The photo was posted in a prominent venue so the symbol did not go unnoticed for long.
Vice President Pence tweeted a picture of himself greeting SWAT team members of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Friday.
“Grateful for the courageous members of law enforcement who helped with my visit to Florida this afternoon,” Pence wrote.
But one of the officers wore a distinctive patch in red and black prominently on the front of his uniform that appeared to reference QAnon, the collection of baseless conspiracy theories that have animated the far-right fringes of the Internet during the past year.
The photograph was soon gone from Pence’s feed.
QAnon is the stuff of parody. It theorizes that there are anonymous truth-tellers who have been working on Internet message boards to spread the word about a global cabal bent on stymieing President Trump. It is not based on facts or evidence.
The patch, with the large letter Q in black surrounded by red and what appeared to be text, was flagged by Jared Holt, a reporter with Right Wing Watch. Holt quickly found it for sale online.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright told the Miami New Times that the patch was not authorized by the department.
The officer was identified by the name Sgt. M. Patten on his uniform.
Pence’s staff did not respond to a request for comment.
Attention on the conspiracy theory peaked after audience members at a rally held by Trump in Tampa were seen wearing logos connected to it in July.
Its adherents have been connected to violence, as NBC News pointed out in a thoroughly researched look into the ways that the theory has been monetized by some of its prominent proponents.
In June, a man in a self-made armored vehicle blocked a bridge spanning the Colorado river on the Arizona-Nevada border, holding out a sign with a demand connected to the conspiracy theory. He had multiple rifles and handguns and about 900 rounds of ammunition in the car, according to court documents cited in local reports. The suspect accused of setting the 18,000-acre Holy Fire outside of Los Angeles last year was found with a Facebook page that referenced QAnon, among other popular conspiracy theories. A man charged with threatening Trump and his family allegedly referenced the theory’s many terms in social media conversations before he was arrested, according to the Daily Beast.