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Their loved ones are ‘obsessed’ with QAnon conspiracies. It’s tearing their families apart

A survey released by the Public Religion Research Institute this week found 15% of Americans believe a QAnon conspiracy that the government is controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. Just one in five Republicans fully reject the theory. For many Americans, those ideas are tearing their families apart. We spoke to three people whose relationships have been hurt by far-right beliefs.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    A survey released by the Public Religion Research Institute this week found 15 percent of Americans believe the false QAnon idea that the government is controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. And just one in five Republicans fully reject the QAnon conspiracy theory.

    For many Americans, those ideas are not only outlandish; they are dangerous and are tearing their families apart.

    We spoke to three people whose relationships have been hurt by these far-right, unfounded beliefs.

  • Rachel:

    Hi. My name's Rachel, and my relationship with my mother has become completely estranged in the last year.

  • Virginia:

    My parents have fallen down the QAnon rabbit hole, and they have become extremely obsessed with it.

  • Angie:

    I have a sister who believes in the QAnon conspiracy theory.

  • Rachel:

    She's watching YouTube videos, and she's just getting funneled down that algorithm, right, to more and more kind of radical, bizarre things.

  • Virginia:

    My dad was my best friend growing up. We did everything together. And then, in just the past year, for sure, he's just changed into a different person.

  • Angie:

    My sister is — has always been my best friend. And she is to this day. I mean, I love her. It's hard to explain sister love. It's — I love her in a way that I can't love anybody else. And I worry about her.

  • Rachel:

    Right before the pandemic year was the closest we ever were. We would go on walks. She would come over and play with the kids.

    It's easier to feel angry at her than it is to start thinking about how much I miss her. I have always been really proud of my mom. She's a nurse. She's a cancer nurse. She's helped a lot of people and their families kind of face difficult moments and face death. She's a kind, loving person.

    And I feel like she's been — she's been tricked into believing all these things that contradict her core values, in a way that it's so obvious to me.

  • Angie:

    What QAnon is doing is, they're trying to make the entire world a conspiracy, literally. They will connect the dots to everything that you touch, see, feel, whatever.

    And that is where the danger zone — that's when I started to be fearful for her.

    These people believe that you can't take the COVID vaccine because it's going to track you. Well, that's very dangerous for people to be believing that, because they're putting themselves at risk, but they're also putting more — other people at risk. They're putting people at risk that they love.

  • Virginia:

    It's not just like a funny conspiracy theory that unicorns and Bigfoot is real and all of, like, aliens, and all these things.

    It's these — they have almost indoctrinated in. And they're, like, set in these core beliefs. It's exactly like a cult, and they, like, drink the Kool-Aid. And it's really scary.

  • Rachel:

    What happened in my relationship with my mother is that now I'm part of that. I'm part of this evil force that she has to reckon with.

    She doesn't trust me. She doesn't believe that I could sympathize with her or that I respect her. You know, a big mistake I made is that she thinks I think she's stupid. There's a lot that — like, if I could go back and correct, like, what I could take responsibility for, it's that I wish I had gotten less frustrated.

    I wish that I had been more patient. I wish that I had been slower to react.

  • Virginia:

    I thought that, if I pointed out all of this stuff, that, dad, look at all these Web sites that prove otherwise, it just — it came back into my face.

    And I think I'm at the point now where I have given up.

  • Angie:

    I pray for her every day that she will come to a realization that this is nonsense. I can't do much more than that, because, if I do, if I discuss it with her, it's only going to break us apart.

  • Virginia:

    I can't change him. I can't force him to do things. I just — I do. I just have to sit here and wait and hope for — one day, he calls me, texts me, shows up on my door, and is just like, yes, I was wrong.

    And then we go from there. But I — I hate that I have to wait, but it's for my dad, so I will do it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Those are voices we have heard from just in the last number of weeks.

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