Vice President Mike Pence tweeted, and soon deleted, a photo on Friday showing him with a police officer who wore a patch with a “Q” patch, signaling belief in the QAnon conspiracy, prominently displayed on his uniform. QAnon is an internet-based baseless anti-government conspiracy theory that has been pushing the lie that President Donald Trump is in cahoots with military officials to target members of what they consider to be the government’s “deep state,” who they believe run pedophile rings.
The conspiracy theory started on internet message board 4Chan with mysterious, cryptic posts by a person known as “Q,” who followers believe to be a highly-placed government official. QAnon is responsible for, among others, the absurd Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which led to a shooting inside a Washington, DC, pizzeria in December 2016. The suspect, a follower of QAnon, fired three shots with an AR-15, although no one was injured; he was sentenced to four years in prison. The assailant said he was attempting to save children trapped in a sex-slave ring, which he believed to be led by Hillary Clinton and her campaign advisor, John Podesta.
Followers of QAnon believe Trump is on a mission to rid the government of these pedophiles, and supporters have been seen at Trump rallies with shirts and signs with the letter “Q” on them, a signal they subscribe to the conspiracy.
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The Vice President’s office took the tweet down, telling BuzzFeed that they did not want to promote the conspiracy theory. They replaced it with a tweet that did not include the controversial photo.
Grateful for the courageous members of law enforcement who helped with my visit to Florida this afternoon. Thank you for everything you do to help keep our communities SAFE. Great to meet you! pic.twitter.com/Lh9Udk5fr2
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) December 1, 2018
The officer was identified by BuzzFeed as Sgt. Matt Patten, who has been employed by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida for 27 years.
But, by the time the tweet was deleted, it was already too late. Undoubtedly, QAnon theorists, who pick apart every Trump gesture for signs of his support, already interpreted the image as an endorsement.