Consider, if you will, a sliding scale of celebrities. On one end of this spectrum are those who are still alive, including but not limited to: Jennifer Aniston, Justin Bieber, nine-tenths of the original cast of Beverly Hills, 90210. On the other end are those who are dead, also including but not limited to: Elvis Presley, John Belushi, and (arguably) Tupac.
On this scientific scale, John F. Kennedy Jr. falls somewhere in between Judy Garland and former Minnesota Twins center fielder Kirby Puckett; all of which is to say, he is extremely, irrefutably dead. In July 1999, the pulchritudinous son of John and Jackie Kennedy and cofounder of George magazine perished in a tragic plane crash at the age of 38, along with his wife Carolyn Bessette and his sister-in-law Lauren. At least, this is the conventional narrative perpetuated by the fake news media, according to supporters of the pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon. Hardcore Q believers think that JFK Jr. is not only alive and well, but also that he plans to emerge from his 20-year hiatus from public life by coming out and supporting Trump as his running mate in 2020. Moreover, they believe that a guy in Pittsburgh named Vincent Fusca is actually JFK Jr. in disguise, and they have made T-shirts promoting this belief. (Seriously. You can buy them on Amazon.)
The theory that JFK Jr. is alive and a Trump supporter and a hirsute former financial services professional who lives in Pittsburgh has been percolating in QAnon forums for at least the past year. But it recently made a resurgence on YouTube, where QAnon supporters are posting tutorials for how to make JFK Jr. face masks to wear to Trump’s much-hyped July 4th rally, when they believe JFK Jr. will finally emerge from hiding. The goal of the masks, according to Daily Beast reporter Will Sommer, is for believers to be able to easily identify other QAnon supporters (though, frankly, this seems unlikely, as the shock of seeing a long-dead celebrity casually walking around Washington would almost certainly inspire mass fear and panic in the streets).
So what, exactly, is the basis for this theory, and where did it come from? Why, exactly, do QAnon believers ardently cling to the idea that John John is alive and well and living in Pittsburgh? And did Vincent Fusca have sex with Daryl Hannah in the 1980s? These are just a few of the important questions we must answer.
So what is QAnon, exactly?
QAnon is an elaborate conspiracy theory suggesting that an anonymous poster known as “Q” (so named because of his supposed high level of security clearance in the U.S. government), has been posting messages since fall 2017 attesting to a “deep-state” conspiracy against Trump orchestrated by his enemies, including Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, and Barack Obama. QAnon supporters believe that the Robert Mueller investigation is actually a front for an investigation into Trump’s enemies, who they believe are engaged in a number of criminal activities, including running a powerful global pedophile ring. They eagerly await “the Storm,” or the moment when Q will reveal himself and Trump will arrest all of his enemies and send them to Guantanamo Bay.
How did JFK Jr. become involved?
The theory that Kennedy was alive and running Q arose in June 2018, after the anonymous poster behind Q briefly went dark. Another anonymous poster, “R,” showed up on the QAnon forums on the website 8chan and started dropping hints that JFK Jr. had faked his death to avoid being targeted by members of the deep-state conspiracy and was actually Q.
The idea gained further credence thanks to Liz Crokin, a right-wing conspiracy theorist who referred to JFK Jr.’s role as Q during a 2018 interview with vlogger Jenny Moonstone. In the video, Crokin cited Q’s posts about former President John F. Kennedy as evidence that JFK Jr. was running the account. “The way that Q talks about JFK Sr. in the posts, it is with such love and passion, it makes me think that it is someone that is close to him,” Crokin said in the video. “If JFK Jr. faked his death and was alive, it would make sense that he was Q.”
Adding fuel to the fire, a quote attributed to JFK Jr. in praise of Trump was widely shared by QAnon supporters on social media. “If my dear friend Donald Trump ever decided to sacrifice his fabulous billionaire lifestyle to become president he would be an unstoppable force for ultimate justice that Democrats and Republicans alike would celebrate,” the quote, which was reportedly published in George Magazine in June 1999, read. (Kennedy’s fatal plane crash was on July 16, 1999.)
The fact-checking website Politifact later found there was no record of Kennedy ever having written such a thing in George — or anywhere else, for that matter. (The photo accompanying the post, however, did appear to be genuine, and was taken at a Knicks game the two attended in March 1999.) Not wanting to let a silly thing like facts get in the way, QAnon supporters clung to the theory that Kennedy and Trump had long been in cahoots, and the quote continues to circulate to this day, as does another “quote” from JFK Jr. reportedly vowing to avenge his father’s death, “even if I have to bring down the whole government.” (It’s unclear if that quote is real — either way, it was in the context of accusations that Lyndon B. Johnson was behind his father’s assassination. For the record, Lyndon B. Johnson is also very, very dead.)
Who is Vincent Fusca, and how did he become involved?
Described by Sommer as a “fedora-wearing Trump superfan from Pennsylvania,” Fusca is a frequent attendee at Trump rallies and is sometimes seen in the background of photos of Trump during his speeches. (He also placed 1572nd in the 59th World Series of Poker, according to an online WSOP profile under his name.) Some QAnon supporters have pointed to Fusca’s presence at Trump rallies as proof that Fusca is actually JFK Jr. in disguise, and has altered his appearance with veneers and plastic surgery in order to pass through society undetected. (It is worth noting that the two look absolutely nothing alike.)
— VincentFusca (@vincent_fusca) June 22, 2019
THIS IS JFK JR! You wait!!! pic.twitter.com/pGcCmK3YQR
— MichelleXRP BOT#985985 (@MichelleSchlen6) July 2, 2019
As a result of this theory, Fusca has become something of a mega-celebrity in QAnon world, posing for photos with fans and fueling the theory with his own cryptic tweets; at one point, a Twitter account claiming to be Fusca posing as “the Real RAnon” had more than 30,000 followers. (The account was later revealed to be authored not by Fusca, but by a former Arizona Green Party congressional candidate named Ray Parrish.)
Is JFK Jr. alive?
Is Vincent Fusca JFK Jr.?
Is JFK Jr. Q?
So why does this matter?
Well, it doesn’t not matter.
Although QAnon has been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked by various media outlets, the conspiracy theory has nonetheless continued to spread, to the extent that Trump himself has retweeted active figures in the movement. QAnon supporters have been highly visible at various Trump rallies and event, and the conspiracy theory has been so widely circulated on social media that platforms like YouTube and Reddit have taken steps to ban many of its more prominent proponents, with the latter platform banning the subreddit r/GreatAwakening on the grounds that it violated its policy prohibiting “inciting violence, harassment, and the dissemination of personal information.”
To be fair, not every Q believer buys into the idea that JFK Jr. staged his own death and is secretly posing as a Trump supporter from Pittsburgh. But the belief has gained enough traction among Q supporters that it’s worth engaging seriously with how such beliefs spread, and why they gain acceptance in some circles.
Will JFK Jr. reveal himself to be Trump’s new running mate on July 4th, 2019?
No. Trump already has a running mate, Vice President Mike Pence. Also, JFK Jr. is dead.
Should I make a JFK Jr. face mask to wear on July 5, 2019, in the unlikely event that JFK Jr. is alive and reveals himself to be Trump’s new running mate?
Possibly? It’s important to be prepared for every situation. Also, they are fun, and they look pretty easy to make.