Sequim mayor backs QAnon on local broadcast

‘Movement encourages you to think for yourself’

SEQUIM — Mayor William Armacost supports QAnon, a conspiracy theory that has gained political traction recently and he thinks others should too.

The Sequim mayor explained his support for the controversial QAnon theory in a recent radio interview, calling it a “movement that encourages you to think for yourself.”

He was responding to a written question from a listener to a “Coffee With the Mayor” broadcast on KSQM 91.5 FM on Aug. 27.

The question was: “I would like to hear what Mayor Armacost, a QAnon enthusiast, on QAnon being labeled as a potential domestic terrorist threat, by the FBI.”

Note: The FBI did not label QAnon a domestic terrorist threat, but it did warn that fringe political conspiracy theories such as QAnon could move some domestic extremists to crime or violence.

Armacost, who was on the air with City Engineer Matt Klontz and Police Chief Sheri Crain, said, “If you remove Q from that equation, it’s patriots from all over the world fighting for humanity, truth, freedom and saving children and others from human traffic — exposing the evil and corruption of the last century in hopes of leaving a better future for our children and grandchildren.

“In specifically addressing your question,’ Armacost continued, “those who are corrupt will do everything they can to suppress the truth. Ask yourself a question: Why haven’t Antifa and Black Lives Matter been called the same?”

He urged listeners to listen to a YouTube video on the topic.

QAnon begain in 2017 and is traced back to an anonymous online persona claiming to be a government insider seeking to expose the “deep state” allegedly working against President Donald Trump.

According to media reports, QAnon claims that public figures and institutions are secretly involved with child trafficking and civil unrest, and that President Trump has a secret plan to bring this group to justice.

According to the Institute for Strategic Dialogue’s “Genesis of a Conspiracy Theory: Key Trends in QAnon Activity Since 2017,” QAnon is also tied to ideologies such as “anti-vaccine, anti-5G … antisemitic and anti-migrant tropes.”

Multiple national news outlets point out that the theories have no basis in fact.

Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush and Assistant City Manager Charisse Deschenes said city staff received one contact about the mayor’s comments.

Both deputy mayor Tom Ferrell and council member Dennis Smith, former Sequim mayor, said they hadn’t heard of QAnon nor listened to Armacost’s comments.

“I think it’s best we ignore that stuff, especially in positions in government,” Ferrell said.

Staff Sgt. Sean Madison of the Sequim Police Department said the department does not have a position on the group and that the department has not received any calls or concerns about QAnon specifically.

In Sept. 3 interview, Armacost said he has heard some criticism of his QAnon comments.

“I would remind people that I have constitutional rights that they choose to ignore,” he said. “I’ve got some strong opinions (that are) not in agreement (with) other people.

“The sad part is, it doesn’t seem to be what the item is,whenever you have an organization that is inclined to expose evil things to humanity, there’s going to be a pushback. It (QAnon) is an opportunity to … dig up the information, maybe look at a different channel.

“We know the truth is sometimes hard to find in mass (and) social media.”

Armacost, a local salon owner, said he “has the ear to the public” and that he will “speak on the side of the citizen.”

He added, “We need more transparency and accountability in all levels of government. I hope that we have an engaged community.”

FBI, other agencies

In May 2019, Yahoo News obtained and reported on an FBI document distributed to field agents in Phoenix, Ariz., regarding the risks posed by people who believe in theories including QAnon, noting that “fringe political conspiracy theories very likely motivate some domestic extremists to commit criminal, sometimes violent activity.”

The document lists several instances of criminal activity by believers in such theories, NBC News and PolitiFact report.

On Friday, the FBI National Press Office said in answer to an inquiry that, “the FBI does not and cannot designate domestic terrorist groups. The FBI can never initiate an investigation based solely on an individual’s race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or the exercise of First Amendment rights.”

The FBI National Press Office added: “When it comes to domestic terrorism, our investigations focus solely on the criminal activity of individuals — regardless of group membership — that appears to be intended to intimidate or coerce the civilian population or influence the policy of the government by intimidation or coercion.

“It’s important to note that membership in groups which espouse domestic extremist ideology is not illegal in and of itself— no matter how offensive their views might be to the majority of society. Membership in a group is not a sufficient basis for an investigation.”

West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, an academic institute within the United States Military Academy, cited a number of examples of violence related to QAnon in a July report titled “The QAnon Conspiracy Theory: A Security Threat in the Making?”

“QAnon has contributed to the radicalization of several people to notable criminal acts or acts of violence,” the report states.

Chad Wolf, Department of Homeland Security’s acting secretary, told CNN on Aug. 23 that QAnon is not a “significant” threat to the U.S., but he condemned the conspiracy theory when pressed on his stance.

Armacost said in a Sept. 3 interview that rather than a threat, QAnon is a movement of “people around the world focused on fighting for truth and freedom and, most importantly, how we can shine the light on evils of humanity.”

He said that “it’s matter of time” that movements such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter are labeled a terrorist threat, pointing out the protests in Seattle that resulted in vandalism of stores and deaths in the “CHOP” protest zone..

“That is the rule of mob, not the rule of law,” he said.

Politicians linked to QAnon

Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican nominee for Georgia’s 14th congressional district in the 2020 general election, came to prominence for her support of QAnon in videos; Politico uncovered hours of Facebook videos in which she reportedly expresses racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views.

Among other political candidates tied to the QAnon theory are Jo Rae Perkins, Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat in Oregon; Lauren Boebert, Republican nominee in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District; Mike Cargile, Republican candidate in California’s 35th Congressional District, and Theresa Raborn, Republican candidate for Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District.

According to The Washington Post, at least 11 candidates seeking seats in the U.S. House of Representatives in the November election had expressed belief in or support for QAnon.

According to an internal Facebook audit obtained by the NBC News, QAnon groups on the social-media platform have millions of members.

“The top 10 groups identified in the investigation collectively contain more than 1 million members, with totals from more top groups and pages pushing the number of members and followers past 3 million,” NBC News reported, adding that it’s not clear “how much overlap there is among the groups.”

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Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

Peninsula Daily News Executive Editor Leah Leach contributed to this story.

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