Speaking to SiriusXM's Joe Madison, Angelo Carusone points to media hypocrisy regarding QAnon followers running for office

Angelo Carusone speaks to SiriusXM's Joe Madison about QAnon conspiracy theorists running for office across the country

Audio file

Citation From the December 3, 2021, edition of SiriusXM's Joe Madison The Black Eagle

JOE MADISON (HOST): Angelo, how are you?


MADISON: Oh, OK, thank you. I'm well, you know, 26th day of my hunger strike. My spirits are high.

CARUSONE: How are you feeling?

MADISON: You know, I'm handling it and I've got people like you that keep my spirits up. And the last time we talked, you were telling us that the work at Media Matters — he's head of Media Matters, Carusone is – there were 19 candidates who are running for public office that in essence believed or somehow supported all these conspiracy theories with these crazy QAnon folk. They are connected. That was — it doesn't seem it was that long ago we talked.

CARUSONE: It wasn't.

MADISON: How many now are out there? 

CARUSONE: So, at the congressional level, that number is now 48.

MADISON: Wait a minute, so when we talked before, it was 19.

CARUSONE: That's right.

MADISON: And there are now 48 candidates running for Congress who, in essence, are connecting themselves to Qanon? Whoa.

CARUSONE: That's correct. And I mean, look, that just goes to show you a couple of things, right? That one, this is not something that's gone away, even though Trump is out of office. And two, it says a lot about the Republican Party, right? The idea that you could have that many candidates running in your races and in some way not feel like you have to condemn it or disassociate from it, but instead you basically embrace them.

And look, it's a little bit of a black mark, I think, on the media too, right? It is a point because if the tables were turned and there was a movement within the Democratic Party that was identified as a domestic terror threat that believed that Republicans and the media were psychic vampires and demons eating blood. And, you know, the media would be calling on Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Biden to condemn them. And they call on them to condemn AOC and Congresswoman Omar. Right? And so it does demonstrate a double standard too in that I think part of the reason why it doesn't get the kind of uplift is because a lot of the news media just sort of considers this acceptable when the Republican Party does it.

MADISON: Yeah. And you know, you're — I'm with you 110 percent on this. And is it that they think it is — and again, we're speculating, the two of us here — is it that they think it is so ridiculous that it doesn't work, it's not worth the attention? I mean, QAnon, like you said, these folks talk about drinking blood and just crazy crap, crazy crap. And candidates are out here running for Congress who are believing it. And I imagine on the campaign stump, because here's what you need. How did Media Matters find out about it? This once again gives everybody an opportunity to tell the audience how you guys work. 

CARUSONE: Sure. Yes, and then what we do is a big part of the day to day is monitoring the news media and that is everything from the major papers and cable news to talk radio. But it also starts to get into places like the online and right-wing fever swamps and, you know, one of the – and so on average, we live-monitor about 60,000 hours a year, so that's somebody in real time listening to it. But we archive about a million and a half hours of audio from radio and podcasts. And one of the things that we've been tracking is individuals that are running for office that have been – that didn't just retweet a QAnon thing, but actually have gone further than that. They've either endorsed the conspiracy theories, they've promoted them, they've evangelized them. They've tried to encourage people to join the movement. They've gone on QAnon programs because there are shows around it. So when we say that there are 48 QAnon sort of people running for office, that is the individuals that would be considered adherents. So those that not just that, subscribe to the ideology and evangelize it.

And, you know, so for example, we were the ones that found Marjorie Taylor Greene talking about Jewish space lasers. One of our researchers was looking back through a whole range of media that she had participated in, and we found her comments in a – she was having a chat thread with a group of people, and that's when she promoted that Jewish space laser conspiracy theory. So that's what we do. And so ultimately, this list is actually a composite of us monitoring all of these different parts of the online media. And I think that's important because what it demonstrates to me is something significant. I always think about things from an organizing perspective, you know, how you build power, both political and cultural and civic, and what scares me about this is not just what they believe, but actually that increasingly the right-wing in the Republican Party are building power on what otherwise would have been considered, appropriately, the fringes. And that's not a good place. When you start to bring in the worst people that are have been outside of the political process, and you start to move them in and give them political power, it doesn't end well for anyone.

MADISON: Yeah. They've become mainstream quickly. All right. Angelo Carusone is with me. He is the president and CEO of Media Matters. And you just heard how they work and operate. Is there any one or two or any candidates out here running for Congress that stands out that that we should be maybe overly concerned about?

CARUSONE: I mean, look, I think that — when I take a step away from the candidates side, from the congressional side, I think the one thing that's really troubling is that of the 48 candidates — and I think when that number ends, you know, in a couple of months from now when we talk, that number will be closer, I bet into the 70s or even 80s. So I think it will, there will only be more of them running for Congress. But I always think about local politics is where, is at its core, one of the troubling trends is that while only a few of them may manage to get – win congressional races, I think a lot of the QAnon people are going to win their state races, and we're already seeing that in some school boards. There's been a lot of success. They've had a lot of success running candidates at school board levels and at county election board levels. And there's several QAnon candidates that are actually running for secretary of state. So people like Mark Finchem in Arizona, who's running for, who is actually a current member of the Arizona House of Representatives and is running for Arizona secretary of state.

I worry about that because I think that that's – we saw that play. We saw how important those roles can be in preserving our democracy, especially during these elections, and the idea that you're not just going to have, you know, even a traditional Republican in there that's maybe willing to kind of bend the rules a little bit for the party. But actually somebody like a QAnon person. I think that's just terrifying for the broader implications. So obviously, you've got Lauren Boeberts and the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, you know, they're going to re-win their races, and that's going to tell us a lot about the national temperature. But if I was going to emphasize the focus, I would say, you know, let's think about what's happening at the local level because that's actually where they're building power faster.  

MADISON: OK, got you. As we close out, if people want to read more, how can they do it? I mean, I — just give everybody whatever your web page, how they can follow up on this conversation, Angelo.

CARUSONE: Sure thing, if they go to mediamatters.org.

MADISON: Mediamatters.org

CARUSONE: That's right. And if they just scroll down or search for QAnon, but right on the home page, there's a list of what of the legislators and the congressional at the national level and local level that we've been tracking that are affiliated with QAnon. And obviously, there's a lot of other stuff there, too, but that's the easiest way to find it.

MADISON: OK. And I know you have a fundraiser going on. I took some money out of my cuss jar and sent it your way because I have such appreciation for the work that you. And we've got to support your organization with our dollars and organizations like you, because if you weren't there, you know, we wouldn't know about this, we wouldn't be able to to to report this. And so, I have – I so appreciate every time you come on and share this with you. And I would hope that the national media start focusing on these people and the danger that we end up if these crazies, these extremists, get control of school boards or state offices or our local offices. And the only way we can stop them is first, we got to know what's going on. And I appreciate Media Matters. Thank you so much, Angelo. I appreciate you coming on.

CARUSONE: Thank you. And thank you for your leadership in this hunger strike. Thank you so much.

MADISON: We  — we're going to stick to it. I mean, it's some, you know, all movements require sacrifice. Thank you.