interviewer badmouthed me to my references because I didn’t want to “harness the power of QAnon”

A reader writes:

After 15 years as a nonprofit executive director, I’ve struck out on my own as a nonprofit consultant. While much of my business is word-of-mouth and comes to me, I do sometimes throw my hat in the ring for positions I see posted online. One such position was for an organization that works in a very niche field of victim services for children. I’ve worked in child welfare for many years and their scope of work seemed like a good fit. I went through three Zoom interviews, several (paid) exercises, and a fourth interview before being invited to speak to the founder and board. While the process was cumbersome, the time was paid, the work was critical and executive-level, and I enjoyed the people with whom I spoke. I didn’t feel there were red flags.

Then came the meeting with the founder and the board. What started off as an informative and productive conversation devolved within about 15 minutes to their statement that we needed to “harness the power of QAnon” because this organization serves a population that would be harmed if one of QAnon’s biggest conspiracy theories was true … and the board felt that QAnon members would want to throw money at this cause. I probably was just open-mouthed and speechless on Zoom for a solid 15 seconds before composing myself and diplomatically (I think) saying that based on the information about the nonprofit they’d already shared, I’d think it would turn off other donors if they aligned themselves with QAnon. It went badly from there, and I politely excused myself from the call and followed up with an email that reiterated I was withdrawing my candidacy.

I could just write this off as a ridiculous story to tell people, except that one of the board members called my references (which were furnished at the time we scheduled the final interview, assuming that was just a formality). That board member told at least one of my references — who is a current client — that I was hugely unprofessional, let my politics get in the way of work, and didn’t have the best interests of victims at heart. I found this out when this reference, a very long-term client, let me know. She and I have discussed politics some and she knows my positions (Left. Just…very left, and I don’t own a tinfoil hat) so she could laugh about it.

But it seems this board member called my references just to badmouth me, not to actually ask for references. My client said she wasn’t asked any questions asked about me, but rather she was “warned” about my character. The board member didn’t explain that they had suggested that I “harness the power of QAnon”; she just said I put my “unreasonable political beliefs” first and refused to help victims.

This client was fourth on a list of six references so I’m concerned she called them all to badmouth me. They’re newer and I’m not sure how to best broach this with each of them. I want to be proactive but am really unsure of the wording. I don’t want to badmouth a (former) potential client but also want to make it very clear what happened.

Any ideas?


So they want to “harness the power” of a deluded and dangerous organization not because they believe its conspiracy theories, but because they see an opportunity to raise money? And they’re offended by you pointing out that might not go over well with the rest of their donor base (which is, uh, a very practical concern)?

Even if they disagreed with your take (BUT YOUR TAKE WAS 100% CORRECT), how on earth did that turn into you “being unprofessional, letting politics get in the way of work, and not having the best interests of victims at heart”? Is this is an organization that takes any differing perspective on strategy as a personal attack?

And then to take the extra step of calling people who know you — not for references, but just to trash-talk you — to go out of their way to try to harm you … who are these people and why did this become so personal to them? (Are they QAnon believers themselves? That’s the only explanation I can think of.)

The saving grace here is that it’s going read as Highly Unhinged to anyone who gets that call.

In fact, because it’s such a strange thing to do, I actually wouldn’t be that freaked out about whether the board member called your other clients. Any reasonable person who got a call like that from a stranger is going to be predisposed to think the problem is with the stranger, not with you, the person they know and have had good experiences with.

That said, you presumably told these clients that you were going to be putting their names on a reference list, so you could follow up now with an email that says something like, “Thanks for agreeing to be a reference for me! Unfortunately it might have resulted in a really strange phone call from an organization I’m very sure I don’t want to work for, but which was offended by my disagreement with some of their proposed strategies. If you did get that call, I’m so sorry your time was used that way (and I’m happy to talk to you about it if you want!).”

Keep it short and breezy, and that should put it in context for anyone who’s wondering.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 346 comments… read them below }

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        I was going to go with “What the actual ….?” but I think you’re right.

