The founder and a member of Project Veritas, along with anti-vaccine “whistleblowers” touted by the group, spoke this week at a conference for supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, where they lauded attendees and asked for their help. One of the “whistleblowers” even suggested that her friends who followed QAnon influencers were the reason she got connected with Project Veritas. The group has previously associated with fringe conspiracy theorists and made appeals to the far right, including QAnon supporters.
Project Veritas is a right-wing media nonprofit founded by James O’Keefe that injects itself into news narratives by producing videos that purport to show some kind of bias or wrongdoing on the part of their target. In the past, the group has gone after media companies, political campaigns, government officials, nonprofits, and unions, typically using cut-together footage from a hidden camera that is often edited to remove context and nuance. In recent months, the group has aired misleading videos from supposed “whistleblowers” trying to discredit coronavirus vaccines.
On October 24, members of the organization appeared at a conference, “Patriot Double Down,” in Las Vegas that was organized by QAnon influencer John Sabal (known online as QAnon John) and dedicated to the conspiracy theory. A video message featuring O’Keefe was aired at the conference in which he hyped footage from some of Project Veritas’ recent videos.
Another member of Project Veritas, Christian Hartsock, then took to the stage to downplay the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol (which multiple QAnon supporters participated in). Hartsock said, “On January 7 of this year, a story had to be constructed because these people, they’re not coming up with an alibi to tell authorities, law enforcement authorities, they are the law -- many of the law enforcement authorities at the highest level,” seemingly referring to a false claim that the government orchestrated the insurrection. He also lauded the conference attendees as “courageous for being here.”
Jodi O’Malley, an anti-vax conspiracy theorist and a nurse who Project Veritas previously featured in a video as an “insider,” took the stage to once again attack the vaccines. During her speech, the screen behind O'Malley displayed links to donate and follow her online. She also praised a video featuring Stella Immanuel, calling it “another confirmation to me of the signs of the times that we were in.” Immanuel is a member of the medical misinformation group America’s Frontline Doctors and had invoked the QAnon-connected adrenochrome conspiracy theory earlier at the same conference.
The following day, at a conference panel featuring multiple Arizona state legislators, O’Malley said she “just woke up last year” and asked if there is “anything that you guys can do to help me get the word out to the masses.” In response, state Rep. Mark Finchem, a 2022 Arizona secretary of state candidate who has expressed support for QAnon, urged her to become a precinct committee member, echoing the QAnon community’s embrace of a plan for followers to join Republican precinct committees. And state Sen. Wendy Rogers, a fellow legislator who has also expressed support for QAnon, urged people to find legal ways to get vaccine exemptions.
Another “whistleblower” featured in a misleading anti-vax Project Veritas video, Melissa Strickler (also known as Melissa McAtee), also spoke at the conference to attack vaccines; during her speech, the screen in the background displayed links to follow and donate to her online. While asking people to donate to her, Strickler said that “friends of mine who are big fans of John and Amy and Juan and all of these that I had never heard of” are the ones who “led me to Project Veritas.” Strickler was referring to QAnon John, his partner who also helped organize the conference, and QAnon influencer and fellow conference attendee Juan O. Savin.
Project Veritas has had previous connections with QAnon. Hartsock previously spoke at QAnon John’s first QAnon conference in Dallas in May, where he also promoted the group’s activities. One of the group’s previous “whistleblowers” had also been a QAnon supporter. And their presence at the conference demonstrates Project Veritas’ ongoing efforts to appeal to the far right and anti-vax influencers’ use of the QAnon community to further their own agendas.