SALT LAKE CITY — Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams called on his Republican challenger in the 4th Congressional District race, Burgess Owens, to condemn the baseless far-right conspiracy theory known as QAnon Wednesday after Owens brought it up in a recent radio interview.
“There is no place in this campaign or our state for anything but the strongest condemnation of this dangerous excuse to promote violence and fear,” McAdams said prior to holding a news conference to ask Owens “to once and for all condemn the baseless, dangerous conspiracy theory QAnon.”
He said QAnon “is contributing to radicalizing individuals, promoting fear and potentially inciting violence,” and has been labeled a domestic terror threat by the FBI and banned by social media platforms. “This isn’t a benign issue. It has real world consequences.”
Last week, Owens said on the “REELTalk with Audrey Russo” syndicated radio program that what he finds “interesting is that anytime you bring up child trafficking, we get from the left, a word called QAnon,” rather than interest in dealing with the issue.
“One of the things we need to recognize with the left is if they ever say the word conspiracy, let’s look into it much deeper because there’s something they’re trying to keep us away from,” Owens said.
He said in the interview he had “no idea” what QAnon was until several months ago, but offered no assessment about it.
His spokesman, Jesse Ranney, said Owens has condemned QAnon “many times. He was speaking about the tragedy that they try to tie advocacy against trafficking to a crazy conspiracy” and meant that trafficking should be examined more closely, not QAnon.
“Ben McAdams should stop wasting everyone’s time on lies. He’d be better served explaining why he consistently votes against the unborn and the values of Utah,” Ranney said. He did not respond to a request for details of when Owens has condemned QAnon himself.
McAdams said it is wrong for a congressional candidate to “flirt with these dangerous theories” and he believes Owens is “using words that legitimize it.” He said “baseless, wild conspiracy theories detract from the important work we need to get done” to stop human trafficking.
QAnon is an unorganized online conspiracy theory community that sympathizes with posts by an anonymous figure “Q,” and believes or promotes the unsubstantiated claim that there is a global child trafficking ring run by powerful people in Hollywood and politics who use children as sacrificial objects or for sadistic pedophilia.
Owens has previously appeared on obscure online programs tied to QAnon without talking about the conspiracy.
The race for the 4th Congressional District is too close to call, according to the latest Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll that showed Owens, a former NFL player, author and frequent Fox News guest, is leading McAdams, a first-term congressman, by a single percentage point.