      1. Shocked Charizard*

        yeah I’m surprised the rest of the comments are agreeing with this wrong meme usage so heartily lol

        1. Mental Lentil*

          Memes will eventually disconnect from their original context. Some will continue to have meaning, some will not and die away.

          I saw this same argument on Reddit, where someone used a “What can a banana cost? $10?” meme and people basically lost it because apparently this line originally was “What can a banana cost? $9?” (I think it’s from Arrested Development, but I have no idea, since I’ve never watched that.)

          The point is, the meme is about millionaires being out of touch with ordinary people’s experiences, not this particular millionaire on this particular show being out of touch. $10 or $9 or even $20 doesn’t matter, because the point is made regardless of the original context. I bet most people who recognize *shocked Pikachu* have never seen the original reference.

          TL;DR: Memes are part of language, and languages evolve.

          1. Shocked Charizard*

            Yes but the *point* of the shocked pikachu meme has always been as a reaction to something *incredibly obvious* happening. Like the joke is about people being shocked about something that shouldn’t be remotely shocking.

    1. NotJane*

      Perfect. This is definitely one of those “skip words, go right to meme” moments. I pictured Homer Simpson reversing into the hedge.

      1. A Penguin of Ill Repute*

        My thought was Homer’s dad walking in, hanging his hat, walking in a circle, grabbing his hat, and leaving again.

    2. Midwestern Scientist*

      My jaw dropped the further I read but this was the first comment and I laughed out loud so thanks! Totally brightened my day

    3. Sandangel*

      I’m picturing this client staring slackjawed at her phone like “Did that conversation just happen?!”

  1. Dust Bunny*

    I’ve said this before but it applies here, as well:

    Holy sh*tshow, Batman.

    I got nuthin’.

      1. Anonybus*

        Definitely wondering if I’m an extra living in an episode of the Twilight Zone more and more frequently.

        1. TardyTardis*

          I had one day at work that I fully expected David Spade to show up, because it was definitely a “Please Shoot Me” type of day. Then again, our printer was possessed by Satan on a fairly regular basis.

      1. Anthony J Crowley*

        Alison has asked many, many times for people to stop with the WTF Wednesday business. AFAIK she hasn’t rescinded that.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Same. I made a noise that can best be spelled as “Ggghhhaahhhhahhh!” in response to this.

      1. nonbinary writer*

        I saw “QAnon” and then I saw “children” a line or two down and immediately went “oh nooOOOOOOOOO”

  2. Amber T*


    I will say, if I agreed to be a reference for someone and a someone from a job they applied to called me just to complain and badmouth them, I don’t think that would affect my view on the person I’m giving a reference for – that seems so wild and out there that it would be completely on the person calling me, not the person I work with.

    Add that they believe in the Q-Anon crap, and I’m definitely on your side. It would not affect my thoughts on you at all.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I would probably call and warn them that the job to which they were applying was full of angry QAnon bees, just in case they didn’t already know.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Apparently the Terrible Interview Place didn’t actually say anything about QAnon to references… sounds like they left it vague on what exactly they disagree with LW about, just that LW was supposedly unprofessional and rabidly political in some unspecified way. For all the reference knows, that could mean LW is the radical right-wing conspiracy theorist.

        I don’t think a reasonable person will think badly of LW for getting this call though. It’s so out of the blue and bizarre, it’s a huge red flag that the person making the call doesn’t have all the bulbs in the garden.

        1. Oodles of Noodles*

          Looking at the letter, it doesn’t sound like the org is necessarily pro-QAnon, rather looking to use believers as a revenue source. Opportunistic, certainly (but honestly, so are the people that print #[City]Strong stickers after a tragedy and sell them for profit). I can see OP’s POV that courting donors that way can turn off other donors, but I can see the board’s POV that rejecting donors outright based on their politics isn’t necessarily what they want to do. Of course, we have no idea about the tone of voice of anybody in that meeting, so it’s tough to figure out if there was a miscommunication in how things were said or not.

