Man tied to QAnon conspiracy announces bid for Congress

Washington (AFP) –


A website administrator that many consider to be behind the QAnon conspiracy movement that fired up supporters of Donald Trump has announced he will run for a Republican seat in Congress.

Ron Watkins announced in a video posted on Telegram Thursday that he would contest a House of Representatives seat in Arizona that is currently held by a Democrat, in the election next year.

Echoing Trump's unsupported complaints about the 2020 presidential election, Watkins said voter fraud was a key issue.

"President Trump had his election stolen, not just in Arizona but in other states, too," he said.

"We must now take this fight to Washington DC to vote out all the dirty Democrats who have stolen our republic."

Watkins and his father Jim Watkins ran the 8chan and successor 8kun message boards that became a hub for conspiracy theories.

In 2017 they began publishing anonymous, cryptic postings by "Q" claiming bizarre child exploitation and deep state plots.

Over the next three years that snowballed into the QAnon movement boasting hundreds of thousands of followers in the United States and thousands more in other countries.

At the core of their myriad conspiracy theories was their belief that there was a secret cabal in Washington trying to undermine Trump.

Followers of the movement were convinced they were receiving top-level intelligence and encouragement to take action from inside Trump's circle.

Amid a number of violent incidents and rising threats, the FBI said last year that it was keeping an eye on QAnon as one of several potentially dangerous right-wing fringe groups.

But no one knew who Q was. Many suspected it was the operators of 8chan themselves, the Watkins.

The original founder of 8chan, Frederick Brennan, who turned the site over to them in 2016, and Travis View, a leading investigator of QAnon, both suspected the two Watkins.

Q stopped posting in December after Trump lost the election, and around the time Ron Watkins became active in Trump's campaign to show that voter fraud cost him the election -- a claim never backed by evidence.

While the QAnon movement has lost steam, two Republicans who had endorsed it won seats in Congress, and adherents of the movement took part in the violent attack on Congress on January 6.

Media Matters, which has studied the group's political influence, said in August that at least 45 people who have supported or endorsed QAnon are running for Congress in the 2022 election.