Trump Reportedly Praised Internet Conspiracy QAnon During Meeting with Mitch McConnell
The Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump allegedly made the comments in a White House meeting
President Donald Trump reportedly referenced fringe, right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon while talking with Senators in a closed-door White House meeting this week, saying that the group is comprised of those who "basically believe in good government.”
The Washington Post reported that sources alleged that Trump made the remark while meeting with a group that included Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Todd C. Young, as well as aides.
According to the Post, sources said the group fell silent before White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows "leaned forward to say he had never heard it described that way."
The White House did not provide comment when asked by PEOPLE about Trump's alleged remarks. McConnell's staff did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
QAnon adherents believe in a range of false claims, including that a faction of pedophiles — which are mostly Democrats and allegedly include celebrities and politicians — are plotting against Trump, while also presiding over a global child sex-trafficking ring.
The baseless conspiracy stems from anonymous internet posts by a message board user who goes by “Q,” a name meant to refer to the clearance code given to security officials in the Department of Energy.
Though the group remained on the fringe for some time, it has gone more mainstream in recent months, with one QAnon follower — Georgia's Marjorie Taylor Greene — even being elected to Congress last month.
While its claims are groundless, they are also dangerous, say security experts. In August, the FBI announced it had identified QAnon as a potential domestic terrorist threat.
Trump, 74, has yet to denounce the group, telling Savannah Guthrie he had never heard of QAnon, but that he did agree with some of their beliefs, in an NBC Town Hall that aired in October.
"I know nothing about QAnon. I know very little ... I do know they are very much against pedophilia," Trump said. "They fight it very hard ... what I do hear about it is they are very strongly against pedophilia. And I do agree with that."
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said Trump's refusal to condemn the conspiracy theorists was "alarming" and other Republican lawmakers have also been quick to dismiss the group.
“That is actually insane,” Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman told PEOPLE of QAnon in an earlier interview.
Trump has ignited controversy for his propensity to defend conspiracy theories and hate groups in the past.
That same evening, Trump told the white supremacist group Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by," a comment the right-wing group celebrated on social media after the debate.
Those recent comments echo a statement Trump made in 2017, when he said there were "very fine people on both sides" of the violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, which saw one woman killed during a white supremacist "Unite the Right" rally.