When candidates for public office indulge in conspiracy theories like QAnon, it’s often with a wink and a nod.
But just weeks before the May 17 primary election in Pennsylvania, such ideas are being promoted in plain sight. And top Republican candidates for statewide office are treating the talk of a “global satanic blood cult” as a regular campaign.
Last week in Gettysburg, a far-right Christian conference titled “Patriots Rise Up for God and Country” drew State Sen. Doug Mastriano, a GOP favorite for Pennsylvania governor; Teddy Daniels, candidate for lieutenant governor; Maryland gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox; Liz Harrington, spokesperson for former President Donald Trump; and former Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis.
About 25 minutes into the two-day conference, organizers released a video claiming the world is experiencing a “great awakening” that will expose “ritual child sacrifice” and a “global satanic blood cult.”
QAnon followers believe a global cabal of Democrats and elites traffics children for sex and engages in other demonic activities – but that will all be revealed soon. Images associated with the conspiracy theory were exposed during the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
The video released on Friday featured some sort of greatest hits conspiracy theories that have been circulating for decades. It showed footage of the twin towers collapsing on 9/11 – with the tag ‘false flags’. It claimed that John F. Kennedy was assassinated because he “knew too much” and was at “high risk of exposure to the cabal”, that vaccines amounted to “genocidal therapy”, and that Hitler faked his dead. He offered other conspiracy theories about the atomic bomb, the Spanish flu, 5G, the 2008 financial crisis – and, of course, the 2020 election.
READ MORE: From Philadelphia to the US Capitol, conspiracy supporters have fractured families and harmed communities
But, the video says, it’s “game over” for the dark, and thousands will be imprisoned and executed. It showed images of a guillotine.
“All the systems the darkness had in place to control us are going to crumble,” the narrator says, as the video shows a view from space. “Fear, corruption, greed, wars and rumors of wars, hatred, technology, media propaganda, child trafficking and the slave economy – all of these systems of control will crumble.”
Mastriano, who has always led polls in the sprawling Republican primary field, raised funds for his campaign at the event. Organizers auctioned off a Trump copy for $4,000 – with the proceeds apparently going to Mastriano.
“A print of a painting of President Trump by Jeff Preston was auctioned at an event and sold for $4,000. All proceeds will go to the Mastriano campaign,” Mastriano wrote on Facebook. “Your donation means a lot! “
During a speech on Saturday, Mastriano described the “persecution and oppression” he and others faced during their challenges in the 2020 elections. He mentioned that he had received a subpoena from the committee of Congress investigating the attack on the Capitol.
“I wear it proudly because it’s a badge of honor,” he said. “That means I was doing my job as a citizen and as a senator from Pennsylvania here. … God has his hand on us. And they’re not going to scare me.
He did not say whether he complied with the subpoena, which seeks documents and testimony about his involvement in efforts to undo Trump’s loss to Joe Biden.
READ MORE: What to know about Doug Mastriano and why he was subpoenaed in the Jan. 6 Capitol inquest
The conference was hosted by Francine and Allen Fodsick, self-proclaimed prophets who have long promoted QAnon.
Francine Fodsick told attendees that the video released on Friday was compiled from people she knows, “the Trump team”, the Secret Service and her brother. “God made us to take a stand, and people are waking up,” Fodsick said.
She acknowledged that some people called her a conspiracy theorist. “No, I’m a truth seeker, and I bring the truth so people can be set free,” she said.
“There are a lot of RINOS out there,” she said, referring to “Republicans in name only.” She added, “Leftists, we also have a lot of CHINOs, who are Christians in name only.”
Mastriano has been interviewed by the Fodsicks on several occasions for their podcast. After the Fodsicks began promoting a similar event last year and signed Mastriano as a guest speaker, the senator’s spokesperson said he would not be attending.
Mastriano “strongly condemns the ‘Q anon’ conspiracy theory” and “never committed to speak at this event, but unfortunately was used to help promote it with his photo on the invite”, said said the spokesperson at the time.
But that didn’t stop Mastriano from being present this time. His campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. Mastriano’s campaign failed to respond to repeated requests during the campaign.
Daniels, a veteran and running mate picked by Mastriano, also spoke on Saturday, reminiscing about his combat experience and how a woman once scolded him for not wearing a mask in a store.
Reached for comment on Tuesday, Daniels said in an email, “At least I’m not a communist.”