats aren’t letting the issue go.
They say the storming of the Capitol demands the nation take fringe movements seriously and that Congress condemn QAnon followers.
The top target is Ms. Greene, a newly elected representative from Georgia’s 14th Congressional District and a QAnon sympathizer.
She suggested before winning her seat that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks could have been an inside job, that mass shootings at schools were staged, and that leading Democrats should be executed.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, weighed in by releasing a statement that Ms. Greene’s embrace of “loony lies” is a “cancer for the Republican Party.”
“Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’s airplane is not living in reality,” he said.
Mr. McConnell joined the likes of Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who last summer started calling on fellow Republicans to denounce QAnon.
The Illinois Republican more recently has started a new “Country First” effort that calls on the party to take a look in the mirror and distance itself from the “fear,” “outrage,” “poisonous conspiracies” and “lies” that have come to define the GOP.
Democrats, meanwhile, are pressuring Mr. McCarthy, the House GOP leader, to strip Ms. Greene of her committee assignments.
Mr. McCarthy’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has informed Mr. McCarthy if he doesn’t act, Democrats will bring the issue to the House floor, Politico reported.
“Instead of taking action to address this conspiracist and ‘cancer’ within his own Conference, Leader McCarthy has failed to take a single step to discipline Rep. Greene and has even rewarded her with coveted House Education and Budget Committee assignments,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office said in a press release Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, also introduced a resolution Tuesday directing the FBI to review the threat posed by QAnon and other domestic terrorist groups.
The resolution reads in part: “Fringe conspiracy theories like QAnon represent a unique insider threat to national security institutions and personnel, potentially compromising intelligence and security capabilities.”