It’s a whacko online conspiracy theory cult that claims Donald Trump is the hero of a secret war against the shadowy forces of the Deep State. Its proponents are ignored by most beyond the ranks of the dangerously credulous – but one of them just got an audience with the president.
In a smiling picture posted on Friday, US conspiracy theorist Michael Lebron – a leading light in the so-called QAnon conspiracy movement – was pictured with his wife in the Oval Office flanking a smiling Donald Trump.
Presidential aides told US news outlets that they did not known how Mr Lebron and his wife managed to secure the picture with Mr Trump, but staff suggested that the couple may have branched off from a larger tour to seize the opportunity.
Mr Lebron said he did not bring up the subject of QAnon in the meeting but the photo is likely to inject fresh impetus into a bizarre movement that believes that the president is waging a war against networks of paedophiles involving prominent citizens of the United States.
“There simply are no word to explicate this profound honor,” wrote Mr Lebron on Twitter.
The QAnon theory of the world emerged in October 2017 with posts on the anonymous site 4chan, claiming to possess information about mysterious well-connected figures who were trying to bring down the country from the inside.
The movement hangs on to the words of an anonymous poster – Q – who is believed to be a well-placed insider, or even Trump himself, who hints at a coming “storm” in a series of cryptic messages that would see past presidents rounded up and incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay.
Its supporters have been seen with QAnon banners at Trump rallies but the movement has provided no credible evidence to back their claims, which have been deemed as baseless.
But its theories – such as claims that these shadowy networks sought to scupper the North Korea summit and to shoot down Air Force One – have received wide currency in online networks operating in a fevered atmosphere of conspiracy that Mr Trump’s opponents say have been fostered by the president.
During his run for the presidency, Mr Trump was a backer of the movement that claimed that his predecessor Barack Obama was born in Kenya and should not have been allowed to run for the presidency. The dispute prompted the release of Mr Obama’s birth certificate to show he was born in Hawaii.
Mr Trump has also raised questions that a conservative member of the US’s highest appeals court was murdered – as opposed to the official cause of natural death - to suggest a shadowy attempt by Democrats to alter the balance of justice in their favour.
The president has also met with the disgraced British former doctor Andrew Wakefield, whose discredited views on the dangers of vaccines have been taken up by the president.
Quoting four White House officials the Daily Beast said all “pleaded ignorance” when asked how Mr Lebron had ended up in the Oval Office with Mr Trump. Two of the officials were said to be unable to “contain their laughter,” so absurd was the matter.
“This president is a president for all Americans,” one was quoted as jokingly saying.