President Trump shared a video on Tuesday of Joe Biden embracing the wife of former Defense Secretary Ash Carter during a 2015 ceremony at the White House with the hashtag #PedoBiden, marking the president’s first public entry into the categorically false conspiracy theory accusing the Democratic presidential candidate of pedophilia.
“We can beat them at their game,” the tweet said in a caption, which has since been retweeted more than six thousand times.
The clip ostensibly aims to demonstrate improper, potentially pedophilic behavior by Biden. It doesn’t—and Stephanie Carter, an adult, has written about how the encounter has been taken out of context to denigrate Biden. In reality, she notes, the former vice president had been comforting her during an “uncharacteristically nervous” moment after she had fallen on ice shortly before her husband’s swearing-in ceremony.
But Trump’s retweet comes as the twisted conspiracy theory continues QAnon’s rapid rise among the highest ranks of the Republican party. As my colleague Ali Breland has reported, the increasingly mainstream, once far-right movement—which is constantly mutating to incorporate new false, pro-Trump conspiracy theories—is centered around an unnamed federal agent within the Trump administration whose job it is to fight what they describe as Democratic-run, global pedophilia rings. While Trump has frequently used social media to promote QAnon followers, his latest retweet signals what’s all but certain to become a central theme to his reelection campaign as November nears: falsely accusing Biden and Democrats of pedophilia. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has repeatedly promoted the Biden conspiracy theory in recent weeks.
The president gave QAnon a significant public boost last month when, rather than forcefully condemn the movement, he told reporters that he had heard QAnon believers “are people who love our country.” He added, “I don’t know much about the movement—other than I understand that they like me very much.”
Trump’s retweet on Tuesday continues QAnon’s increasing influence on the Republican party this year. After the president himself, a number of Republican congressional candidates are among the movement’s most prominent GOP supporters.