Jim Caviezel pushes QAnon in bizarre media blitz for new anti-trafficking movie

“Sound of Freedom” purports to blow the whistle on global child trafficking but its star offers little more than a fever swamp of right-wing conspiracy theories

Actor Jim Caviezel has spread a host of QAnon-related conspiracy theories while promoting his new anti-trafficking movie in right-wing media, from false claims about child kidnapping to truly bizarre accusations about Ukrainian biolabs and mass organ harvesting. Sound of Freedom, which Caviezel stars in, opens in a limited release on July 4 and — judging by the actor’s recent promotional tour on conservative outlets — the movie could find a cult audience by spoon-feeding its viewers a titillating but false narrative that a global cabal of child traffickers includes everyone from U.S. intelligence agencies to liberal politicians to Hollywood executives.

Already, figures across the conservative ecosystem have signaled their support for the film, from the establishment to the fringes. Twitter owner Elon Musk offered to host it for free on his platform. Ivanka Trump tweeted an endorsement, writing that it “sheds light on the harrowing reality of #HumanTrafficking.” Editor-in-chief of The Post Millennial Libby Emmons attended the premiere with neo-Nazi collaborator Jack Posobiec, an early spreader of the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, a precursor to QAnon. Catholic journalist Sachin Jose posted a photo of Caviezel with Mel Gibson and Eduardo Verastegui, the film’s producer and an organizer of last year’s CPAC Mexico. QAnon influencer Mel K told her followers to buy tickets to the movie, as did MAGA troll Liz Crokin and right-wing media host Lori Mills. BlazeTV’s Steve Deace, who recently claimed LGBTQ people will start “euthanizing” kids, called it the “best movie I’ve seen all year.”

Caviezel’s appearances are often incoherent and disjointed, making his fantastical assertions even more difficult to follow for anyone outside the deepest recesses of right-wing conspiracism. Though his rambling interviews wildly oscillate between surrealist free association and grandiose pomposity, he has maintained support from multiple conservative media outlets, appearing repeatedly on the podcast of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon as well as Fox News competitor One America News. He also promoted the movie on a show hosted by Scott McKay, an antisemitic, Hitler-praising conspiracy theorist who was recently scheduled to speak at an event with Eric Trump. McKay, who also endorses QAnon, was dropped from the billing following reporting by Media Matters.

On the May 18 episode of Bannon’s War Room, Caviezel openly embraced the QAnon conspiracy theory, which he has repeatedly supported in recent years. QAnon has changed and evolved over the course of several years, but at its core holds that a secret network of liberal elites inside and outside of government are involved in a worldwide pedophile ring. That false theory is the foundation of Caviezel’s new film, which is based on the life of anti-trafficking activist Tim Ballard.

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Citation From the May 18, 2023, edition of Real America's Voice's War Room

“I’m certainly not antisemitic,” Caviezel said, before repeating a common antisemitic trope. “The studios wouldn’t hire me, but see they’re all controlled by the central banks.”

“Do you really think Biden is the president of the United States? Do you really think he’s running our country?” Caviezel continued. “Please. Who [is] above him? Who are the puppeteers?”

He then referenced QAnon, saying it “means to question,” and that is “a good thing.” He implored Bannon’s audience to “research it and see if it’s true,” a frequently repeated refrain in QAnon communities and among other conspiracy theorists. He also claimed there was a “big storm coming,” another QAnon mantra.

Caviezel praised Ballard during the interview, and understanding his real-world work is key in explaining how anti-trafficking falsehoods laid the ground for QAnon’s spread. Ballard’s organization, Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), purports to rescue trafficked children and follows investigative leads where others — including the U.S. government — won’t. Ballard claims to have served as an undercover agent at the Department of Homeland Security and CIA, though he wouldn’t give permission to the U.S. government to discuss his employment with a reporter at The Atlantic

Along the way, Ballard has helped to manufacture anti-trafficking panic, and then leveraged that panic to gain fame — or notoriety — for himself, and substantial resources for his organization. Ballard served on former President Donald Trump’s anti-trafficking advisory board, and OUR brought in over $22 million in 2019, and an eye-popping $47.5 million in 2020.  

