Trump said he "appreciates" the support of followers of the baseless right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon during a White House press conference.
QAnon, whose supporters believe Trump is at the centre of a secret movement dismantling an elite pedophile ring, was named a potential domestic terrorist threat by the FBI last year.
But despite this, Trump claimed not to "know much about the movement", adding "I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate".
He then began listing major Democrat governed cities with no obvious connection to QAnon as places where they "don't like what's going on".
I don’t know much about the movement. I have heard that it is gaining in popularity.
And from what [I hear], these are people that when they watch the streets of Portland, when they watch what happened in New York city in just the last six or seven months... But this was starting even four years ago, when I came here. Almost four years, can you believe it?
These are people that don't like seeing what’s going on in places like Portland and places like Chicago and New York and other cities and states.
This wasn't the only moment during the press conference in which Trump began discussing Portland, a city in Oregon where Black Lives Matter protests are ongoing, unprompted.
Asked about the Goodyear tyre controversy, Trump responded that the "radical left [...] do vicious things. Not so different than what you saw on the streets of Portland two nights ago".
Trump was pressed further for his opinion about some of the more erratic elements of QAnon.
A reporter asked:
The cause of the theory is this belief that you are secretly saving the world from this satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals. Does that sound like something you are behind or –?
Well, I haven't heard that. But is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing?
I mean, if I can save the world from problems, I'm willing to do it. I'm willing to put myself out there.
And we are, actually. We're saving the world from a radical left philosophy that will destroy this country. And when this country is gone, the rest of the world would follow.
What was the response?
A spokesperson for the Biden campaign, Andrew Bates, condemned Trump's remarks, saying:
After calling neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville 'fine people' and tear gassing peaceful protesters following the murder of George Floyd, Donald Trump just sought to legitimise a conspiracy theory that the FBI has identified as a domestic terrorism threat. Our country needs leadershup that will bring us together more than ever to form a more perfect union.
A former spokesperson for Obama's National Security Council hit out at Trump on Twitter, accusing him of endorsing a "death cult".
Jeb Bush, Trump's one-time presidential rival, also criticised Trump for allowing "nut jobs" in the party.
QAnon followers, meanwhile, reportedly celebrated the president's possible tacit endorsement of their beliefs.
What exactly do QAnon supporters believe?
QAnon represents a sprawling network of baseless conspiracy theories linking everything from 5G to the Titanic, to Satantic rituals, the Freemasons, the Illuminati and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It overlaps in places with Pizzagate, the right-wing conspiracy theory falsely claiming that Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief John Podesta run a child sex abuse ring out of a Washington pizzeria.
The conspiracy theory began in 2017 when posts by 'Q' began to appear on the website 4chan from someone claiming to have insider knowledge about Hollywood and the US government. They claimed that elites at the top of government and the entertainment industry were running a global pedophile ring and that Donald Trump is part of a secret resistance trying to stop it.
It was later added that these elites engage in the sacrifice of abused children, harvesting a life-lengthening chemical from their blood. It has also been alleged that Trump's attempts to curtain this behaviour have been frustrated by 'the deep state'.
The conspiracy theory draws on anti-Semitic tropes and has been deemed potentially dangerous by the FBI. An FBI bulletin from May last year said that conspiracy theories like QAnon and Pizzagate are likely to "spread and evolve", "occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts".
Pizzagate adherents have threatened members of the public with guns and bombs, while the Pittsburgh shooter referenced anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on social media before murdering 11 people in a synagogue.
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have all removed some QAnon-related material from their sites.
The conspiracy theory has flourished under Trump's administration.
Trump has entertained TV personality Michahel Lebron and broadcaster Bill Mitchell, both vocal supporters of QAnon, in the White House, while QAnon supporters have attended his rallies.
At least three Republican nominees are also sympathtic to QAnon: Joe Rae Perkins in Oregan, Lauren Boebert in Coloardo and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who recently won a primary run off in Georgia.
Trump congratulated Taylor Green's victory, calling her a "future Republican star".
Trump seemingly has few scruples when it comes to endorsing conspiracy theories that support his point of view.
Recently, he didn't refute a racist conspiracy theory that Kamala Harris is ineligible to be vice president, and described a doctor who believes in lizard people and 'demon sperm' as "very impressive" after she touted hydroxychloroquine as a cure for coronavirus.
While concerning, it is perhaps no surprise, then, that Trump would say he "appreciates" supporters of QAnon.