          Reaching out to the references to complain about OP is a huge overreach and highly inappropriate, any way you slice it.

          1. Spero*

            From how this all went down my guess is that *this board member* is into QAnon, the rest of the board was convinced to ‘humor’ them by agreeing to ‘tap into QAnon believers’ thinking that would keep them from taking the whole org full Q. And the believer/board member is not satisified with being told their views are alienating.

            Honestly, I would approach the board chair/non-Q ish folks to see if they knew the believer one was doing this type of follow up. I’ve been in a situation where one rogue staff member was calling my references to complain about me complaining about her, and her bosses were both clueless as to her behavior and PISSED when they found out.

          2. Thornus*

            Real human trafficking organizations HATE QAnon. They hate that their resources are being used up on bogus leads. They hate that their slogans are being coopted by radicals. They hate that their own involvement in this issue can now be questioned because some crazies who believe JFK Jr. is still alive and the Iraqi dinar will soon become the universal currency happened to have glommed onto the same vague social cause.

            If this organization is truly trying to harness the power of QAnon, through a Useful Idiot method, then it’s frankly not a worthwhile organization to be attached to. If individual donors believe in QAnon and give on their own volition, that is one thing. But reaching out to them to harness their checkbooks is something entirely else.

            1. SuperDiva*

              This. It’s a terrible strategy that would absolutely turn away legitimate donors *and* make the organization lose a ton of credibility. Q-Anon conspiracy theories do nothing to actually help victims of trafficking, and they muddy the issue and cause harm by creating panic where there is little actual risk. (No, there aren’t traffickers roaming the aisles of Target trying to snatch your children.) And it’s spread beyond QAnon believers: just Google “Michaels + Katie Sorenson” to see the harm this conspiracy theory can cause to innocent people — usually POC.

          3. Boof*

            The reaction to OP saying QAnon is a bad plan makes it sound like the board actually does believe in QAnon they just have an idea of how crazy it is so won’t say it to anyone except the inner circle (and then punish the nonbelievers)

        2. theharuspex*

          FWIW, I got a call from one of my references once warning me that they were contacted for a reference call and it was strange and unprofessional. I wish I had heeded it because I actually accepted the job and surprise! The hiring manager was wildly unprofessional and a nightmare to work for. My reference was lovely and didn’t hold it against me, but wanted to warn me that it seemed like a bad person to work for.

      2. quill*

        Yeah, if I knew you enough to be a reference, and we were working with a vulnerable population that has an ongoing conspiracy-theory shitshow preying on it, I would let you know that this place was a hellmouth based on this conversation.

        If they only made vague “unprofesssional! Meany pants!” noises at me after calling me up to complain about the person I was serving as a reference for, I would just chuck them in the “annoying and pointless” mental bin, though.

      3. Ellie*

        I would too – your 4th reference said that they badmouthed you without mentioning QAnon, that might cause you issues. Just so that there’s no misunderstandings, I’d send an email that was more along the lines of, ‘Unfortunately, one of the board members of the company I interviewed with wanted to ‘harness the power of QAnon’, and appeared to take offence when I disagreed with this approach. Although I have already withdrawn from consideration, they appear to be contacting my references . Please feel free to ignore the call and let me know if you have any questions.’

        You could also send a cease and desist. They did attempt to defame you.

    2. Meep*

      Honestly, that is where I am at. Conservative, liberal, progressive, whatever.

      QAnon? That person is insane not the person I have had a working relationship with for years.

    3. LKW*

      Yup, if someone hiring called just to complain to me… that’s effing weird. If they talk to me about QAnon – I’d be worried about having to file a restraining order. Those people are nuts. Vice just published an article from a kid who survived the Parkland school shooting and his own father doesn’t believe the shooting is real any more.

