White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Sunday dodged questions about President Donald Trump’s embrace of QAnon days after the president said followers of the conspiracy theory “love our country.”
“We don’t even know what it is,” Meadows told “Fox News Sunday” after host Chris Wallace asked whether the president would denounce QAnon, which the FBI has labeled a potential domestic terror threat.
“It’s not a central part of what the president is talking about,” he added. “I don’t even know anything about it. I don’t even know if it’s credible.”
“If it’s a hate group, I can tell you that this president is not for hate,” Meadows told “Fox News Sunday.” “Here is what we have to do, I don’t see it as a legitimate thing that we have to address and so, we’re not going to address it.”
Once thought of as fringe, the QAnon conspiracy, based on the idea that Trump’s political opponents are running a satanic pedophile cabal and that he has plans to arrest and execute them, has been steadily gaining traction since the 2016 election. That growth has become much more rapid in recent months, particularly as a source of pandemic misinformation.
On ABC’s “This Week”, Meadows was also asked why the president would not condemn QAnon.
“I had to Google it to figure out what it is,” Meadows said. “You’ve talked about it more, George, than anybody in the White House has talked about it.”
“If you look at the top 20 priorities, QAnon’s not on it,” Meadows added. “It’s probably not on the top 50. It’s time that we get serious about questions and move on. I don’t see that this is a central debate that anybody’s going to decide who the next president of the United States might be or where we need to deploy the FBI.”
On Wednesday, Trump said he has heard followers of the conspiracy “are people who love our country.”
When an NBC News reporter alerted him of QAnon followers’ belief he is fighting to stop a cabal of pedophiles, Trump said he had not heard that but asked, “Is that supposed to be a bad thing?”
“If I can help save the world from problems, I’m willing to do it, and I’m willing to put myself out there,” Trump said. “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 president said he knew little of the movement “other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate” and “that it is gaining in popularity.”
Asked on CNN’s State of the Union about Trump’s comments, Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf dismissed QAnon as not a “significant” threat but said he “absolutely” would condemn the movement.
Several Republicans have denounced the president’s remarks.
In a statement, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb, said, “Q-Anon is nuts — and real leaders call conspiracy theories conspiracy theories.”
Trump’s embrace of the theory came the week after Marjorie Taylor Greene, a congressional candidate who has embraced QAnon, won the Republican primary in her district. Trump congratulated Greene on her victory, calling her a “future Republican Star.”