Trump continues to promote conspiracy theories from a rapidly rising QAnon star

ron watkins oan

  • Ron Watkins, the former administrator of the message board where QAnon resides, has emerged as a top voice for voter-fraud conspiracy theories.
  • Watkins' claims have continued to make their way to President Donald Trump.
  • Trump has been retweeting more content from conspiracy theorists associated with QAnon in the wake of his election loss. 
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Among the dozens of false claims populating President Donald Trump's Twitter profile on Tuesday morning was a tweet from Ron Watkins, the former administrator of 8kun, the online message board where the QAnon conspiracy theory is based. 

The tweet referenced statements that Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who will soon assume the post of outgoing Attorney General William Barr, made about Russian election interference efforts. Watkins, given his history, appeared to be casting doubt on the results of the 2020 presidential election, despite numerous assessments ruling that the election was secure.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said that the 2020 election was the "most secure" election in American history. But President Trump, refusing to accept President-elect Joe Biden's win, is sharing messages of support from right-wing personalities like Watkins. 

Watkins, whose father, Jim, is suspected by some experts of being the anonymous "Q" figure who leads the QAnon movement, has emerged as a top pro-Trump, post-election advocate spreading voting conspiracy theories online.

Trump retweeted a tweet from Ron Watkins, the former 8kun administrator.
Screenshot/Twitter

Tuesday morning's retweet was not the first time Watkins made an appearance on Trump's Twitter profile. Trump previously shared a video from One America News Network (OAN), a conservative, pro-Trump news outlet, that featured Watkins as a "cyber analyst" falsely claiming that Dominion Voting Systems interfered with election results.

Watkins and other figures popular among supporters of QAnon, the baseless far-right conspiracy theory alleging that Trump is fighting a "deep state" cabal of pedophiles, have popularized that pro-Trump conspiracy theory attacking Dominion. While Watkins himself does not explicitly endorse QAnon, his voter-fraud claims have spread quickly among the theory's adherents.

When asked on Tuesday about Trump's retweet and his growing power on the right online, Watkins declined Insider's request for comment. Previously, he told Insider that he left his father's platform — a revamp of 8chan, which went offline last year — to focus on his woodworking passion. He also said that he is not affiliated with the "Q" figure. "I dont have anything to do with Q, and never had anything to do with Q. Have never had a private conversation with anybody touting to be Q," he said. 

Watkins became a leading voice spreading the Dominion conspiracy theory 

Though Watkins was an important figure for QAnon believers before the election, he's recently emerged as a popular far-right voice advocating for Trump.

Watkins' Twitter follower count has increased 95% in the last 30 days, according to data from SocialBlade, a social-media analytics website. In the month of October, he gained roughly 10,000 followers. In December, after popularizing the Dominion theory, he gained 159,000 followers, SocialBlade data shows. 

Watkins has increased in popularity as he's become a major promoter of the Dominion conspiracy theory, alleging that the voting-systems company, which was used in several battleground states in the election, was compromised. Watkins, who has no experience working in election security or software engineering, has repeatedly shared baseless claims that votes counted by Dominion were wrongly given to Biden in lieu of Trump. There is zero evidence to support that claim, and Trump's legal team's efforts to overturn the election results have all failed.

As Ben Collins of NBC News reported last month, QAnon has been the leading force in popularizing the Dominion theory. Between November 5 and November 13, one in seven tweets using the Dominion hashtag came from QAnon-identifying accounts, according to research from the nonprofit Advance Democracy conducted for NBC News. 

But the theory really took off when Watkins began tweeting about it on November 11. He said that he reached out to Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, offering to help "uncover end-user fraud within the Dominion voting system."

The next day, November 12, he said that he would soon be speaking with OAN anchor Chanel Rion about the claims. That was the day Trump first referenced the Dominion theory, following an OAN segment.

Trump first shared the Dominion theory on November 12, the day after Watkins tweeted about it for the first time.
Screenshot/Twitter

In a tweet, Trump said Dominion "DELETED" more than one million Trump votes across the US. Trump later retweeted Watkins' interview with Rion. 

Since then, the Dominion theory has played a huge role in the president's false claims that he won the election, and has been adopted by his allies, including Michael Flynn. 

President Trump has been sharing more content from QAnon believers 

Lin Wood speaks to the media about a client at US District Court on December 3, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Apu Gomes/Getty Images

Trump's retweet of Watkins comes as he continues to share more and more tweets from accounts that promote the baseless QAnon theory.

On Tuesday morning, Trump retweeted Lin Wood, a lawyer based in Atlanta who has been a part of the legal team defending Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse. Wood is a hugely popular voice in the world of QAnon, as he's aligned himself with Sidney Powell, a QAnon supporter who was previously ousted from Trump's legal team. 

The tweet included a picture that affixed masks with the Chinese flag to the faces of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and falsely claimed that the two officials would be going to jail. 

Trump retweeted Lin Wood, who appears to be a QAnon supporter.
Screenshot/Twitter

As Insider previously reported, Wood's Twitter profile includes QAnon-supportive references. Wood has the movement's slogan, "Where we go one, we go all," shortened to "WWG1WGA," in the bio on his profile.

Even before the election and the false voter-fraud allegations that followed, Trump had retweeted popular QAnon accounts.

On November 2, he shared a video made by Julian's Rum, a hugely popular pro-Trump, QAnon-supporting Twitter personality whose name is not yet known. Ivanka Trump also shared the video, which was a compilation of clips from Trump rallies. The Julian's Rum account was suspended from Twitter earlier this month for violating the platform's rules. 

Trump temporarily pinned the tweet that included the video to the top of his profile. Julian's Rum, once called a "QAnon supporting power-user" by the fact-checking website Logically.ai, said in a tweet that he was "honored" to have his video shared by the president. 

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