Right-wing pundit Burgess Owens, who is running for Congress as a Republican in Utah, appeared on a QAnon program in May to ask for money and support. While Owens did not directly talk about the violence-linked conspiracy theory, he claimed that Democrats “want misery” and they have “an evil leadership that will use, abuse, and discard anyone for their power, even people within their own race.”
Owens isn’t the only Republican who has appeared on the QAnon show in recent months. Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) appeared on that program, The Common Sense Show, last month to discuss the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests (they did not talk about QAnon).
QAnon is a violence-linked conspiracy theory based on cryptic posts to online message boards from an anonymous user known as “Q" that have spread rampantly on social media and among fringe right-wing media. QAnon conspiracy theorists essentially believe that President Donald Trump is secretly working to take down the purported “deep state,” a supposed cabal of high-ranking officials who they claim are operating pedophile rings.
Owens is a former NFL player who is now a political commentator and candidate for Utah’s 4th Congressional District. He has frequently appeared as a guest on Fox Business and Fox News (he once compared NFL protests to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor while appearing on Fox Business’ Varney & Co.).
Owens has been endorsed by right-wing pundits Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Candace Owens, among others. He also has been backed by President Donald Trump and is part of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns recruitment program, which indicates that he’s “successfully collaborated with the NRCC and completed the benchmarks that establish a path to victory on Election Day.”
NBC News’ Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins wrote in August 2018 that the Patriots' Soapbox network is “a round-the-clock livestreamed YouTube channel for Qanon study and discussion. The channel is, in effect, a broadcast of a Discord chatroom with constant audio commentary from a rotating cast of volunteers and moderators.” The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer profiled the network in an article today and noted that Republican congressional candidates Lauren Boebert and Rich McCormick have appeared on the network. (Boebert has spoken favorably of QAnon but has since tried to distance herself from the conspiracy theory; McCormick’s campaign has said that he does not support QAnon.) Sommer wrote that the network “has been one of the most vocal QAnon outlets since the conspiracy theory began with a series of anonymous clues posted by a mysterious ‘Q’ in October 2017.”
Media Matters reported that Trump campaign official Erin Perrine appeared on the program in October 2019 to promote Trump’s reelection campaign and recruit volunteers (QAnon was not talked about during the interview).
In May, Owens appeared on the Patriots’ Soapbox network for over a half-hour. While QAnon was not specifically discussed, he lambasted his political opponents with incendiary rhetoric. Owens claimed that the Democrats in power “want misery, and everything they do is based on misery as a political strategy”; said that the Democrats “have an evil leadership that will use, abuse, and discard anyone for their power, even people within their own race”; and stated that “the true evil is socialist, Marxist communists who have woven deeply in the Democratic Party and for decades have used misery as a political tool, strategy, so that people feel helpless, hopeless and vote for Democrats.”
During his interview, Owens repeatedly asked the QAnon program's audience for support. For instance:
- “As we get through this primary and onto the general, I ask those that are part of your program to turn to the District Four, help us win this, because we win this, we win our House. And as you know, winning the House will make a big difference in terms of supporting our president, moving this country forward.”
- “For those who are listening, please go to Burgess4Utah.com.”
- “For those who want to see what we're talking about, again, it’s Burgess4Utah.com.”
- “If you go to my website, Burgess4Utah, all, everything is there. Burgess at -- my Twitter feed is there, my Facebook feed, Burgess4Utah, Google me, look it up and everything you can find plus think of, including a little red dot that says, 'donate,' OK? Very important. I'm asking you to donate. I was told I need to ask, so I'm going to do that. I’m asking you to -- for those in my district, vote for me. For those outside my district, hit that donate button. Whatever you give, it works out and helps us in a big way."
Owens was impressed by the program, saying toward the conclusion of the interview: “Thank you for all you guys are doing, because I'm just, I'm just part of the team. I just do my part as everybody does theirs.” He later added after one of the program's co-hosts said he hoped to have him back as a guest: “Let's do it again. I really love this. This is awesome. Thank you so much, guys. Have a good one.”
Update (7/17/20): Utah Policy managing editor Bryan Schott followed up on this article and reported that “when reached for comment, Owens said in an email ‘We’ll have to Google what ‘QAnon’ is.’” He also added responses from the Democratic and Republican campaign committees, including a quote from a NRCC spokesperson comparing the QAnon outlet to MSNBC:
Republicans deflected when asked about Owens’ appearance on the Patriot’s Soapbox.
“Did I miss your story on Ben McAdams appearing on Russia conspiracy network MSNBC?,” said NRCC spokesperson Torunn Sinclair, suggesting the two media entities were somehow equal. McAdams’ most recent appearance on MSNBC was in March to discuss his recovery from the coronavirus.