In December of 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch traveled from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., where he entered the pizzeria Comet Ping Pong with a rifle and fired.
Fortunately, only property was harmed.
Welch targeted ping pong because of leaked emails from 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta.
One of the emails contained a bulk pizza order to Comet Ping Pong, but online conspiracy groups had convinced Welch and scores of other troubled Americans that the order was actually a code, and that Clinton was active in a child sex trafficking ring operating from the basement of the restaurant—which didn't have a basement at all.
The so-called "pizzagate" theory about Clinton is still widely believed in circles of QAnon, the broad conspiracy web which purports that President Donald Trump was sent to save the United States from a network of satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles who've taken over the United States government.
Now, subscribers to QAnon's bizarre and baseless doctrine are threatening violence against Congressman Tom Malinowski (D-NJ).
An ad put forth by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) last month falsely claimed that Malinowski had lobbied to cut a portion from the 2006 crime bill that expanded registration requirements for sex offenders.
NJ-07: "Shadow" www.youtube.com
Though the ad was released last month, QAnon supporters began smearing him with it after Malinowski put forth a bipartisan resolution to disavow the conspiracy group.
As a result, Malinowski and his office have been inundated with death threats and vile messages citing the ad—and he says it's a "direct result" of the NRCC's recklessness. Some of the threats can be read here, but be warned: they're quite graphic.
According to reporting from the New York Times, Malinowski said:
"We've been warning the Republicans running this play for at least the last two or three weeks that they were playing with fire. Now the match has been lit."
The NRCC responded:
"Congressman Malinowski must live with the consequences of his actions."
People were disgusted at the GOP's fearmongering and tacit validation of conspiracy theories.
Despite the ridiculousness of the theory's beliefs, QAnon subscribers have enjoyed growing legitimacy within the Republican party.
The President demurred when asked to condemn them, and Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia—a QAnon believer—will likely be heading to Washington after a primary win this summer in her deep red district. She was endorsed by Trump, Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, and other GOP lawmakers.
The growing visibility of QAnon is concerning to many.
Fallout for Malinowski from the ad was first reported by Buzzfeed News.