Former Trump administration adviser and conspiracy theorist Michael Flynn has sparked yet another outcry after a video circulated in which he appeared to joke that he might carry out a political assassination with a rifle.
Appearing on stage at the Church of Good Tidings in Yuba earlier this month, California, Mr Flynn was presented with a semi-automatic rifle painted in what one man called “old-school woodland camouflage”.
“Maybe I’ll find somebody in Washington, DC!” Mr Flynn said, to cheers and laughs from the assembled congregation.
Coming from Mr Flynn, a central figure in the QAnon conspiracy theory who has previously advocated action against the US government, the joke landed badly with much of the public. Many social media users responded with horror as well as anger, calling for Mr Flynn’s arrest or court martial and labelling him a traitor.
During his appearance at the church, he also spoke in language and drew on themes that chime with the QAnon conspiracy theory, declaring at one point that liberal leaders in America are “conduits for evil, because evil does exist”, speaking of dark forces at the top of the American government, and alluding to the scourge of sex trafficking.
Some QAnon believers think Mr Flynn is at the forefront of a battle against the “deep state”, and many have taken up his phrase “digital soldiers” to describe their dogged devotion to the unfounded, bizarre and often violent ideology.
Is the @FBI or @TheJusticeDept or @PFPAOfficial worried when they here these violent comments from Mike Flynn? Does anyone take these comments seriously? If this was said by a person of color they would be arrested immediately. @GenCQBrownJr @GenMhayden @maddow @Lawrence
— Patricia G (@gagen_patricia) July 25, 2021
That's a pretty direct assassination threat from someone who has ALSO been directly involved in planning a coup.
— Brent (@Easonred57) July 25, 2021
From fired National Security Advisor and criminal to QAnon supporter and election lie peddler, Mike Flynn is a disgrace.
This sick " joke" is indicative of who he is.
— David Lapan (@DaveLapanDC) July 25, 2021
I'm retired USAF. I know retired and active generals with 1 to 4 stars personally and none of them, none, are like this.
Flynn dishonors his oath, his uniform and our flag.
— D. Stamos/Helodriver (@SpacecoastPix) July 25, 2021
Mike Flynn has to be stopped. He is running around inciting more violence. He has to reprimanded and the Army needs to take his rank. He is lying about elections /Trump/Q/the country, under the General title, stoking hate and civil war talk.
Corral your boy Army. https://t.co/WgmFZd3ZdS
— Kim Possible (@Luvnediting) July 25, 2021
Mr Flynn earlier this summer appeared to endorse the idea that the US government “should” be overthrown in a military putsch.
Asked by an audience member at a conference in Dallas, Texas “why what happened in [Myanmar] can’t happen here”, he responded: “No reason. I mean, it should happen here. No reason. That’s right.”
Later that month, reports emerged of a heated Oval Office meeting attended by Mr Flynn and fellow pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell, at which the two and several Trump aides allegedly fought over numerous outlandish and possibly illegal strategies for averting a Biden inauguration.
Mr Flynn gave his opinion as it emerged that Mr Trump and certain figures around him were apparently sharing the idea that the former president will somehow be “reinstated” to the Oval Office in August. While Mr Flynn later distanced himself from the remarks, he has a record of endorsing extreme measures in Mr Trump’s favour.
In December 2020, as the outgoing president and his allies spread falsehoods about the supposed theft of the election via non-existent fraud, Mr Flynn shared an ad from a right-wing group that said Mr Trump should “immediately declare a limited form of martial law, and temporarily suspend the Constitution and civilian control of these federal elections, for the sole purpose of having the military oversee a national re-vote”.