When candidates for public office indulge in conspiracy theories like QAnon, it’s often with a wink and a nod.
But just weeks before Pennsylvania’s May 17 primary election, such ideas are being promoted in plain sight. And high-profile Republican candidates for statewide office are treating talk of a “global satanic blood cult” like regular campaigning.
Last week in Gettysburg, a far-right Christian conference called “Patriots Arise for God and Country” drew State Sen. Doug Mastriano, a GOP front-runner for Pennsylvania governor; Teddy Daniels, a candidate for lieutenant governor; Maryland gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox; Liz Harrington, a spokesperson for former President Donald Trump; and former Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis.
About 25 minutes into the two-day conference, organizers played a video claiming the world is experiencing a “great awakening” that will expose “ritual child sacrifice” and a “global satanic blood cult.”
Followers of QAnon believe a global cabal of Democrats and elites are trafficking children for sex and engaged in other demonic activity — but that all of this will soon be exposed. Images associated with the conspiracy theory were on display during the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack.
The video showed Friday featured a kind of greatest hits of conspiracy theories that have circulated for decades. It showed images of the Twin Towers collapsing on 9/11 — with the label “false flags.” It claimed John F. Kennedy was assassinated because he “knew too much” and posed a “high risk of cabal exposure,” that vaccines amount to “genocide therapy,” and that Hitler faked his death. It offered other conspiracy theories about the atomic bomb, the Spanish flu, 5G, the 2008 financial crisis — and, of course, the 2020 election.
But, the video said, it is “game over” for the darkness, and thousands will be jailed and executed. It showed images of a guillotine.
“All of the systems the darkness had in place to control us are going to crumble,” the narrator says, as the video shows a view of outer space. “The fear, the corruption, the greed, the wars and rumors of wars, the hate, the technology, media propaganda, the child trafficking and the slave economy — all of these control systems will crumble down.”
Mastriano, who has consistently led polls of the sprawling Republican primary field, raised money for his campaign at the event. The organizers auctioned a print of Trump for $4,000 — with proceeds apparently going to Mastriano.
“Painting print of President Trump done by Jeff Preston auctioned at event and sold for $4,000. All proceeds go to Mastriano campaign,” Mastriano wrote on Facebook. “Your giving means a lot!”
During a speech Saturday, Mastriano described the “persecution and oppression” he and others faced over their challenges to the 2020 election. He mentioned that he’d received a subpoena from the congressional committee investigating the Capitol attack.
“I wear that proudly because it’s a badge of honor,” he said. “That means I actually was doing my job as a citizen and as a senator of Pennsylvania here. ... God has his hand over us. And they’re not gonna get me to cower.”
He did not say whether he has complied with the subpoena, which seeks documents and testimony about his involvement in efforts to overturn Trump’s loss to Joe Biden.
The conference was organized by Francine and Allen Fodsick, self-described prophets who have long promoted QAnon.
Francine Fodsick told attendees that the video showed Friday was compiled from people she knows, “the Trump team,” the Secret Service, and her brother. “God created us to make a stand, and the people are awakening,” Fodsick said.
She acknowledged that some people call her a conspiracy theorist. “No, I’m a truth seeker, and I bring forth the truth so people can be set free,” she said.
“There’s a lot of RINOS out there,” she said, referring to “Republicans In Name Only.” She added, “Leftists, we have a lot of CHINOs out there too, which is Christians In Name Only.”
Mastriano has been interviewed by the Fodsicks multiple times for their podcast. After the Fodsicks began promoting a similar event last year and listed Mastriano as a featured speaker, the senator’s spokesman said he wouldn’t be attending.
Mastriano “strongly condemns the ‘Q anon’ conspiracy theory” and “never committed to speak at this event but sadly was used to help promote it with his picture on the invite,” the spokesperson said at the time.
But that didn’t stop Mastriano from attending this time. His campaign did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. Mastriano’s campaign has not responded to repeated inquiries over the course of the campaign.
Daniels, a veteran and Mastriano’s chosen running mate, also spoke Saturday, touching on his combat experience and recounting how a woman once scolded him for not wearing a mask inside a store.
Reached for comment Tuesday, Daniels said in an email: “At least I’m not a communist.”