Trump’s endorsement for Arizona governor appears to have met with QAnon-linked conspiracy theorist Ron Watkins

Kari Lake and Ron Watson.
Republican Kari Lake was shown posing next to conspiracy theorist Ron Watkins in a picture he posted on Telegram. (L) Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images, (R) Screenshot/YouTube – OANN
  • Former President Donald Trump endorsed Kari Lake for Arizona’s 2022 gubernatorial election.
  • Lake was seen posing next to Ron Watkins in a photo he posted to Telegram on Tuesday.
  • Watkins has had a huge role in the growth and proliferation of QAnon. Some suspect he was “Q.”

Former President Donald Trump’s pick for the next Arizona governor appears to have met with Ron Watkins, a prominent conspiracy theorist whom some believe spearheaded the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon.

The Republican Kari Lake, a 52-year-old former journalist and anchor for a Phoenix, Arizona television station, was endorsed by Trump for the 2022 Arizona gubernatorial election in a memo on September 28. “Few can take on the Fake News Media like Kari,” Trump wrote in a statement.

Lake was seen standing next to Watkins in a picture he posted to his Telegram channel on Tuesday night. “Just had dinner with Kari Lake, the next Governor of Arizona,” says the caption of the post, which has been viewed over 130,000 times and amassed 700 comments as of Wednesday afternoon.

Watkins has over 437,000 subscribers on Telegram. He’s the former administrator of 8kun, formerly known as 8chan, a fringe message board founded by his father, Jim Watkins. The site has been notorious for its little moderation, which has made it popular among mass shooters and violent extremists.

QAnon is a web of baseless conspiracy theories that began with the false claim that Trump was battling against a cabal of “deep state” human traffickers. 8kun is where “Q,” the anonymous leader of the conspiracy theory movement, would share posts and provide updates to followers. Q has not spoken since their last 8kun post in December 2020, Insider reported.

Although Watkins has denied that he is Q, some believe that he and his father, Jim, spearheaded the conspiracy theory movement. He revealed that he had been working “anonymously” within the QAnon world for years during an interview for the HBO docuseries “Q: Into the Storm,” which premiered in March.

Trump qanon
A Trump supporters holds up a large QAnon sign while waiting in line to see President Donald J. Trump at his rally on August 2, 2018/ Rick Loomis/Getty Images

Popular figures within the QAnon realm like Watkins heavily amplified the “Stop the Steal” conspiracy theory, which baselessly alleged that President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the 2020 election was fraudulent. Watkins appeared on the pro-Trump TV channel One America News Network (OANN) to peddle the false claim that Dominion Voting Systems manipulated the election results in favor of Biden. He also encouraged followers to protest the certification of the election results on January 6.

After Biden was inaugurated on January 20, many QAnon supporters began to lose faith in the conspiracy-theory movement, Insider reported, including Watkins, who told his followers on Telegram that “we need to keep our chins up and go back to our lives as best we are able.”

While Lake has not commented on her relationship with Watkins, she has propagated some of the same false claims. During an appearance on OANN in early October, Lake said that she would not have certified the election results in her home state, even though a GOP-led audit of Arizona’s votes in September showed that Trump actually lost the state by more votes than was originally confirmed. Lake has repeatedly falsely claimed that Biden’s victory over Trump was fraudulent, as Insider has reported.

Lake also made the false claim that the insurrectionists at the January 6 Capitol riot “were invited in by the Capitol Police” during an interview with RSBN on Saturday, speaking from a Trump rally in Des Moines, Iowa, which she was invited to speak at.

According to the Department of Justice, approximately 1,000 assaults are believed to have been committed against police officers at the riot.

Trump’s endorsement of Lake came just hours after she tweeted asking whether the former president should be added to Mount Rushmore.

Lake did not respond to a request for comment.

Read more stories from Insider’s Digital Culture desk.