Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA), who came to Congress perhaps best known as an author of Bigfoot erotica, is sending a message condemning a less recreational conspiracy theory on his way out.
Riggleman is a lame duck lawmaker: he lost his primary in June after officiating a same-sex wedding.
He and Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) are introducing a resolution Tuesday to denounce QAnon, a patchwork belief system espoused by some on the right that casts President Donald Trump as the Messianic savior of the country and paints his political opponents as pedophilic, cannibalistic Satanists doomed to a coming final judgement.
QAnon and the conspiracy theories it promotes are a danger and a threat that has no place in our country’s politics. I condemn this movement and urge all Americans to join me in taking this step to exclude them and other extreme conspiracy theories from the national discourse. https://t.co/g10c1XGsWo
— Congressman Denver Riggleman (@RepRiggleman) August 25, 2020
The resolution condemns the conspiracy theory and lists a series of violent acts carried out by believers. It also encourages the FBI and all federal law enforcement agencies to “strengthen their focus on preventing violence, threats, harassment, and other criminal activity by extremists motivated by fringe political conspiracy theories.”
Such a recrimination from a Republican lawmaker is less routine than one would assume. Many in the party have struggled to position themselves against the theory and its believers, possibly fearing a loss in critical support heading into the fall elections.
Michael McAdams, national press secretary for the NRCC, responded to Riggleman’s tweet with a healthy dose of what-about-ism.
But you won’t demand raging anti-Semite and current House Democrat @IlhanMN be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee???
— Michael McAdams (@M_McAdams) August 25, 2020
Believers of the conspiracy theory have started to trickle into the party. A couple weeks ago, QAnon supporter Marjorie Greene won her primary in Georgia’s deep-red 14th district, virtually guaranteeing her victory this fall. Her problematic statements extend far beyond her enthusiasm for QAnon, and include videos in which she expresses virulently racist, anti-semitic and Islamophobic sentiments.
President Donald Trump sang her praises after her primary victory, calling her a “rising star” in the party. As recently as last week Trump embraced the conspiracy theory when asked about it at a press conference.
“I don’t know much about the movement, other than I understand they like me very much. Which I appreciate. But I don’t know much about the movement,” he said.
“I’ve heard these are people that love our country and they just don’t like seeing it,” he added, speaking about the unrest and protests in major cities across the country. “So I don’t know really anything about it other than they do supposedly like me and they also would like to see problems in these areas, like especially in the areas that we’re talking about, go away.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) too embraced Greene upon her victory, when a spokesperson said McCarthy was “looking forward” to Greene’s almost inevitable victory in November. He had also washed his hands of the primary, opting against an opportunity to boost her still very Trumpian, very right-wing opponent instead.
He has backtracked in recent days though, last week distancing the party from QAnon during an interview on Fox News.
“Let me be very clear,” McCarthy said Thursday night. “There is no place for QAnon in the Republican Party. I do not support it.”
Riggleman has spoken out before against QAnon before, colorfully calling it “the mental gonorrhea of conspiracy theories.”
“It’s disgusting,” he said, “and you want to get rid of it as fast as possible.”