Donald Trump came to Cincinnati on Thursday night for a MAGA rally. As was typical for such gatherings, it was heaven for those who drink copious amounts of covfefe. For instance, when Trump supporters swarmed around protesters holding a banner that read “IMMIGRANTS BUILT AMERICA,” Trump openly wondered if such insolence happened because Cincinnati had “a Democrat mayor.”
On any other occasion, this would have been the most outrageous moment that didn’t involve racial dog-whistling. But the most eye-opening moment at this rally didn’t come from a Trump. Nope, it came from Brandon Straka, the founder of the “#WalkAway” campaign, an effort to get people to renounce the supposedly divisive tactics of the Democratic Party. The Trump campaign enlisted him to warm up the crowd. Watch his warm-up speech here.
Straka billed himself as living proof that Trump leads a movement that welcomes people who aren’t white and straight, and that he actually “loves” minorities. After all, on paper he’s the last man you’d find at a MAGA rally–an openly gay man. He praised Trump for saving him from being a “lemming” for the left. But five minutes into this paean to Trump, he used the phrase “Where we go one, we go all.”
It turned out that Straka invoked a phrase that has become one of the battle cries for “QAnon,” the bizarre conspiracy theory that claims Trump is poised to open the trap door under a nest of pedophiles that encompasses virtually everyone who is everyone in the Democratic Party and Hollywood. It’s a bastard child of “Pizzagate,” which alleges that there is a massive sex trafficking ring operating out of a Washington pizzeria.
So one of the new stars of the conservative movement appeared to have become a willing lemming for conspiracy theories. As alarming as this may have been in and of itself, it came mere hours after Yahoo News revealed that the FBI office in Phoenix is taking a very close look at conspiracy theories like QAnon and Pizzagate–and is alarmed enough to consider them a domestic terror threat.
However, to those who drink the QAnon lunacy by the barrelful, Straka’s speech sounded like manna from heaven.
By Friday morning, Straka’s apparent embrace of QAnon had lit up the mainstream media as well. It alarmed him enough that he took to Twitter to deny he had ever been willing to drink this particular Kool-Aid.
Well, Brandon, with all due respect, even if you aren’t willing to “trust the plan,” you really should have done a little more research while writing your speech. You may have thought “where we go one, we go all” was a simple appeal to unity. But a simple Google search of that phrase turns up a torrent of QAnon and Pizzagate-related links. If you were trying to present yourself as proof that you’re different from the typical MAGA-hat wearing Trump supporter, it didn’t work.
But then again, this isn’t the first time that Straka has been busted for not doing basic research. He claims to have started his rightward drift when one of his friends sent him a video suggesting that when Trump was slammed for mocking a disabled reporter in November 2015, it was part of a liberal smear job. One problem–in May 2016, while sitting for an interview with The Washington Post, Trump waved and jerked his arms in the same manner that he did months earlier–while knowing full well he was under fire for doing so.
So even if Straka didn’t drink the QAnon crazy, it’s only fair to wonder if his desire to be an “independent thinker” has prevented him from keeping abreast of the world around him. After all, had he done so, he wouldn’t be in damage control mode.
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