AP Exclusive: Pence to attend event hosted by QAnon backers

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FILE - In this Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, file photo, Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a campaign event on the grounds of Kuharchik Construction, Inc., in Exeter, Pa. Labor Day kicks off the unofficial start to fall election campaign. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence and top officials from President Donald Trump’s campaign are slated to attend a Montana fundraiser next week hosted by a couple who have expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory, according to an event invitation obtained by The Associated Press and a review of social media postings.

The hosts of the fundraiser, Caryn and Michael Borland, have shared QAnon memes and retweeted posts from QAnon accounts, their social media activity shows. The baseless conspiracy theory posits that Trump is fighting entrenched enemies in the government and also involves satanism and child sex trafficking.

Beyond Pence, the Sept. 14 fundraiser in Bozeman, Montana, is expected to draw influential figures in the president's orbit including Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top Trump fundraising official who is dating Donald Trump Jr., GOP chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Republican National Committee finance chairman Todd Ricketts and RNC co-chairman Tommy Hicks Jr., the event invitation shows.

While many Republicans have dismissed QAnon, the fundraiser is another sign of how the conspiracy theory is gaining a foothold in the party. Trump has hailed Georgia congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, another QAnon supporter, as a “future Republican star.” The president has refused to condemn QAnon, recently telling reporters that the conspiracy theory is “gaining in popularity” and that its supporters “like me very much.”

Representatives for Pence declined to comment on the fundraiser, though the vice president has previously called QAnon a “conspiracy theory.”

“I don’t know anything about QAnon, and I dismiss it out of hand,” he told CBS last month.

Representatives for the Trump campaign didn't immediately comment on the fundraiser. Caryn and Michael Borland did not return a call seeking comment on the event.

QAnon is a wide-ranging conspiracy fiction spread largely through the internet, centered on the baseless belief that Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the “deep state” and a child sex trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and cannibals. It is based on cryptic postings by the anonymous “Q,” purportedly a government insider.