Ballard and OUR have a history of tiptoeing around QAnon, leaving the door open just enough to provide the conspiracy with oxygen without fully embracing it. Ballard legitimized a Q-driven theory that furniture distributor Wayfair was smuggling children in its products, refusing to confirm or deny the broader conspiracy theory at the time. OUR wasn’t among the signatories of an open letter from anti-trafficking organizations disavowing QAnon, although an OUR spokesperson later wrote in a statement to The Atlantic: “O.U.R. does not condone conspiracy theories and is not affiliated with any conspiracy theory groups, like QAnon, in any way, shape, or form.” (Even the film's distributor, Angel Studios, tweeted that “Caveizel’s personal statements are his own” in response to an accusation he had endorsed QAnon.)   

Now, with the release of Sound of Freedom and Caviezel’s dadaist media performances, that attempt at distancing child trafficking conspiracy theories from QAnon reads as especially hollow. Most of Caviezel’s wild and incorrect assertions are at least tangentially connected to QAnon, and although they sound unhinged to the uninitiated, the former Passion of the Christ star is tapping into a rich vein of deranged conspiracism that retains some degree of internal consistency for those who have gone down the rabbit hole.

On June 20, Caviezel again appeared on War Room to promote the film, and offered two distinct but related Q-derived conspiracies — one about the chemical adrenochrome and the other about Ukrainian biolabs.

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Citation From the June 20, 2023, edition of Real America's Voice's War Room Battleground

“What is driving the demand side of the equation?” Bannon asked. “You talked about the — it's trafficking for sex and it's organ harvesting. Is there other elements is also for labor, for slave labor, or is — ”

“Adrenochrome, the whole adrenochrome empire,” Caviezel replied. “This is a big deal. It is listed under the NIH. It is a chemical compound. It's a molecular structure as C9H9NO3. It's an elite drug that they've used for many years. It's 10 times more potent than heroin and it has some mystical qualities as far as making you look younger.”

QAnon influencers have spent years claiming that elites harvest adrenochrome from trafficked children, a claim that is baseless and incoherent. The idea that it contains mystical powers stems in part from a reference in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which the gonzo author later acknowledged was completely made up. Researchers haven’t been able to determine any medical benefit from the drug, which remains unapproved by the Food and Drug Administration, and it certainly isn’t 10 times stronger than heroin. The adrenochrome conspiracy theory also serves as an updated version of the antisemitic “blood libel” myth.  

During the same appearance, Caviezel also falsely asserted that biolabs in Ukraine were implicated in the so-called “adrenochrome empire.” This conspiracy derives from a deliberate misreading of comments made by State Department official Victoria Nuland that was spread by a QAnon influencer and others in right-wing media.

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Citation From the June 20, 2023, edition of Real America's Voice's War Room Battleground

“Here's the deal: For a barrel of oil, $77,” Caviezel said. “For a barrel of body parts — and what's going to be adrenochrome, all the plumes that are in the woman's mother's wombs, that goes from a plastic barrel — that's $77,000 that gets sent into these biolabs.”

“A barrel of oil is $77,” Bannon interrupted.

“Seventy-seven dollars,” Caviezel responded. “Seventy-seven-thousand dollars for a barrel of body parts of children, blood. All of that goes to these biolabs. And then now go to Victoria Nuland’s testimony.”

“The biolabs — you're talking about the biolabs in Ukraine?” Bannon asked.

“Correct, and wherever else those places are,” Caviezel replied.

Caviezel advanced additional conspiracy theories during a June 19 appearance on Rumble’s Q-adjacent Elijah Streams.

Responding to a question from guest host Jeff Tharp about adrenochrome extraction, Caviezel claimed that Ballard “never showed me that,” but that “he’s the one that opened the book with me on organ harvesting.”  

“There's no way that I can even tell you this publicly what it really looks like,” Caviezel added. “You have to do your own research on it. But I'll tell you this much, it's coming, and I'm telling you it's coming. And they know it's coming and the world is going to have a rude awakening and this will be worse than anything than anybody's ever seen.”

“But what's worse specifically?” Tharp asked. “Are you talking about something on par or greater than kind of the Nuremberg trials?”

“It's greater than all of that because it's killing every child, every baby from every religion, every color, from all of the countries in the world,” Caviezel replied. “Our children, the most innocent.”

As The Atlantic reports, the myth of “organ harvesting” exists in both anti-trafficking and QAnon circles, and there is no public evidence to support Caviezel’s unsubstantiated claims, as he himself admits.

Elsewhere in the show, Caviezel engaged in an extended rant against immigrants and trans people before claiming a government whistleblower informed Congress “85,000 children have just disappeared this last year — 85,000. Where did they go?”