    4. Yvette*

      Sadly, it does not sound as though Q-Anon came up when they called the reference. Just vague references to OP being overly political and “was hugely unprofessional, let my politics get in the way of work, and didn’t have the best interests of victims at heart.” They did not let their freak flag fly. But I agree that anyone who knows OP would think less of the caller and not OP.

      1. Melissa*

        I think the references, if they know OP well, could easily infer the freak flag.

        My response would be the same as the reference who contacted OP to let them know, because I’d be wanting to wave a big red flag to dissuade OP from accepting the job, if it was still on offer.

      2. Koalafied*

        Exactly. If I got the call I would think, “Well, that’s completely the opposite of how I’ve always known Consultant to be. How bizarre. Probably a story there.”

    5. Smithy*

      I had something vaguely similar happen to me a few months ago. Someone I served as a reference for, she ultimately turned down the job. I then got what I can only call a “concern troll” call from them a few weeks later that she had essentially ghosted them and they were worried for her safety. It was followed up with “obviously we’re rescinding the offer but also just very worried about her”.

      The call was so weird that even if she hadn’t handled the situation in the most professional way, I just was baffled by tone and nature of the entire call.

      All of which to say, this will reflect on them far more than the OP.

      1. PNW Labrat*

        It sounds like the business equivalent of “No, he didn’t dump me. I dumped him!”

    6. meyer lemon*

      My guess is that at least some people at this organization are invested in QAnon to some extent, but they are savvy enough not to come out and say it outright, either to interviewees or to the people they call to badmouth interviewees. Even without that angle, though, I think most reasonable people will realize that the issue is with them and not the LW.

      1. MM*

        I agree. What’s really freaky is the idea that some of them *aren’t*, and have actually been convinced to go along with this concept of “harnessing the power of QAnon” as a strategy rather than as a cover.

        1. meyer lemon*

          I think the QAnon borders are much more porous than we would like them to be. Partly this is because they have tentacles in many different belief quadrants, so some people can get sucked into the child trafficking stuff or the wellness stuff without fully recognizing this is part of the same cult that thinks Tom Hanks is a baby-eater or whatever.

          1. Spero*

            I think when you’re in child protection/trafficking work you get so used to being ignored/minimized that when someone IS interested in/committed to your work you get EXCITED. It takes time and experience to have the judgement to say, your motives are not great so I can’t work with you even though it may be good in the short term. And MANY orgs get pulled into shady partnerships and then need to backpedal when the true extent is realized. (in my own experience, a lot of churches where I later found they only wanted to work with me because they were actively covering for a rapist pastor/youth leader and using my org as cover)

        2. Autumnheart*

          No kidding. “We don’t believe in QAnon, but we’ll go along with it in order to capture their business”? Way to have some principles. D:

      2. quill*

        Yeah. Either they’re believers or they’re hoaxsters and either way they’re going to leave a swath of destruction in their wake

    7. Sparkles McFadden*

      If I were your reference, I wouldn’t blame you LW. I’d probably call you and say “You seem to have applied for a job working for an unhinged person.”

      1. Sleeve McQueen*

        and I would also ask you to dish the details because it sounds like a great anecdote

    8. Nesprin*

      Agreed- If I gave a reference for someone and that employer called to say they were terrible because they refused to “harness the power of QAnon” I’d be even more impressed with OP.

    9. TootsNYC*

      yeah, anyone I’ve agreed to be a reference for, I know them pretty well and already have a high opinion of them.

      So I’d absolutely either regard it as Crazy Town and blow it off, or I’d call them up and say, “wow, what is this?”

    1. Pants*

      While I can keep a poker face in most situations, I’m sure my face in this interview would completely illustrate JFC. Just reading it, my eyebrows disappeared into my hairline.

  3. animaniactoo*

    I give you credit for even holding it together long enough to say you didn’t think it was a good idea. Because I would have noped out of there the moment it was raised.

    [Ponders the idea of a cease-and-desist letter for defamation of character… probably taking this reductio ad absurdum even further down that path, but nice to fantasize about…]

    1. Blackcat*

      Yeah, I might have pulled the “stay really still as though my screen as frozen” then drop off the call approach.
      OP definitely handled it better than I would have.

