When President Donald Trump sees an inferno, his instinct is to pour gasoline on it.
Though his performances in the White House briefing room have already stretched the country’s capacity to be shocked, the president gave an exceptionally reckless and dangerous answer to a reporter on Wednesday when asked about QAnon.
The conspiracy theory behind the QAnon movement holds that Trump is secretly working to dismantle a satanic child trafficking ring at the upper echelons of society. It is completely out of touch reality, and the FBI has cited it in a bulletin warning of dangerous conspiracy theories that pose domestic extremist threats. It warned:
The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts.
But Trump offered support for the movement on Wednesday, professing not to know much about it while unequivocally allying himself with its adherents.
“The QAnon movement appears to be gaining a lot of followers,” a reporter said. “Can you talk about what you think about that, and what you have to say to people who are following this movement right now?”
“Well, I don’t know much about the movement, other than I understand they like me very much,” he said. “Which I appreciate. But I don’t know much about the movement. I have heard that it is gaining in popularity.”
He claimed that QAnon adherents shared his concerns about protests and violence in American cities.
“I’ve heard these are people that love our country,” he said. “So I don’t know really anything about it, but they do supposedly like me. And they also would like to see problems in these areas, like especially the areas we’re talking about, go away.”
The reporter pressed on: “At the crux of this theory is the belief that you are secretly saving the world from this satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals. Does that sound like something you are behind?”
“Well, I haven’t heard that,” Trump said. “Is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing? You know, if I can help save the world from problems, I’m willing to do it — I’m willing to put my self out there. And we are, actually. We’re saving the world from a radical left philosophy that will destroy this country. And when this country is gone the rest of the world would follow.”
It’s an outrageously dangerous answer because it will undoubtedly encourage those who adhere to the conspiracy theory, possibly inspiring them to take more criminal and violent actions. The bare minimum any president should be expected to do is to tell Americans the truth — he’s not fighting a secret satanic pedophilia cult — and to thoroughly denounce any extremist violent movements. Instead, Trump is intentionally whipping up some of the most dangerous members of his base and feeding their delusions.