In its reporting on convicted January 6 rioter and “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Angeli-Chansley’s anticipated congressional campaign, the Associated Press downplayed Chansley’s ties to QAnon, incorrectly reporting that Chansley has “disavowed the QAnon movement.” As major Arizona newspapers have reprinted the wire service’s article, voters could have been exposed to the incorrect information about a potential candidate.
Since being released from prison, Chansley has made a number of comments during interviews and other public engagements that have made his continued support of QAnon clear, including statements that he is “all for” the movement and “never denounced Q or the QAnon community.”
Per the AP:
Chansley is among the more than 700 people who have been sentenced in relation to Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Authorities said Chansley was among the first rioters to enter the Capitol building and he acknowledged using a bullhorn to rouse the mob.
Although he previously called himself the “QAnon Shaman,” Chansley has since disavowed the QAnon movement.
The AP’s assertion that Chansley has recanted his QAnon beliefs has already been reprinted in 7 of the 10 largest newspapers by circulation in Arizona, the state which could elect Chansley to Congress, including Sun City’s Daily Independent, the Mohave Valley Daily News, Pinal Central, Prescott’s Daily Courier, Lake Havasu’s Today News-Herald, Flagstaff’s Arizona Daily Sun, and Tucson’s Arizona Daily Star. At least one national outlet, CBS News, has reprinted the AP’s claim as well.
While the AP does not cite evidence of Chansley disavowing the movement, Chansley’s lawyer in in September 2021 — Albert Watkins — issued a statement to The Daily Beast one day before Chansley entered a guilty plea and asserted that Chansley had “repudiated the ‘Q’” — seemingly in an attempt to secure a more lenient sentence for his client. (About three months later, Chansley replaced Watkins as his lawyer, and his new legal representation asserted that Chansley had received “ineffective assistance of counsel” from Watkins.)
In a July interview with the BBC, Chansley disputed Watkins’ claim that he had “repudiated the ‘Q,’” saying, “I never denounced Q or the QAnon community,” and claiming that any comments made by his lawyers regarding his beliefs or mental health “weren’t true.”
Additionally, at a May speaking event in Scottsdale which was recorded and later aired on the QAnon Anonymous podcast in June, Chansley reportedly stated that he is “all for it” when talking about the awakening that many people supposedly experienced as a result of the “Q psychological operation.”
Chansley, who confirmed to WIRED that he has decided to run for an Arizona congressional seat in 2024, has made it clear that he still fully embraces the QAnon movement and has not “disavowed” those beliefs, despite his former lawyer’s statement to the contrary. Given the AP’s role as a wire service -- and the number of outlets that rely on and reprint AP reporting -- incorrect information such as this has the potential to spread beyond the AP and reach a wider audience.