      1. Zennish*

        Seriously. I would have responded (at best) with “I think we’re done here. Please withdraw me from consideration.” and then dropped the call immediately.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I want to jump on the bandwagon to compliment OP on their professionalism here. You held it together so well in the face of some real nonsense from this potential client, and I admire your ability to separate your emotions from your reaction. I have a serious level of anger for people who purposefully stoke fear in others in order to get them to give money or other kinds of support, so I’m not sure I would have held it together that well.

      1. JustaTech*

        Seconding on the professionalism. If OP could be *that* professional in such a provocative and frankly weird situation then they’re probably super professional the rest of the time too, which would make the calls to the references even more bizarre and less believable.

  4. Mental Lentil*

    I would say “name and shame” but I’m afraid these fools are going to do that themselves. JJoaPS!

  5. rgwp*

    Yeah, the only thing that makes sense of that to me would be at least one of the board members being a secret QAnon believer (my money is on the one that made the call!) and them having misled the others? Or of course they could all have fallen in I suppose

    1. LadyL*

      Unfortunately because of how Qanon operates a lot of folks are “in” qanon without realizing it. It’s very hard to convince the average person who just really cares about child welfare that actually child trafficking isn’t going up and that #savethechildren is the fringe of an extreme cult. If you’re not aware it just sounds so reasonable, and also it plays on inflated statistics that a lot of shady non-profits have been using for years to keep relevant/secure funding (if anyone wants to know more about that, I highly recommend checking out the “You’re Wrong About” podcast’s episode on trafficking). That’s what is so scary about qanon.

      1. sunglass*

        As a companion to the You’re Wrong About episode (which I definitely recommend), Michael Hobbes’ other podcast Maintenance Phase did a great episode called ‘The Wellness to QAnon Pipeline’ that is very interesting and digs into a lot of this stuff.

        1. Darsynia*

          Seconding with all my vehemence, You’re Wrong About is one of the best podcasts out there and you’ll be edified by every episode, even their long-form deep dive into the OJ Simpson case.

          Still mad that Hobbes was one of the ones let go from his job a few months ago as a journalist.

        2. bookworm*

          heartily cosign both recommendations, and not surprised to see lots of crossover between AAM readers and listeners of these podcasts. Listening to their episodes helps make me feel less crazy when the world is imploding, which means I’ve listened to each episode several times at this point…

          1. The Rural Juror*

            Someone on here commented about You’re Wrong About one time and I looked up, listened to like 8 episodes in a row, then got HOOKED!

            1. RosyGlasses*

              I just went to my podcast list and followed for my drive home today. Also – love your name; recently watched the episode about The Rural Juror and my mouth still twists involuntarily when I think of it.

          2. Sleeve McQueen*

            I’ve started relistening to them to fall asleep as a way to relax, although I’ve stumbled a bit with OJ Simpson and some of the details are a little too harrowing

        3. Save the Hellbender*

          Both of these were so good! After listening, I had this sneaking suspicion human trafficking NGOs would maybe want to capitalize on the current save the children moral panic, and I guess they are.

      2. JustaTech*

        Yes to this. I have an elementary school friend who’s said some things where I think “Do you know you’re in QAnon?” and I still really can’t tell, because she’s always been very vocal about preventing child abuse, but she’s using those hashtags and stuff.

    2. FrivYeti*

      This is exactly my feeling. One or more Board members is, if not fully onboard, actively sympathetic with QAnon, to the point that they consider them to be a reasonable political position and not a dangerous conspiracy theory. When they got called on the fact that they were suggesting support of a dangerous conspiracy theory, they got incredibly upset, and the standard QAnon response to getting upset is harassment, so here we are.

      The rest of the Board is either also sympathetic, or doesn’t want to rock the boat with a Board member suggesting these things, so they’re giving it a pass. I’d be tempted to contact other Board members and let them know that this happened, but on the other hand it’s not your responsibility to fix this sinking ship.

