White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks in the James Brady Press Briefing Room on January 07, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Unraveling viral disinformation and explaining where it came from, the harm it’s causing, and what we should do about it.
QAnon is a movement without a leader at the moment.
It’s been 74 days since Q, the anonymous head of the conspiracy cult, has posted any new “drops” or updates online — and some experts have speculated that Q may never post again.
The resulting vacuum has been filled for the most part by QAnon influencers who’ve amassed huge followings in recent years. By linking current events to Q’s back catalog of almost 5,000 posts, they are trying to keep the cult alive.
But the most important figures in QAnon remain former President Donald Trump and people in his circle.
Last month, in an off-the-cuff remark on a Florida golf course, Trump told a supporter “We haven’t finished yet,” before walking off without explaining what he meant. That’s all it took to ignite QAnon message boards as evidence that Trump will return as their president any day now.
That’s why a tweet from Trump’s former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday was so electrifying to the fringe movement.
McEnany tweeted a not-so-subtle reference to QAnon’s core belief that Democrats are operating a global, cannibalistic pedophile ring by alluding to a comment Biden made during a town hall appearance on CNN this week.
CNN’s Jake Tapper flagged it as a wink to the QAnon community, tweeting that a former White House colleague of McEnany’s told him: “This is 100% meant to stir up the qanon crowd. Awful.”
McEnany subsequently denied her tweet was a reference to the QAnon conspiracy, saying that what she was trying to highlight was Biden’s “horrific pro-choice, anti-child policies that have dehumanized life (Mexico City policy etc.)”
But it didn’t matter. QAnon devotees were already heaping praise on the former White House press secretary.
“McEnany is one of the most dangerously intelligent individuals I’ve ever seen at a podium. I’m just glad she is on our side. We’d be screwed if she were a baddie. God bless her,” wrote one user on the QAnon message board GreatAwakenings.win.
Another called her a “verbal assassin,” while another wrote: “We have the most beautiful patriots don’t we?”
Over on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app, users in a prominent QAnon channel praised her response to Tapper, writing: “You don’t mess with McEnany…. these people will never learn” and “Kayleigh McEnany is QUEEN of ZINGS.”
While McEnany’s tweet may seem innocuous to most people, to those inside the QAnon movement it’s a confirmation that they’re on the right path.
“Her calling this out is pretty significant,” one user wrote. “It shows that this is something the higher-ups are conscious of and take seriously; the belief is not just isolated to the realm of us common folk,” wrote one user on the GreatAwakenings.win forum in a thread titled “What does Kayleigh know?”
Another responded: “Pretty awesome that when the media is trying to laugh at us for believing the pedo stuff, that Kayleigh backed us up by calling this out.
Just like Trump’s refusal to denounce QAnon on national television and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s coded apology about spreading QAnon conspiracy theories, McEnany’s comment will act like a catalyst for the movement. It will help feed the conspiracies for a while longer, and reinforce the belief that “the storm” is coming and that Trump will return as their savior.