A high-ranking official with the Hawaii Republican Party confirmed Monday that he resigned after posting a series of tweets about the QAnon conspiracy theory on the official party account, saying its adherents shouldn't be mocked.
“We should make it abundantly clear — the people who subscribed to the Q fiction, were largely motivated by a sincere and deep love for America. Patriotism and love of County (sic) should never be ridiculed,” said one of several tweets that Hawaii GOP vice chairman Edwin Boyette posted Saturday. The tweets have since been deleted from the party’s account.
QAnon followers advocate a conspiracy theory rooted in the baseless belief that former President Donald Trump was fighting deep state enemies and a cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibals operating a child sex trafficking ring. Some QAnon believers were among the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Nicolas Ochs of Hawaii, a member of another right-wing extremist group, the Proud Boys, was among those arrested.
“People who followed Q don’t deserve mockery,” said another tweet posted by Boyette.
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Hawaii Democratic Gov. David Ige rejected Boyette's defense of QAnon followers.
“I think it’s absurd to think that some of those conspiracy theories — and virtually every single one has been debunked as factually inaccurate and totally nonsense. So I don’t see how anyone can think that those who believe it that are really doing it because they’re patriotic,” Ige said.
The Hawaii GOP Twitter account has a history of promoting the fringe element, including defending Ochs when he was a Republican candidate for state House last year, said Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, chairman of the state Democratic Party.
“These conspiracies should be immediately rejected, but apparently there’s an audience for them, and it’s disappointing that the Hawaii GOP would cater to that audience," Dos Santos-Tam said.
Boyette oversaw communications as one of four vice chairs for the Hawaii GOP in a state dominated by Democrats. He submitted his resignation Sunday, he said in an email Monday to The Associated Press. He did not respond to follow-up questions.
Hawaii Republican Party chairwoman Shirlene Ostrov took full responsibility for what she said were unauthorized tweets.
“Our party believes in free speech, but it is a responsibility that each of us must carry in order to maintain a good and just society. Promoting content for the purpose of shock value does not help us to build a more perfect union, nor does it help a divided nation heal,” she said in statement.
“Moving forward I will make sure the Hawaii GOP and its communications accurately reflect the values that we stand for as a country and as the Aloha State,” Ostrov said.
Boyette took responsibility for the posts in his resignation letter to Ostrov, which he posted on Facebook.
“Discussion of some topics is ill suited to the forums of social media, and regardless of intent — only serves to increase conflict and discord. The discussion of the Q-Conspiracy was an error of judgement (sic), and should not reflect upon the leadership or the members of the Republican Party of Hawaii. The responsibility for that discussion and that error is mine and and (sic) mine alone,” his letter said.
In a Facebook post later Monday, Boyette claimed the outcry over the tweets is coming from “leftist activists and the Democratic establishment attempting to smash any critical speech they can not control.”
He also said, “mainstream media is the worst,” adding that one of the reasons he resigned was that party officers and members would not have to “expend time dealing with a controversy that was not their making.”
Thiessen reported from Anchorage, Alaska. Associated Press journalist Audrey McAvoy in Honolulu contributed to this report.