NRA’s endorsement of high-profile QAnon candidates is not its first brush with the conspiracy theory
The National Rifle Association’s endorsement of two high-profile congressional candidates who support QAnon is not the pro-gun group’s first experience with this dangerous conspiracy theory. Five board members of the group have promoted QAnon or QAnon-related accounts on social media, and its political action committee has also endorsed four state legislative candidates who have expressed support for the conspiracy theory.
NRA endorsed two QAnon congressional candidates
On September 3, the NRA’s political action committee, Political Victory Fund, announced it had released its candidate grades and endorsements for the 2020 election cycle.
In Georgia’s 14th Congressional District race, the NRA endorsed Republican nominee Marjorie Taylor Greene and rated her “AQ,” which according to its grading system means “a pro-gun candidate whose rating is based solely on the candidate's responses to the NRA-PVF Candidate Questionnaire and who does not have a voting record on Second Amendment issues.” In Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District race, the group endorsed Lauren Boebert and rated her “A,” which means a “solidly pro-gun candidate” who has either “supported NRA positions on key votes in elective office” or has “a demonstrated record of support on Second Amendment issues.”
Both candidates have expressed support for the wide-ranging QAnon conspiracy theory, which has been linked to multiple violent incidents and which the FBI has flagged as a potential “domestic terror threat.” (QAnon supporters believe that President Donald Trump is waging a war “against elite Satan-worshipping” pedophiles in government and Hollywood. )
In addition to supporting QAnon, Greene is also a 9/11 conspiracy theorist who suggested there is no evidence a plane actually crashed into the Pentagon during the terrorist attacks. Greene previously accused the Obama administration of enlisting MS-13 gang members to assassinate Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, echoing a post from the QAnon world. In February 2020, she visited the U.S. Capitol and filmed herself trying to get Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who are Muslim, to retake their oaths of office on the Bible. In 2015, Greene also shared a virulently anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic video that has been cheered by white supremacists and that originated on the now-defunct far-right message board 8chan. In a 2018 speech, she praised militia members, calling them the “very definition” of the Second Amendment.
Boebert, who owns a gun-themed restaurant that has been defying Colorado’s COVID-19 restrictions, has praised the QAnon conspiracy theory and flaunted the endorsement of former Colorado representative Tom Tancredo, a white nationalist and coronavirus conspiracy theorist. Boebert also participated in a pro-gun rally with members of the Three Percenters, a far-right militia movement that has “long been active around the fringes of the white supremacist ecosystem” and has been connected to acts of violence over the years.
The NRA has long been a fan of QAnon-supporting congressional candidate Lauren Boebert
Long before Boebert announced her run for Congress, NRA News (an older version of the now-defunct NRATV) ran a segment on her gun-themed restaurant and put a focus on waitresses carrying firearms as they served food. Then-investigative reporter for NRA News Ginny Simone interviewed customers about their own shooting habits, asked what they thought politicians in Washington, D.C., “get about a place like this,” and questioned how they felt about other stores banning people from carrying guns on their premises. In September 2019, Boebert confronted then-Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke about his gun safety proposals during a Colorado town hall. The NRA promoted the video of the interaction on Facebook, and its lobbying arm, Institute for Legislative Action, interviewed Boebert on September 27, 2019, as part of its “member spotlight” series.
On January 27, NRA Women promoted a story by right-wing blog Breitbart posted about Boebert saying that “Gun rights are absolutely women’s rights.”
The NRA also endorsed four QAnon-supporting candidates in state races
Rob Chase is a Republican candidate running to represent District 4 in the Washington House of Representatives. Chase repeatedly directed his followers to QAnon posts and podcasts through his Facebook account, and in a blog post, he described QAnon as “battle that's been going on at least a few hundred years.”
The NRA endorsed Chase and gave him an“AQ” rating.
