Donald Trump praised the supporters of QAnon, a convoluted conspiracy theory based on the belief the US president is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the “deep state”.
QAnon has ricocheted around the darker corners of the internet since 2017, but has been creeping into mainstream politics more and more.
The baseless theory centres on an alleged anonymous, high-ranking government official known as Q who shares information about an anti-Trump “deep state” often tied to satanism and child sex trafficking.
Speaking during a press conference at the White House, Mr Trump courted the support of those who put stock in the conspiracy theory, saying: “I heard that these are people that love our country.”
Mr Trump insisted he had not heard much about the movement “other than I understand they like me very much” and “it is gaining in popularity”.
He has retweeted QAnon-promoting accounts, and shirts and hats with QAnon symbols and slogans are not uncommon at his rallies.
An FBI bulletin last May warned conspiracy theory-driven extremists have become a domestic terrorism threat, with the bulletin specifically mentioning QAnon.
Earlier last year, the Southern Poverty Law Centre warned the movement is becoming increasingly popular with anti-government extremists.
Pressed on QAnon theories that Mr Trump is allegedly saving the nation from a satanic cult of child sex traffickers, he claimed ignorance but asked: “Is that supposed to be a bad thing?”
“If I can help save the world from problems, I’m willing to do it,” he said