SAN DIEGO — QAnon has made its way from the fringes of the internet into mainstream politics. It caused some controversy during the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night and left many wondering what it is.
QAnon is described as a conspiracy theory among those on the far-right, most of whom are supporters of President Donald Trump.
"Well, I don't know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate," the president said last week when asked about QAnon.
When he was told that the crux of the theory is the belief that he is secretly saving the world, hunting down thousands of satanic, deep state pedophiles and cannibals, the president replied, "Is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing? I mean, you know, if I can help save the world from problems, I'm willing to do it."
This week, however, QAnon beliefs created controversy on night two of the Republican National Convention, when speaker Mary Ann Mendoza was pulled from the lineup after retweeting an anti-semitic post from a QAnon supporter.
"In the case of Mary Ann Mendoza, that was an unfortunate tweet, and as soon as we were alerted it happened, we thought it would be best to not be a distraction," said Cassie Smedile, GOP Deputy Communications Director.
"She was asked to step aside from giving her remarks and she did that," said Smedile, who said QAnon is not a topic that's even being discussed by the Republican Party.
"If you ask people in the Republican Party, they don't know what you're talking about. This is not a thing being brought up in conversation, certainly not a thing that's impacting policy," she said.
Mendoza, the mother of an Arizona police officer killed by an undocumented immigrant, later apologized and deleted the tweet, but her abrupt removal from the RNC has led to curiosity about the origins of QAnon.
The conspiracy theory surfaced in 2017 by a user named "Q" on the anonymous 4chan website. It then spread to Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook. Followers believe Democrats and high profile people, including Oprah, Pope Francis, Tom Hanks and former President Barak Obama are part of a covert group of deep state pedophiles involved in a global child sex-trafficking ring. Q supporters believe the group is plotting against President Trump. They think the president is involved in a secret battle to take down and expose those in the ring.
"The beliefs themselves are almost an incitement to violence," said University of Miami Political Science Professor Joe Uscinski, who studies conspiracy theories. He said it has a lot of properties that make it more like a cult.
QAnon believers are a frequent sight at Trump rallies and some are now running for office, including Jo Rae Perkins, a Republican U.S. Senate hopeful in Oregon and Georgia's Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Concerned Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger believes President Trump should set the record state.
"It has to be called out, I think, for the President to say no, I don't believe these theories. They're ludicrous," he said.
The FBI has declared QAnon and other groups like it a growing domestic terrorism threat.
Facebook has announced new measures to block and remove QAnon ads, fundraising and searches. The site says it has already removed nearly 800 groups and 100 pages tied to the conspiracy theory.