The claim appears to be a distortion derived from several sources. In February, the New York Times published a long investigation of how U.S. companies exploit migrant children. That report contained a datapoint “​​that over the last two years,” the Department of Health and Human Services “could not reach more than 85,000 children.” In April, a purported HHS volunteer who’d previously acted as a source for right-wing propaganda outlet Project Veritas testified before Congress, and included that number in written remarks. By that point, right-wing commentators had mutated the Times’ reporting into a false confirmation that the Biden administration had at best lost those children, or at worst been complicit in their supposed trafficking.  

As The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent clarified:

Here’s the deal: HHS does a follow-up call to sponsors to check on kids, and in the past two years, 85,000 such calls went unanswered. But an HHS spokesperson says sponsors and kids are not required to answer checkup calls; we only know sponsors didn’t pick up the phone, nothing more. (Hundreds of thousands of minors have crossed the border, and HHS says 81 percent of follow-ups are answered, so unanswered calls are not representative of the situation.)

This mini-episode shows how conservative media can distort a real fact that may point to a real issue into an evil, deliberate act by their political opponents ripped free from any and all context.

The purported conspiracy doesn’t stop with HHS. Caviezel at least three times claimed that the “three-letter agencies” don’t want the film to be widely distributed and viewed, implicating the CIA, FBI, DEA, DHS, and others in the supposed cover-up.

“The agents that I work with that introduced me to adrenochroming and all of the, showing me the information on the NIH, that it is a chemical compound, that it is a molecular structure of C9H9NO3, and how they do it and how the organ harvest,” Caviezel said on One America News on June 14. “And so, these guys are real warriors and these are guys that want to come forward and tell you the truth. And so when the movement starts, you’re going to start having a lot of pressure on these three-letter agencies of guys that really want to come forward.”

In another of those interviews, Caviezel also explicitly linked how the movie furthers the anti-immigrant narrative that the U.S. Southern border is open and that the country is suffering because of migration levels.

“But look, we’re not a country right now,” Caviezel said during a promotional livestream. “In order to have a country, you have to have boundaries, you have to have borders, and our south border is wide open. And they’re trafficking children and doing far worse things that you can’t even imagine. And so this light they don’t want on — the three-letter agencies don’t want on it.”

The history of the U.S. security state is long and ignominious, and it would be a mistake to defend these agencies simply because Caviezel attacks them. His baseless assertions, though, don’t level any coherent charges against these institutions. First and foremost, the pedophile rings upon which his arguments rest do not exist. These agencies cannot be complicit in a nonexistent conspiracy, no matter their rightly criticized histories.

The FBI has engaged in lurid tactics, including seduction and promises of sex, to target left-wing groups and Muslims. The CIA did in fact operate a worldwide kidnapping, torture, and detention program; it was called the War on Terror and targeted almost exclusively Muslim men. The U.S. government continues to engage in a cover-up by way of suppressing information about this program at Guantanamo Bay. By resorting to fantasy, Caviezel is left incapable of offering a real critique of this history.

There is child exploitation in the United States, as the Times’ reporting showed, but it looks nothing like the fevered rantings of Caviezel. It emerges not from the smoky backrooms of a centralized cartel, but from an economic system that treats labor as any other commodity — interchangeable, disembodied, absent of value outside the demands of production — and seeks the most exploitable, lowest-cost source available. To talk about the exploitation of child migrants without naming capitalism is to engage in childhood daydreams of saviorism; Caviezel, and QAnon writ large, supposes that a distinct collection of uniquely evil people can be confronted and disrupted by armed law enforcement, or by vigilantes working outside the law who are willing to do what it takes. The real work of helping migrant children — decriminalizing border crossing, creating paths to citizenship for migrants of all ages, imposing meaningful penalties on the executives of blue-chip companies who knowingly rely on underground migrant labor — goes unmentioned.

Criminalization and militarization of the border makes children more susceptible to exploitation, not less. The right-wing goal, articulated most clearly by Bannon, of “the deconstruction of the administrative state,” will make all workers, including migrant children, more easily exploitable. Weakening labor’s power by lowering working ages, as Republican governors and legislatures are doing across the country, will almost certainly put migrant children at greater risk of workplace abuse.

What’s most destructive about Caviezel’s press tour for Sound of Freedom isn’t just that it advances QAnon kookery like the belief in an adrenochrome empire. It’s that it distorts an actual issue — the ways vulnerable children are mistreated by society — beyond recognition. There are no pedophile rings run by a shadowy cabal of globalist elites in league with the deep state; there are children who don’t have reliable housing or lunch money. That problem can’t be solved by a hard-charging, gun-toting operator willing to break the rules, so those children remain invisible in right-wing media.