President Donald Trump addressed the conspiracy theory known as QAnon and his critics on social media lashed out at him for appearing to encourage the conspiracy believers.
He made the comments during his media briefing on Wednesday in response to a question from Shannon Pettypiece of NBC News.
"During the pandemic, the QAnon movement has been, appears to be getting a lot of followers," said Pettypiece. "Can you talk about what you think about that and what you have to say to people who are following this movement right now?"
"Well I don't know much about the movement, other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate, but I don't know much about the movement. I have heard that it is gaining in popularity, and from what I hear these are people, that when they watch the streets of Portland, when they watch what happened in New York City and just the last six or seven months, but this was starting even four years ago when I came here, almost four years, can you believe it?" he responded.
"These are people that don't like seeing what's going in places like Portland and places like Chicago and New York, and other cities and states. And I've heard these are people that love our country and they don't like seeing it," Trump continued.
"I don't know really anything about it, they do supposedly like me, and they also would like to see problems in these areas like especially the areas that we're talking about go away because there's no reason the Democrats can't run a city," he added. "And if they can't we will send in all of the federal, whether its troops or law enforcement, whatever they'd like, we'll send them in, we'll straighten out their problem in 24 hours or less, OK?"
'Satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals'
Pettypiece zeroed in on the major tenet of the conspiracy theory and pressed Trump directly on whether he ascribed to it.
"As part of this theory is the belief that you are secretly saving the world from this satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals. Does that sound like something you are behind?" asked Pettypiece.
"Well I haven't heard that, but is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing?" Trump joked.
"If I can help save the world from problems, I'm willing to do it. I'm willing to put myself out there. And we are actually. We're saving the world from a radical left philosophy that will destroy this country, and when this country is gone, the rest of the world would follow, the rest of the world would follow, that's the importance of this country. And when you look at some of the things that some of these people are saying with defund the police, and no borders, open borders, everybody just pour right into our country, no testing no nothing," the president mused.
"But I will say this, we need strength in our country, not weakness," he concluded. "Too much weakness."
The critics pounce
Critics of the president denounced him for not making a clear statement against the conspiracy theory, which has been identified by the FBI as a dangerous movement.
"It's truly amazing that the FBI issued a warning about these QAnon folks during the Trump presidency and he acts as if he's never heard of what they stand for. He's either being a remarkably lazy president or he's worried about offending any possible supporter," said Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post.
"Trump refuses to denounce one of the most toxic and dangerous conspiracies in America. He embraces QAnon's support for him. He was told part of their belief system and he didn't reject it. This is the leader of the Republican Party," said MSNBC producer Kyle Griffin.
CNN's Jake Tapper joined the fray and tweeted links to the statements from the FBI and West Point about the theory.
FBI: The deranged QAnon conspiracy theory poses a potential domestic terrorism threat Combating Terrorism Center a… https://t.co/msNc98Hx9d— Jake Tapper (@Jake Tapper)1597877025.0
Not everyone was a critic. At least one QAnon follower noticed that the comments from the president were very similar to a message from the Q conspiracy source in 2018.
Here's the video of the president's comments:
Trump: 'I appreciate' support of QAnon conspiracy followers | AFP www.youtube.com