- The DOJ is reportedly investigating whether Rep. Matt Gaetz was involved in sex trafficking a minor.
- The QAnon conspiracy-theory movement has spread claims that Democrats were pedophiles.
- QAnon followers claim Gaetz, a Republican, is innocent.
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The QAnon conspiracy-theory community has spent nearly four years trying to prove that a “deep state” cabal of human traffickers exists in the most powerful corners of the country, specifically targeting Democrats and liberal celebrities with misinformation campaigns. But now that Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida is reportedly being investigated by the Justice Department on sex trafficking claims, the far-right conspiracy-theory movement is coming to his defense.
QAnon conspiracy theorists are claiming that reports of an investigation into the claim that Gaetz paid a 17-year-old girl to travel with him were “fabricated,” and that this is all part of “the plan” for the pro-Trump movement, as David Gilbert first reported for Vice News on Wednesday morning.
When the news broke Tuesday evening, QAnon Telegram channels were largely quiet at first. But by Wednesday morning, they’d found their defense, after Gaetz himself claimed in a tweet that the investigation was part of an “organized criminal extortion” plot.
One QAnon Telegram channel with more than 200,000 subscribers highlighted the fact that The Times had cited three “unnamed sources.” The same channel shared a message from another pro-QAnon group that claimed Gaetz was being targeted because he was “2024 President material.” Another channel with over 150,000 subscribers put their belief plainly: “Matt Gaetz story is 100% fabricated.”
On a popular QAnon online message board, a thread about the Gaetz news drew several positive comments about the politician. “He seemed pretty confident in his story,” said one commenter, referencing the congressman’s appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News. “I lean towards this being planned to publicly expose how politicians are all being controlled by bad actors.”
Still, as of Wednesday afternoon, several QAnon influencers have ignored the news entirely.
QAnon was built on the idea that Trump would expose a cabal of sex traffickers
QAnon was born out of a 2017 message on 4chan, a fringe message board, alleging that a group of Democrats and other powerful American figures would soon be executed in what’s become known as “The Storm,” an event that remains to be seen.
That followed Pizzagate, the viral 2016 conspiracy theory that baselessly alleged that Hillary Clinton and her aides ran a child-trafficking ring out of a pizza restaurant in Washington, DC.
The cryptic message from an anonymous figure called “Q” was picked up by far-right influencers, and “Q” continued to post prophecies about Democrats being Satanic pedophiles, until the user’s last post in December 2020.
Then-president Donald Trump was viewed as a savior who was prophesized to take down those alleged traffickers by Q’s followers. And as one of the many Republicans in Congress who claimed that President Joe Biden hadn’t actually won the election, Gaetz became popular among QAnon believers last fall.
The movement’s obsession with sex trafficking came to a head in the summer of 2020 when top QAnon influencers, who interpret and analyze messages from “Q” in podcasts and social-media posts, pivoted to rebrand as “Save the Children,” an anti-human-trafficking battlecry. QAnon supporters began showing up at anti-trafficking rallies worldwide and the conspiracy theory found a new demographic of support with mothers, lifestyle influencers, and yogis.
Anti-trafficking advocacy groups have repeatedly said that QAnon does not help their cause. Last summer, when a QAnon influencer started a false conspiracy theory alleging that the Wayfair furniture company was selling human children disguised as furniture and decor, the paranoia clogged the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
That QAnon believers immediately disavowed allegations of sex trafficking against a prominent Republican is not surprising. It does, however, expose its central hypocrisy: that the movement may not be driven by true concern over human trafficking after all.