Washington Residents Fear Mayor Has Embraced QAnon Conspiracy Theory

Residents of the small town of Sequim, Washington, have launched a petition to remove Mayor William Armacost from office after the local leader repeatedly expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory, which is linked to former President Donald U.S. Capitol earlier this month.

A CNN report from Sequim broadcast Friday detailed concerns among townspeople that Armacost has embraced the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, followers of which believe that Trump is doing battle with a shadowy international cabal of devil-worshipping cannibalistic pedophiles.

QAnon devotees believe that Trump will eventually root out the so-called "deep state," with martial law declared allowing mass arrests and executions of prominent politicians, media personalities and businesspeople.

The QAnon cult began on fringe internet message boards, but has since grown enough to influence media personalities and lawmakers, including Republicans elected to the House of Representatives.

Armacost first hinted at his support for QAnon in August 2020, when he told a local radio station: "QAnon is a truth movement that encourages you to think for yourself." He went on to guide listeners towards the conspiracy theory, adding: "I want to encourage you to search for Joe M on YouTube and watch his videos starting with: 'Q: The Plan to Save the World.'"

Armacost has also shared QAnon disinformation, propaganda and talking points on his personal Facebook page.

Challenged by CNN's Kyung Lah, however, Armacost denied explicit support for the conspiracy, though appeared to still suggest it had some value as part of mainstream political discourse.

"It does not influence me at the role of a city councillor and mayor," Aramcost said. "I'm not saying that I believe that," he said of the conspiracy theory. But the mayor also failed to denounce the movement, advocates of which stormed the Capitol this month wearing clothing and waving flags bearing images and phrases associated with QAnon.

Armacost described the movement as an "opportunity as a patriot and an American citizen to seek truth." When Lah pointed to QAnon involvement in the Capitol riot, Armacost tried to cast doubt on the huge amount of evidence—and subsequent criminal charges—showing the role of QAnon advocates.

"I've watched a lot of different videos that showed many different, what appeared to be, scenarios versus what has continued to run," Armacost said. I have no way of confirming that was one group versus another... Back to the authenticity of the information we are seeing. Just because one angle of the camera showed this view, they may not have seen the other angle that shows a totally different scenario."

Asked if he agreed QAnon supporters were involved, Armacost again attempted to dodge the question, telling Lah despite all the clear evidence: "I have no way of validating that."

Town residents told CNN they were deeply concerned by Armacost's behavior. Shanna Younger said the situation was "shocking." She told Lah: "This isn't just a conspiracy theory. This is serious."

Karen Hogan said she doesn't necessarily have an issue with QAnon believers, but they should not be in power. "Go ahead and have those theories, it doesn't matter," she told CNN. "But don't let somebody who has those theories get put in a position of power."

Armacost apologized for promoting QAnon two weeks after the August 2020 radio show. In a press release, he said: "While I believe that people should fight for truth and freedom, it was inappropriate to respond to this question as mayor during a program designed to talk about City of Sequim issues."

"To date, as mayor I have kept my personal life separate from my professional life and, as a result, I will not comment as mayor on my personal social media presence," he added.

Armacost has since refused to speak about the conspiracy theory at town events, but his repeated failure to denounce QAnon—which experts have warned is radicalizing Americans—is still making residents uneasy.

QAnon sticker on car in Los Angeles
A QAnon sticker is seen on the back of a car on November 6, 2020 in Los Angeles. ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images/Getty