President Trump just gave a big boost to a dangerous conspiracy theory that's already grown disturbingly popular in recent months.
QAnon is a far-right conspiracy theory that falsely claims Trump is leading a secret mission to root out a powerful network of pedophiles and cannibals among celebrities and the political elite. The conspiracy first spread on 4chan and then to mainstream social media, and is likely to land in Congress this fall as at least one Republican candidate who endorses the theory seems poised to win a House seat.
In a Wednesday press conference at the White House, NBC News' Shannon Pettypiece asked Trump about the movement — and he effectively gave it his approval. At first, Trump said he doesn't "know much about the movement," but then said QAnon supporters "like me very much, which I appreciate." "I heard that these are people who love our country," he continued. Trump then questioned whether it's "supposed to be a bad thing" that QAnon supporters believe he's destroying a cult of pedophiles, because "we are actually, we're saving the world."
Trump's embrace of the conspiracists immediately set off a wave of celebration in the QAnon community, The New York Times' tech columnist Kevin Roose reports. While QAnon believers had previously struggled to grapple with Trump wishing alleged Jeffrey Epstein accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell well, some took the press conference answer as Trump's acknowledgement that the conspiracy is real — and not just a way to avoid rejecting some of his staunchest supporters.