Colorado congressional candidate Erik Aadland follows multiple white nationalist, election conspiracy, and QAnon groups on the far-right social-media platform Parler.
Aadland follows the well-known Parler site of the Proud Boys, whose leaders face “seditious conspiracy” charges for their involvement in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Several members of the group have been arrested for their alleged roles in organizing the insurrection.
Among the 104 accounts Aadland follows on Parler, at least a dozen promote QAnon, the multi-pronged conspiracy theory about, among other topics, Democrats being Satanic pedophiles and “deep state” government workers plotting against Trump. In 2019, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, declared QAnon to be a domestic terror threat.
Aadland’s account hasn’t posted its own comments or other content on Parler. The account bears Aadland’s name, identifies him as “WinterLion,” and describes him as “Patriot. Combat Veteran. Truth is my religion.”
The QAnon accounts followed by Aadland include the user “WWG1WGA” who has the handle @KAGDonaldTrump and has over 15,000 followers; QAnon promoter X22 Report, with nearly a quarter million followers; and Joe M, with the handle @StormIsUponUS, 364,000 followers. Aadland also follows Ghost Ezra, a QAnon account best known for its rabidly antisemitic posts on Telegram, another far right platform, but that nevertheless has over 22,000 followers on Parler.
Aadland, who’s said the 2020 presidential election was “absolutely rigged” and has likened Jan. 6 insurrectionists to “political prisoners,” also follows multiple Parler accounts of election conspiracists, including Rudy Giuliani, General Michael Flynn, Dinesh D’Souza, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Team Trump, Mike Lindell, Devin Nunes, Jenna Ellis, and more.
Parler emerged in 2020 in response to Facebook’s crackdown on comments promoting extreme right-wing views, including white nationalism, sexism, and bigotry, as well as sites spreading misinformation. Newsweek has called Parler “a safe haven for anyone too extreme, racist or offensive for Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.” Initially, Colorado U.S. Representatives Lauren Boebert, Ken Buck, and Doug Lamborn had a low-profile presence on the site.
Before launching her campaign for Colorado governor in September, Republican Heidi Ganahl had accounts on Parler and Gab, another far-right site. Following the Colorado Times Recorder‘s reporting, Ganahl deleted her Gab account and seemed to delete her Parler account, though it has since reappeared.
An account with the same “@WinterLion” handle Aadland uses on Parler also exists on Gab and follows many of the same accounts there, including the X22 Report, Joe M, and Ghost Ezra, but Aadland’s name is not on the account.
Aadland’s presence on Parler — and his following of Proud Boy accounts there — comes in the wake of comments Aadland made last month in which he fully agreed with a caller who dismissed the Proud Boys’ arrests for leading the Jan. 6 insurrection as leftist overreach.
Asked during a June 6, 2022, tele-town hall if he thought the “recent arrests of the Proud Boys is just another example of Leftist censorship and government overreach,” Aadland replied. “Yes, Carol I do, because they’re not treating BLM or Antifa the same way. And this is about justice needing to be blind. And it’s clearly not, justice should be applied to those who break the law.” An audio recording of the tele-town hall was obtained from a source.
Aadland didn’t return a call and email seeking to know why he follows extremist groups on Parler and what laws BLM or Antifa broke that are comparable to those allegedly broken by the Proud Boy insurrectionists — and more broadly if he believes the Proud Boys should be prosecuted for their role in the Jan. 6 riot. Also unanswered is whether Aadland fully believes in QAnon, including the belief by some QAnon backers, at least one of which is followed by Aadland, that John F. Kennedy, Jr., will return to be president.
Aadland faces Democratic state Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood in the November election to represent Colorado’s 7th Congressional District, which is located mostly in suburbs west of Denver. The winner will replace U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), who’s retiring at the end of the year.