Vice President Mike Pence on Friday dismissed the fringe QAnon conspiracy theory, whose followers President Donald Trump embraced and praised earlier this week.
Appearing on CNN’s “New Day” Friday, Pence told CNN’s John Berman that he doesn’t “know anything” about the conspiracy group that’s been deemed a potential domestic terrorist threat or about the people involved.
“Honestly, John, I don’t know anything about that. I have heard about it. We dismiss conspiracy theories around here out of hand,” the vice president said.
Pressed again later, Pence said, “I called it a conspiracy theory, I said I don’t have time for it, I don’t know anything about it.”
He accused the media of chasing after “shiny objects,” overlooking the serious threat QAnon poses and diminishing the scope of its danger.
The FBI has labeled QAnon a domestic terror threat.
Pence and other Republicans have increasingly been facing questions about the conspiracy theory as candidates who embrace it have won party nominations. While some Republicans spoke out against candidates like Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia, after her primary victory many, like Rep. Liz Cheney, didn’t comment. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office, though, said Greene would be welcomed into the caucus. McCarthy also told Fox News on Thursday that “There is no place for QAnon in the Republican Party” and said Greene had disavowed the conspiracy theory. Greene told Fox News last week following her primary win that while she once read and discussed QAnon topics, she decided to “choose another path” after encountering “misinformation.”
Few sitting Republicans have been as outspoken as Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who said the conspiracy has no place in Congress. And Trump, who throughout his political career has embraced a variety of conspiracy theories, congratulated Greene.
During a White House briefing on Wednesday, facing broader questions about the conspiracy theory, Trump praised QAnon followers for supporting him while shrugging off its outlandish conspiracies.
“I’ve heard these are people that love our country,” Trump said, adding, “So I don’t know, really, anything about it other than they do, supposedly, like me.”
QAnon’s prevailing conspiracy theories – none based in fact – claim that dozens of Satan-worshipping politicians and A-list celebrities work in tandem with governments around the globe to engage in child sex abuse. The group also peddles in conspiracies about coronavirus and mass shootings – none grounded in reality. Followers also believe there is a “deep state” effort to annihilate Trump.
The theory, which started on the internet, has led to real cases of violence including an armed standoff with authorities at the Hoover Dam.
A precursor conspiracy theory known as Pizzagate propagated following the 2016 election. A North Carolina man believed so much in the completely unfounded idea that he sought to free children from a sex trafficking ring, both non-existent, he believed was operating out of a DC pizza place. Still, he stormed the place with a gun and fired several shots.
Asked on Friday if he believed QAnon subscribers love America, Pence told CNN again, “I don’t know anything about that conspiracy theory.”
Pence also pushed back on whether the President’s comments were an embrace of the group.
“I heard the President talk about he appreciates those who support him,” he said.
This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s correct title.
CNN’s Betsy Klein and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.