Car wash's billboard promoting QAnon conspiracy theory sparks controversy

David Reinert holding a Q sign waits in line with others to enter a campaign rally with President Donald Trump and U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

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David Reinert holding a Q sign waits in line with others to enter a campaign rally with President Donald Trump and U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

The billboard reads "#QANON" — citing a group many have said espouse conspiracy theories — and has a logo with the name of Car Nutz Car Wash in the bottom left corner.

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Car wash co-owner Cleve Meredith said the sign is about a mile away from his business in Acworth.

He said he let his employees know before putting up the sign in June.

"We all support Freedom and independent thought," he wrote in an email response to questions from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday.

Meredith said he put up the billboard because he’s “a patriot among the millions who love this country.”

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In October 2017, an anonymous user posted on 4chan, a shadowy part of the internet that has been used as a breeding ground for extreme ideas. The poster, under the moniker "Q," claimed to have a high-level government clearance.

The right-wing group believes debunked myths, including those surrounding Pizzagate — the false notion that Democratic party officials were running a child-sex ring out of a Washington, D.C., pizza shop. In 2016, a man who went to the store to "self-investigate" the fabrication fired three shots from an AR-15 in the shop.

In June, an armed man drove an armored vehicle to the Hoover Dam claiming to be on a mission from QAnon.

Trump has not explicitly discussed Q in public, but the group’s followers divine meaning from actions and phrases used by the president. For the most part, they appear to be Trump supporters.

Dozens of people at a Trump rally in Tampa on July 31 had Q signs and T-shirts and spoke to reporters about their beliefs.

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Q has been amplified by people like actor Roseanne Barr, who was banished from her self-titled television reboot after comparing former White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, who is black, to an ape. She claims she didn't mean to evoke racism.

The Acworth business, which records show incorporated in the state in 2013, has received mixed reviews online.

On Yelp, the business has been bombarded with one-star reviews that appear to be because of the sign. One reads: "The sign is rasict (sic) and basically conspiracy theories that prey on people's fears."

In the reviews section of Google, the business has been flooded with five-star reviews like this one: "Thank you for your wonderful #QANON billboard. A true patriotic business - please patronize these wonderful people!!"

Meredith, the car wash co-owner, said “common sense” drew him to QAnon. He refuted calling it a group, instead describing it as “a wake-up call."

He said he felt the reviews created a "zero sum net gain" because "individuals have their own opinions and should express them freely."

When asked if he understood why some people would be offended by the sign, he simply responded: “Misinformation.”

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