Followers of a fringe, frequently debunked conspiracy theory that goes by the name QAnon keep showing up at Tampa Bay area campaign events for Ron DeSantis.
The Republican candidate for Florida governor pleaded ignorance when asked about them on Monday. They sat front row of his campaign stop at a Palm Harbor restaurant and sold T-shirts out of the parking lot.
"I'm not sure what that is," DeSantis said at a campaign stop in Palm Harbor.
Here's how The Buzz previously described this conspiracy theory: "QAnon supporters believe that at least one government insider, "Q," is using various platforms to feed "anons" — Q's followers — information about … well, all sorts of things. As the Guardian noted in this excellent explainer, it can be difficult to pin down what exactly proponents of QAnon take the consequences of Q's dispatches to be. But many have extrapolated the breadcrumbs supposedly left behind by the deep state agent (or agents) to mean that Hollywood celebrities are engaged in a widespread pedophilia ring; that bad actors once tried to shoot down Air Force One with Trump aboard — and other evidence-free notions.
It exits in the same conspiratorial channels that provoked a man to shoot up a Washington, D.C. pizza place in 2016 because he thought it was a child-sex ring run by Democrats and Hillary Clinton.
There was just a handful of people in QAnon shirts among more than 100 conservatives crammed into the restaurant on Monday. They were older, and mostly kept to themselves, though some happily engaged with a few curious attendees.
But it's not the first appearance at a DeSantis event by Q's devotees. Dozens of QAnon believers showed up at a July 31 Tampa rally for DeSantis headlined by President Donald Trump. While a small fraction of the crowd, their presence was noticeable, including by on TV feeds, and disconcerting to many. It drew national headlines. To some, it signaled that a conspiracy that previously resided in just the darkest parts of the Internet was rearing its ugly head in public.
Most large news outlets covered this development, including the Washington Post, New York Times, Vox, and CNN, but also conservative websites like the Daily Caller. Reason, the libertarian magazine, called the Trump-DeSantis rally a "coming out party" for believers in the conspiracy.
After all that, apparently DeSantis was not briefed by his campaign team about the conspiracy group that created such a stir at the most important campaign event of his political career. Because asked if he's heard of it, DeSantis said: "Never. No."