Susan Lynn is an incumbent Republican member of the Tennessee House of Representatives running for reelection in District 57. For months, the cover photo on her Facebook page was a QAnon flag. She has also repeatedly tweeted the QAnon slogan, and she has retweeted “a short video of a man taking an ‘oath of enlistment’ to be a ‘QAnon digital soldier.’”
The NRA endorsed Lynn and gave her an “A” rating.
Anthony Sabatini is an incumbent Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives running for reelection in District 32. In May, he tweeted a link to a site that collects “Q” posts (“Q” is an anonymous user and a central figure in the conspiracy theory who claims to have “Q” level U.S. security clearance and signs their online posts with “Q.”)
The NRA endorsed Sabatini and rated him “A.”
Suzanne Sharer is a Republican candidate running for District 18 of the Arizona State Senate. She has tweeted the QAnon hashtag and the QAnon slogan and on Facebook, she posted a QAnon video, asking, “Have you heard of Q?”
The NRA endorsed Sharer and rated her “AQ.”
NRA board member Ted Nugent previously shared “Q” content on his Facebook page
On January 1, NRA board member and habitual conspiracy theorist Ted Nugent shared a QAnon YouTube video titled “Q - The Plan To Save the World.” In a follow-up comment, Nugent appeared to denounce the overall message of the video, calling it “slick” with “excellent pictures and media clips … all taken out of context” to support the conspiracy theory, but on March 21, he shared the same “Plan To Save the World” video on his Facebook page and did not include any clarifying follow-up comment. He has been an NRA board member since 1995 and received the second highest number of votes when he was reelected in 2019 to a three-year term.
Several other longtime NRA board members have had brushes with QAnon
Peter “Jay” Printz is a former Montana sheriff who served as the lead plaintiff in the NRA-backed 1997 lawsuit Printz v. United States. He was elected to the NRA board of directors a year later in 1998 and has served on it ever since. He was reelected for a three-year term in 2020 and received the highest number of votes.
On July 18, Printz shared a YouTube video called “Covid911 - INSURGENCY” to his Facebook account. The video is from Joe M, one of the biggest QAnon accounts across multiple platforms.
Leroy Sisco is a former lieutenant general who served in the U.S. army for 42 years. He has been on the NRA board for 11 years and was most recently reelected for a three-year term in 2020 after receiving the sixth highest number of votes.
Sisco has shared four YouTube videos to his Facebook account from QAnon-affiliated channels. On May 15, he shared a video titled “This video will get Donald Trump elected” from a YouTube channel with the description “QAnon 8chan post updates and analysis.” Sisco wrote in his post, “You have to watch this.”
On May 10, Sisco shared a second YouTube video from the channel “NoLongeraTheory,” whose description includes common QAnon phrases such as “mass awakening” and the QAnon slogan “where we go 1 we go all.” On March 31, 2020, he shared a video from The Orwellian Chronicle, which in the video’s description states, “It’s time to wake up. Q.” The fourth video Sisco shared, on March 25, is about an alleged Democratic COVID-19 “scam” and from a YouTube channel that includes the QAnon slogan on its “about” page.
Robert Mansell is the former chairman of the Arizona Game and Fish Department Commission, and he was reelected to the board for a three-year term in 2020.
On February 29, Mansell shared on his personal Facebook account the Orwellian Chronicle video with the description “It’s time to wake up. Q.”
Willes Lee is a retired army officer, national director of the Hawaii Republican Assembly, vice president of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies Pacific Region, a former chairperson of the Hawaii Republican Party, and a board member of the American Conservative Union Foundation. Lee was first elected to the NRA board of directors in 2017, and was reelected for a three-year term in 2019.
On September 3, Lee retweeted the “Eyes on Q” account -- which has over 271,000 followers -- after it shared a story about the Seattle police chief stepping down. On September 5, Lee shared a Media Matters article about the NRA’s endorsement of QAnon candidates to his personal Facebook account and wrote that “Q” was “relatively behind the scene until Dem leaders & #enemyofthepeople media pushed back HARD against stories of all these liberal pedophiles & the national anti trafficking efforts.”