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Why President Trump's refusal to refute QAnon conspiracy theorists matters

President Trump says he's glad to have support from voters who believe in QAnon, a bogus online conspiracy theory that has no basis in fact. Some of its believers have made the move into mainstream Republican politics.

QAnon supporters believe the president is fighting a secret group of pedophiles and sex traffickers inside the government. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok have all taken action recently to restrict QAnon content.

The FBI has warned that fringe conspiracy theories like QAnon pose a growing domestic terrorism threat, but some believers could soon be serving in Congress.

FBI warns conspiracy theories may lead to real-life violence 06:40

President Trump had nothing but praise Wednesday for QAnon supporters.

"I've heard these are people that love our country," Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump was asked point-blank if he agrees with QAnon supporters who believe that he's secretly hunting down thousands of satanic, "deep state" pedophiles and cannibals so they can be executed for their crimes.

"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," Mr. Trump said.

It's not the first time Mr. Trump has lent credence to a fringe theory. This one first emerged on the website 4Chan in late 2017.

"The idea was that this anonymous poster, who people refer to as 'Q,' was giving secret clues about the coming, quote, 'Great Awakening,'" according to political science professor Joe Uscinski, who studies conspiracy theories. "The beliefs themselves are almost an incitement to violence. I mean, there isn't anything worse you can say about your political competitors than that they are satanic sex traffickers who molest and eat children."

"It has a lot of properties that make it more like a cult,"  Uscinski said.

QAnon believers are a frequent sight at Trump rallies and some are now seeking office themselves. Jo Rae Perkins, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Oregon, is one of at least 19 GOP congressional candidates who've paid lip service to QAnon.

"I stand with President Trump. I stand with Q and the team. Thank you, Anons.," Perkins said in a now-deleted Twitter video.

QAnon conspiracy theory's growing influence on American politics 08:27

Georgia's Marjorie Taylor Greene, who claims there has been an "Islamic invasion" of government offices, has also voiced support for the movement. Several Republican leaders congratulated her on her primary win last week, and the president called her a "future Republican star."

"She had a tremendous victory," Mr. Trump said.

That infuriated Republican U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger, who posted a rebuttal online.

"There's a massive amount of false predictions," Kinzinger said. The Illinois lawmaker told CBS News he's worried QAnon could corrode democracy.

"It has to be called out, I think; for the president to say, 'No, I don't believe these theories, they're ludicrous,'" Kinzinger said.

Standing up to conspiracy theorists made Kinzinger a target.

"I have the people on Twitter now telling me I created ISIS with John McCain," he told CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes.

"Do you think that's why more Republicans don't speak out?" Cordes asked. "Because they're worried about the attacks they will get online?"

"You know, I can't speak for everyone, but I certainly think there are some that are concerned about that," Kinzinger said.

Facebook announced new restrictions Wednesday to block and remove QAnon ads, fundraising and searches. The site has already removed nearly 800 groups and 100 pages tied to the conspiracy theory.

Despite the red flags and warnings from his own law enforcement, according to one media watchdog President Trump has amplified the tweets of QAnon believers more than 200 times.

"I don't really know anything about it other than they do supposedly like me," Mr. Trump said Wednesday.

Uscinski says there's a reason for that.

"They brought him to the prom and he needs to continue dancing with them," Uscinski said. "So... that's exactly what he's going to continue doing."

Uscinski said some of the QAnon claims aren't even original. They're similar to theories that showed up in Oliver Stone's movie "JFK" almost 30 years ago. Yet the professor says he's done polling which shows that between 5% and 10% of Americans believe President Trump is a secret crusader, working to take down a cannibalistic cabal inside the government.

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