The House Democrats’ campaign arm is running new ads linking some vulnerable Republicans to QAnon.

The Internet-born conspiracy theory is now a real-world movement, labeled a domestic terrorism threat by the FBI. QAnon supporters were among the right-wing extremists organizing online and discussing violence before the Jan. 6 rally that turned into a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. Some followers, including a Phoenix man who dressed as a shaman and toted a “Q sent me” sign during the rally, have been arrested.

The QAnon ideology revolves around former president Donald Trump and the surreal notion that he led a secret struggle against Democrats, “deep state” agents, Hollywood celebrities and global elites who were all really Satanists trafficking children and drinking their blood in a bid for immortality. Adherents closely followed and debated updates from an online poster (or posters) known as “Q,” until Trump lost his reelection bid and Q’s intricate mosaic of fantasies and predictions was shattered.

Anyway.

The new ads from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) portray scenes from the Jan. 6 riot as a narrator says, “Trump and Republicans in Congress sided with the violent QAnon mob.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a conspiracy theorist who has promoted QAnon and called for the deaths of Democrats, shows up in the ad. So does Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who dabbled in QAnon but then distanced herself. Both are fair game for the DCCC ads.

Then the ads pivot to much less extreme Republicans from swing districts, all painted with the same QAnon brush.

“QAnon, a conspiracy theory born online, took over the Republican Party, sent followers to Congress, and with Donald Trump, incited a mob that attacked the Capitol and murdered a cop,” the narrator says in all the DCCC ads. “Then Trump and Republicans in Congress sided with the violent QAnon mob.”

All of the Republicans in the DCCC ads voted against Trump’s second impeachment, for inciting insurrection at the Capitol. However, some of them criticized Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6 or called for a censure. Some of them voted to condemn QAnon in a nonbinding resolution from October.

Others voted against certifying the electoral college votes from Arizona or Pennsylvania, which President Biden won despite false claims to the contrary promoted by Trump, QAnon and others.

“It’s patently false to say any member targeted in the DCCC’s ads supports QAnon and shows how desperate House Democrats already are,” said Michael McAdams, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. He added that in 2020, “Republicans won 28 out of the 29 most competitive races and zero House Republican incumbents lost.”

Cole Leiter, a DCCC spokesman, said: “Washington Republicans have shown they are too weak to stop QAnon from taking over their party, and these ads make clear they are too weak to stand up and hold their president accountable after he incited a QAnon mob that murdered a police officer and left five people dead.”

Because of the variety of GOP positions and statements here, we will forgo overall Pinocchio ratings for the ad. Suffice it to say, it is highly misleading to suggest that the Republicans being name-checked support QAnon, like Greene has. In several cases, the only supposed qualification for standing with QAnon is voting against Trump’s second impeachment. That’s ridiculous and certainly worthy of Pinocchios.

We will go through each ad in order, starting with the one we think is most deceptive and ending with the least.

“Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick should have stood with us, but he was a coward. He stood with Trump and the lies. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, he stood with Q, not you.”

Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent from a Pennsylvania swing district, has no known ties to QAnon. He voted for a nonbinding resolution condemning QAnon in October 2020; it notes that the extremist movement has anti-Semitic elements and “has expanded to embrace virtually every popular conspiracy theory of the last several decades, from questioning the truth about the September 11th terrorist attacks, to believing in alien landings, to denying the safety of vaccines.”

Fitzpatrick did not object to certifying Biden’s victories in Arizona or Pennsylvania. Although opposing Trump’s impeachment, Fitzpatrick called his conduct “outrageous” and introduced a censure resolution “that mirrors and is identical to the Democrat’s impeachment resolution.” (Except, of course, the part where they impeached him.)

“Congressman Don Bacon should have stood with us, but he was a coward. He stood with Trump and the lies. Congressman Don Bacon, he stood with Q, not you.”

Bacon, who retired from the Air Force as a brigadier general after more than 29 years in service, has no known ties to QAnon. He voted for the resolution condemning QAnon and did not object to certifying Biden’s victories in Arizona or Pennsylvania.

He opposed Trump’s second impeachment but said “the president was wrong to not concede and bears much responsibility for what happened on January 6.”

“Kim and Steel should have stood with us, but they were cowards. They stood with Trump and the lies. Representatives Kim and Steel, they stood with Q, not you.”

— Attack ad on Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel (both R-Calif.)

Kim and Steel have no known ties to QAnon. They did not vote either way on the objection to certifying Biden’s win in Arizona. Kim voted against the Pennsylvania objection; Steel did not take a vote. In other words, neither voted to block Biden’s victory when the objections came to the House floor.

Kim said censuring Trump would be a “better option” than impeachment. On the other hand, Steel did not criticize Trump or call for his censure. “Since he was elected in 2016, many in Congress have wanted him removed from office,” Steel said.

Kim and Steel were elected in 2020, after the House voted to condemn QAnon.

“Congresswoman Salazar should have stood with us, but she was a coward. She stood with Trump and the lies. Congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar, she stood with Q, not you.”

The only vote in the DCCC’s attack ad against Salazar is the one against impeaching Trump on Jan. 13. She took office after the votes on certifying Biden’s win and condemning QAnon. She has no known ties to QAnon.

“Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy should have stood with us, but he was a coward. He voted to protect Trump. Leader Kevin McCarthy, he stood with Q, not you.”

McCarthy voted in support of both the Arizona and Pennsylvania objections, which would have denied Biden legitimately earned electoral votes based on thoroughly discredited claims from Trump and QAnon adherents, among others.

However, he voted to condemn QAnon in the nonbinding resolution from 2020. McCarthy called for censuring Trump rather than impeachment. At first, he said Trump bore some responsibility for the Jan. 6 attack. Then he said Trump did not “provoke” the attack, though he was slow to respond. Then, he said “all Americans” bore some responsibility for the attack.

McCarthy condemned various inflammatory statements from Greene this week, but stopped short of proposing any penalties.

“Congressman Mike Garcia should have stood with us, but he was a coward. He voted to protect Trump. Congressman Mike Garcia, he stood with Q, not you.”

Garcia, a former Navy officer, has no known ties to QAnon. He supported both objections on the House floor, which means he would have blocked Biden’s electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania. Those objections were premised on thoroughly debunked claims of voter fraud and election-law violations, which were propagated by Trump and his allies, including QAnon followers, in a desperate bid to overturn Biden’s election.

Garcia, however, voted to condemn QAnon in October 2020.

“Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne should have stood with us, but she was a coward. She voted to protect Trump. Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne, she stood with Q, not you.”

Van Duyne, who was elected in 2020, was not around for the vote to condemn QAnon. She objected to certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral votes for Biden (based on specious claims promoted by Trump, QAnon and others) but did not object to Arizona’s votes.

She said: “Impeaching a sitting president is supposed to be a serious and deliberative process. The last impeachment, based on lies and done for purely political purposes, was neither and this week’s effort is even less so.”

Neither of Trump’s two impeachments was based on lies. The evidence of Trump riling up his supporters for months with false claims of a “stolen election,” including in remarks the morning of Jan. 6, is a matter of public record laid out in photos, videos, tweets, indictments and multiple news accounts. However, Van Duyne has no known ties to the QAnon movement.

(Update, Feb. 5): After this fact check was published (and after the DCCC ads began to run), the House voted 230 to 199 to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) from her committee assignments. Fitzpatrick, Kim and Salazar were among 11 Republicans who voted with all Democrats to remove her. The others mentioned in this fact check voted against her removal.

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