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GOP congressman Adam Kinzinger urges Republican leaders to denounce QAnon

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) says "it's important for leaders to come out and push back on" the QAnon conspiracy theory. He also offers advice for talking with friends and family that have been fooled by QAnon: "You're never going to offend somebody away from something they believe. In fact, it emboldens them." It is much effective to "engage through love and understanding."

Posted: Aug 17, 2020 8:10 PM
Updated: Aug 17, 2020 8:10 PM

Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger has a message about the QAnon conspiracy theory: It is a fabrication that must be denounced by political leaders in his own party.

Kinzinger, who represents the 16th district of Illinois, is pairing that message with one that's equally important: "If you know someone who buys into these theories, don't hate them." Instead, he said, have respectful conversations that are rooted in reality.

The congressman released a YouTube video about QAnon on Sunday and elaborated on his views during Sunday's "Reliable Sources" telecast.

"You're never going to offend somebody onto your side," he said. "You're never going to offend somebody away from something they believe. In fact, it emboldens them. So, I think it's understanding that they're still human."

Kinzinger urged people who "believe in this conspiracy theory stuff" to "do some independent research."

QAnon is a virtual cult that celebrates President Trump and casts Democratic politicians and other elites as evil child abusers. Specific claims relating to QAnon have been debunked many times and many specific predictions "didn't come true."

"Now," Kinzinger said, "the new Q stuff reads like a tarot card reader who gives you something so vague that it will absolutely fit into something that happens in the next months."

That's all part of the con, according to experts who study the online information space.

In media and tech circles there is growing concern about the appeal of QAnon, aspects which are downright delusional. Yet it is cropping up in congressional races and national news coverage.

Last week NBC reported that Facebook contains thousands of QAnon-aligned groups with "millions of members and followers." The social media firm is weighing taking action against its QAnon community.

Some Trump aides have flirted with the conspiracy theory and the president himself has retweeted accounts with QAnon language. When asked about the cult on Friday, Trump refrained from disavowing it.

Kinzinger is virtually alone, among Republican elected leaders, in doing so.

He initially spoke out after Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has a history of embracing the theories, won a GOP congressional primary runoff in Georgia on Tuesday.

Following Greene's victory, Kinzinger tweeted that QAnon "could be Russian propaganda or a basement dweller. Regardless, no place in Congress for these conspiracies."

"I think up to maybe about a week ago, there wasn't a reason to denounce it because it didn't need the attention," he said on "Reliable Sources." "But now that it's made mainstream — we have a candidate that embraces it that won a primary."

Kinzinger noted that he supported Greene's opponent in the primary. Because the Georgia district is heavily Republican, Greene is expected to win her general election race.

Kinzinger, who has a history of criticizing Trump when other GOP lawmakers remain silent, said on Sunday that "the president hasn't fully denounced it or denounced it at all. Now, it's time for leaders to come out and denounce it."

He observed that, "Democrats and Republicans have to denounce extremism in their own party because that's where it's effective," adding, "It's not going to be effective from the other side denouncing it. Again, it just emboldens them."

In a YouTube video that was shared by the congressman's account on Sunday, Kinzinger walked through the creation of QAnon and explained how its ideas have been debunked in the past. He spoke respectfully about people that embrace, or get fooled by, conspiracy theories, even ones like QAnon that depict fellow Americans as satanists and pedophiles.

"I remember being astounded at the evidence that the moon landing was faked — for a whole day," he said in the video. "There's nothing wrong with people who believe them. They're not crazy. They're not bad intentioned."

On "Reliable Sources," he said people often embrace such theories "out of an interest of, if only the truth is known, life would be better for me and other people. So, everybody thinks they're the good guy. Everybody wants to do right."

Kinzinger also reacted to a tweet from Trump campaign official Matt Wolking, who called him out for denouncing QAnon and not "conspiracy theories pushed by Democrats." He called the whataboutism by Wolking "pretty surprising."

Kinzinger said he thought the decision to go after him on Twitter was made by Wolking and not the Trump campaign as a whole.

"It was a decision by that staffer. The campaign has to, you know, deal with that and I'm sure they are. It was probably not a really good political move on that staffer's part," Kinzinger said.

- CNN's Ali Main, Austen Bundy, and Betsy Klein contributed reporting.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 1118335

Reported Deaths: 17712
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1455892240
Lake724831254
Allen67063882
Hamilton51060487
St. Joseph49820649
Elkhart40268546
Vanderburgh34714497
Tippecanoe30808276
Johnson27696467
Hendricks26313385
Porter25657386
Madison21131455
Clark20238279
Vigo19059309
LaPorte17192261
Howard16770314
Delaware16761303
Monroe16628220
Kosciusko14293167
Hancock13113186
Bartholomew12983190
Warrick12210190
Wayne12090269
Floyd12011226
Grant11998245
Morgan10409192
Boone9869124
Noble9316122
Henry9177169
Marshall9152147
Dearborn8970100
Dubois8835140
Shelby8281130
Cass8167128
Lawrence8057185
DeKalb7817109
Jackson770793
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Gibson7102118
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Harrison6954100
Knox6915116
Steuben669089
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Brown177550
Crawford169129
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Warren135816
Union122616
Ohio92413
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1717876

Reported Deaths: 26851
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1793291843
Cuyahoga1681592655
Hamilton1137721544
Montgomery805721405
Summit719531210
Lucas630291027
Butler56852814
Stark538501183
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Clermont31289369
Trumbull27344620
Delaware27206185
Licking26658344
Medina26042353
Fairfield24638287
Greene24378373
Clark22122390
Portage21257283
Richland21102342
Wood20128248
Allen18969326
Miami17338352
Columbiana16905335
Muskingum16726207
Wayne15740307
Tuscarawas14454362
Marion13332196
Ashtabula12732237
Erie12685199
Scioto12475188
Pickaway12260155
Ross11719226
Hancock11529175
Geauga10934179
Lawrence10653172
Belmont10459234
Huron9805159
Jefferson9632228
Union957375
Sandusky9348166
Seneca8917161
Knox8792176
Washington8688159
Darke8399181
Athens838197
Ashland8029152
Auglaize7943120
Shelby7511135
Defiance7358117
Crawford7281150
Fulton7215113
Brown7173116
Logan7003111
Guernsey696186
Mercer6933100
Highland6745120
Clinton6526106
Williams650099
Madison649790
Preble6274140
Putnam6244122
Jackson581597
Champaign580887
Perry566779
Coshocton5645108
Ottawa5641102
Morrow517765
Fayette494072
Hardin4895100
Gallia471478
Van Wert467895
Pike465578
Adams4592110
Henry434280
Hocking410193
Holmes3999141
Wyandot377675
Carroll366178
Paulding325451
Meigs305961
Monroe235961
Noble220349
Morgan216939
Harrison213153
Vinton187638
Unassigned06
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