Fact Check: Face-painted Capitol Building trespasser in horns is a known QAnon supporter
Claim: The shirtless man pictured in Capitol Building breach is with antifa and BLM
After a mob stormed the nation's Capitol on Wednesday, marking an unprecedented day in American history, the world is left wondering who to blame. Amid the upset and confusion, conservative social media users are falsely identifying one trespasser as a liberal actor.
“AZ BLM rally in June, DC Capital in January,” Cari Kelemen tweeted on Jan. 6 alongside two photos of a shirtless man wearing face paint and horns.
Twitter flagged Kelemen’s post as “Manipulated media” and directed users to information that the claims that suggest the man is associated with antifa, rather than far-right movements are false.
Antifa, short for anti-fascist, is an unofficial movement of left-leaning political actors with no unified leadership. The movement has a long history of opposing neo-Nazi groups in the U.S. and Europe. In recent months, President Donald Trump and his followers have widely blamed antifa for violence at anti-racism protests.
Kelemen, who pledges her support for Trump in her Twitter bio, also has a YouTube channel.
“Who are my sources? You are! Real news, real views from real people from all over the world through connections made on Twitter,” Kelemen describes her channel.
A Facebook user posted a screenshot of Kelemen's tweet to his timeline.
Neither Kelemen nor the Facebook user that shared her tweet have responded to USA TODAY’s request for comment.
The Arizona Republic identifies man as QAnon and Trump supporter
The Arizona Republic identified the man as Jake Angeli after social media posts showed him in the Capitol Building when crowds turned violent and breached security on Jan. 6.
One such photo showed Angeli seated on the dais of the Senate chamber from which Vice President Mike Pence had been presiding before security was breached.
The Republic described Angeli as a known “QAnon supporter who has been a fixture at Arizona right-wing political rallies over the past year.”
QAnon is a far-right conspiracy theory that promotes the belief that Trump is the country’s savior sent to put a stop to a “cabal” of elite pedophiles and corrupt government. Followers decode secret online messages from an anonymous whistleblower known as “Q” to prepare for an imminent awakening.
The Arizona Republic reported that since 2019 Angeli has appeared many times at demonstrations outside the Arizona Capitol, pushing baseless conspiracy theories, many of which are tied to QAnon. His frequent demonstrations earned him the nickname “QAnon Shaman.”
In February, Angeli led a crowd at a Phoenix rally for Trump.
In one article, he told The Republic he demonstrated wearing a fur hat, face paint and shirtless to draw attention.
Angeli was featured in a October article about QAnon, in which he was photographed holding a sign that read “Q SENT ME”.
According to The Arizona Republic, Angeli developed his beliefs about deep corruption and an imminent reckoning through his own online research.
Larger photo shows Angeli holding QAnon sign
Brett Lewis, a Twitter user who claims to have taken the original photo of Angeli in June, posted a larger version of the same image on Twitter early Jan. 7 and said the image had been cropped to blame BLM and antifa for the Capitol Building breach.
"The right wing hysteria machine decided to crop it and distribute it to try to blame BLM and Anti Fascists for today’s events," read the tweet.
The larger photo shows Angeli is holding a QAnon-related sign and does not appear to be engaged in anti-racism protests. A crowd holding anti-police signs stood several yards behind him.
Lewis told USA TODAY that Angeli had not been part of the June, 11 anti-racism protest at Tempe Beach Park in Tempe, AZ but "came to disrupt the march and promote q anon".
Reporters identify Angeli on Twitter
BrieAnna J. Frank, a reporter for The Arizona Republic who has interviewed Angeli in the past, took to Twitter to rebuke false claims about his ties to antifa on Jan. 6.
“Here’s part of my interview with Jake Angeli, the 32-year old man I previously posted about, who thanked the president @realDonaldTrump and Q,” she wrote in a May 5 tweet in which she attached a video of Angeli’s interview.
Elijah Schaffer, a reporter for conservative news outlet The Blaze, rejected Kelemen’s accusation on Twitter in the early hours of Jan. 7, saying he also recognized the man as Angeli.
“People keep saying this guy is Antifa or BLM, he is not … Please stop spreading disinfo… I’ve spoken to him in depth on camera in Arizona … He’s a huge supporter of Qanon & regularly walks around w/ a sign saying ‘Q sent me’,” tweeted Schaffer.
Angeli denied The Arizona Republic's request for an interview on Jan. 6, but the Globe and Mail of Toronto reported via Twitter that they spoke with Angeli that evening.
“He said police eventually gave up trying to stop him and other Trump supporters, and let them in. After a while, he said police politely asked him to leave and let him go without arrest,” tweeted reporter Adrian Morrow.
Our rating: False
We rate the claim that the shirtless, face-painted man who was pictured in social media images of the Jan. 6 Capitol Building breach was affiliated with anti-facist or anti-racism movements FALSE because it is not supported by our research. The man, identified as Jake Angeli, has a long, public affiliation with far-right, pro-Trump and QAnon movements.
Our fact-check sources:
- USA TODAY, Jan. 7, "Timeline: How a Trump mob stormed the US Capitol, forcing Washington into lockdown"
- Car Kelemen, Jan. 6, Tweet
- Car Kelemen, Jan. 6, Tweet
- MpD, Jan. 6, Tweet
- Twitter, Jan. 6, "Images from insurrection at Capitol show people with links to far-right movements report NYT, BuzzFeed and other fact-checkers"
- USA TODAY, Aug. 23, 2017, "What is antifa and what does the movement want?"
- USA TODAY, May 31, "Trump says he'll designate antifa a terror organization, blames group for violence at George Floyd protests"
- Hamrob, Jan. 7, Tweet
- Nicole Garcia Candidate Phoenix City Council, Jan. 6, Tweet
- Elijah Schaffer, Jan. 7, Tweet
- Cari Kelemen, Jan. 7, Tweet
- AzCentral, Sept. 20, 2019, "Hundreds march in Arizona in solidarity with climate strikes around the world"
- Cari Kelemen, accessed Jan. 7, Twitter bio
- Cari Kelemen, accessed Jan.7, YouTube Channel "Description"
- Alan Romaire, Jan. 6, Facebook Post
- AzCentral, Jan. 6, "Longtime Arizona QAnon supporter in horned helmet joins storming of U.S. Capitol"
- Ben Jacobs, Jan. 6, Tweet
- USA TODAY, Sept. 17, "Debunked QAnon conspiracy theories are seeping into mainstream social media. Don't be fooled."
- AzCentral, Oct. 8, "QAnon, false flags and baby-eating liberals: How Arizona Patriots build community around conspiracy theories"
- Brett Lewis, Jan. 7, Tweet
- USA TODAY, Jan. 7, Twitter Message with Brett Lewis
- AzCentral, June 11, "Arizona protests: 'Defund The Police' rally planned in Tempe; no arrests at protests on Wednesday"
- BriAnna J. Frank, Jan. 7, Tweet
- Adrian Morrow, Jan. 6, Tweet
- BrieAnna J. Frank, Jan. 6, Tweet
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