Tony Shaffer is a retired military intelligence officer and right-wing pundit who advises the Trump campaign, visits the White House, and consults for law enforcement. In an appearance yesterday on a QAnon program, Shaffer expressed support for the conspiracy theory, claiming that it “has some really good inside information” and "there's something there.”
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.
Shaffer is an author and commentator who frequently appears in the media, including Fox News, and he has a history of pushing false information about a variety of topics. He is also the president of the London Center for Policy Research, a New York-based conservative foreign policy nonprofit that has gained influence during the Trump administration. Shaffer’s biography on the think tank’s website states: “In 2017 he became the Homeland Security Advisor to the Stafford County Sheriff’s Department in Virginia and works as its member of the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau’s expanded task force. … He is also a senior advisor to multiple organizations on terrorism, cyber operations and counterinsurgency issues and a member of the US Nuclear Strategy Forum.”
The Daily Beast reported in October 2017 that Shaffer “said that he is in near daily contact with members of the Trump administration” and “a senior White House official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, confirmed that administration officials are in regular contact with fellows from the London Center.” He was reportedly considered for a job in the Trump administration, though no position surfaced.
Shaffer appeared on the July 29 edition of The Common Sense Show, a program on the Patriots’ Soapbox network. NBC News’ Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins wrote in August 2018 that the Patriots' Soapbox 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 a July 16 article and wrote that it “has been one of the most vocal QAnon outlets since the conspiracy theory began” in 2017.
During the show, Shaffer lent credence to QAnon, stating that “it's very clear that Q has some really good inside information. There's no doubt about that.” He added: “The question becomes, 'Who is it and what are they trying to accomplish?' And I actually don't know.”
Shaffer also stated that he thinks the conspiracy theory gives “people some false hope at times,” saying that it is logistically impossible for there to be “10,000 sealed indictments” against the president’s enemies -- a staple of the conspiracy theory -- and that Q was incorrect that Jeff Sessions “was doing his job.” He wondered if someone was feeding Q “false information,” potentially as part of a counterintelligence “deception operation.”
However, he then concluded by stating of QAnon: “There's something there. I don't know what it is.”
At the conclusion of the interview, co-host Derik Vance said he hoped that Shaffer could come on the program weekly, to which he replied: “I'm all for that. And I'll try to reach out to some of the other folks in the campaign to come talk to you about some of the economics as well.”
Shaffer’s remarks about QAnon are part of a larger and growing trend of Republicans offering support for the conspiracy theory or amplifying its followers. Trump, for instance, has amplified QAnon-promoting Twitter accounts at least 185 times as of July 7, according to a Media Matters count. Additionally, at least 64 former or current Republican congressional candidates have embraced QAnon (there have also been two Democrats, one Libertarian, and two independents).
Trump campaign official Erin Perrine attempted to recruit campaign volunteers during an appearance on The Common Sense Show last year (the interview did not include a discussion about QAnon). Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, who is friends with Shaffer, has expressed support for QAnon. Right-wing commentator Stacey Dash, who co-chairs the campaign’s Women for Trump advisory board, has also backed the conspiracy theory.
From Shaffer’s interview:
TONY SHAFFER: So look, the Q phenomena, it's very clear that Q has some really good inside information. There's no doubt about that. The question becomes, “Who is it and what are they trying to accomplish?” And I actually don't know.
I am not Q. They say -- for the record, I've said this before. You know, I am not Q. I don't know who Q is. I find it, like many of you, to be a very curious phenomenon. And I don't know what to make of it. I think it has given people some false hope at times. One of the things that I got confronted on at this one conference in Dallas was, “Are there 10,000 sealed indictments?” It's like, no. Do you understand the scope of legal manning and jail capacity to envision [10,000] -- and people got really upset with me. It's like, “Look, I'm sorry, I hate to burst your bubble, but there's not 10,000 sealed indictments. It's not there.” Are there investigations? No doubt there are. So you need to separate this. And I think this is where the Q folks tend to really go overboard with projecting rather than kind of understanding there's a reality here. And so, and I hate to burst people's bubble like that because they were really upset with me -- “Oh, I can't believe you said” -- it's like, "I'm just trying to tell you the truth." So will there be indictments based on what Q says? I have no idea.
My contacts generally follow the attorney general, [William] Barr. And I can tell you that I think that we're close to indictments. I think there will be indictments. I don't think you can allow for something, the scope of the Russian collusion narrative hoax to go unanswered as a illegal activity. But I don't think there's 10,000 indictments. And I think that and I think Q gave far too much credit or belief that [former Attorney General] Jeff Sessions was going to do something. And I'm not a fan. I'm not a fan of Jeff Sessions, Sen. Sessions. I have some opinions about that. We can talk about him at some other time. But I think Q kept saying he was doing his job. I don't think he was doing his job. So that to me then indicates that Q’s information, whoever is Q, was either being fed false information or didn't know. So I don't know. But there's something there. I don't know what it is.
“PATRIOTSKI” (CO-HOST): Well, there's a place for disinformation on regardless of which side you're on, so.
SHAFFER: Right, I think it's -- always consider the source. I mean, as an intelligence officer, always considered the source. I -- one of -- let me tell you a little masterstroke of counterintelligence operations. I ran double agent -- what we call “double agent operations.” For your audience to understand -- and by the way, I've been, you know, I'm a speaker for the Spy Museum. This is nothing new. By the way, if you're in D.C., I highly recommend you all visit the Spy Museum. It’s reopened now, the new location's amazing. But one of the most critical aspects of a double agent operation, of a deception operation, is to feed information. Nine times out of 10, the information that's fed to that op is real. It is that 10th time when you want to deceive someone, that's where the deception comes in. And so double agents were successful by the fact that most of the time they were actually reporting information which was true. It's that one time that you want your adversary to believe something not true is the key, because that record of nine true sets up that 10th false one to appear to be true. Just saying.
DERIK VANCE (CO-HOST): Great information there, lieutenant colonel, and again, thank you for staying a little longer than I wanted you. But, yes, we will definitely, we'll keep in contact and yeah, maybe we can maybe set this up, maybe a weekly thing if your schedule works out.
SHAFFER: I'm all for that. And I'll try to reach out to some of the other folks in the campaign to come talk to you about some of the economics as well.
Update (7/31/20): Shaffer responded to this article by tweeting about it repeatedly. Shaffer, who had offered support for the QAnon conspiracy theory, claimed: “LOL - a @mmfa moron is trigger! I did not say I support ‘Q’ - I said there appears to be something there at times and specifically said that I have spoken publicly several times knocking down ‘Q’ claims.”
He also tweeted numerous insults at me, including stating that I’m “a propagandists moron”; claiming “that tin-foil hat you wear is cutting off blood to your lil noggin”; and asking if I wear a “brown shirt and jackboots or @JoeBiden Klan hood.”