    3. Can't Think of a Name*

      What gets me is how this bonkers person is saying that OP is letting politics get in the way of her work, when that’s literally what they’re doing. The projection and cognitive dissonance is something else.

      1. meyer lemon*

        It’s always the fringiest and conspiracy theoriest people who are fastest to accuse others of being overly influenced by politics.

        1. DJ*

          Otherwise known as: confession through projection.

          Kinda like my coworker who lied to me, involved a junior employee in trying to get around our boss, told me he respected me, and that our boss was mercurial (pro life tip: don’t say that about someone who literally gives the platform to the people who did the work to explain said work).

    1. See You Never, Cauliflower*

      Isn’t a lot of QAnon about “protecting children” (see: liberal p***phile rings in imaginary pizza basements)? I can see how someone who imagines child abusers everywhere would be attracted to work at a nonprofit that works with abused children.

      1. Expelliarmus*

        Good point, but the scary part IMO is that the nonprofit that hired these people either wholeheartedly supports QAnon or really dropped the ball in the background checks of these people.

        1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

          It’s also entirely possible that the person with the QANonsense views was at some point, considerably less unhinged.

          Because a big part of QAnon is about suckering people in deeper and deeper and cultifying them, it’s plausible that the person they originally hired was not, or not nearly so, invested in the ideas they are spouting today. Not that it makes the organization any less culpable in failing to deal with the Nonsense now, but I can see the trajectory from “Roger is passionate, and sometimes missteps” to “Oh dear… Roger is talking about Adrenochroma again. Shouldn’t someone say something?”

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            I just love your use of the term “QANonsense,” and I fully intend to steal it for future use.

          2. AVP*

            I’ve done a bit of work with smaller nonprofits in the trafficking world that absolutely did not start out as QAnon (most have been around for a decade or more) and many of them are happy to use the awareness and stats coming out of that work to fundraise and keep their own (totally legit) work going. I don’t even think that they know they’re “in,” but they’re invested and that’s enough.

      2. Rectilinear Propagation*

        But do they? It always came across to me like the accusations were an excuse to paint people they dislike as literally evil as opposed to real concern for children.

        Not that I spend a lot of time on QAnon, but I have never heard of them advocating for more money to go to child services or supporting victim’s rights groups.

          1. Sasha*

            This. It’s “protect children from Jewish people drinking their blood, by eradicating Jewish people”, not “arrest Dad’s creepy friend Jim who likes six year old girls to sit on his lap, and teach kids the PANTS rule in elementary school”.

          2. quill*

            Yes, historically every conspiracy theory has gone “Protect OUR vulnerable population (children, womenfolk, romanticized agricultural workers, whoever)” and then when someone asks “from what?” they just continually point the finger at an entire demographic with increasingly ludicrous details.

            The key details are “our” and the idea that an entire (outsider) population is in on it.

        1. LadyL*

          No, it’s all pure nonsense. They utilize antisemitic tropes to attack figures they don’t like and paint themselves as heroic warriors, it is a hate group that does absolutely nothing to help anyone in any actual way.

        2. See You Never, Cauliflower*

          @Rectilinear Yeah for sure, I think there are a lot of areas where people use “BUT THE CHILDRENNNN” as an excuse to push their agenda, whether children are actually being harmed or not, QAnon being a shining example.

          1. Iris Eyes*

            Honestly anytime an argument for any cause leads with or leans on BUT THE CHILDREN! I am instantly turned off. It may be a shade of true but it is always a tactic to emotionally manipulate the situation. It is one of the literal oldest tricks in the book, the amount of ancient people who portray their enemies as child eaters/killers is so widespread.

          2. Jackalope*

            I had a FB friend recently post a picture of a young girl being held by a woman (supposedly her mom, I’m guessing?); the girl was holding a sign saying that we should be more concerned about human trafficking than COVID. I was so angry. Not at all the same thing, not true, and COVID can be dealt with for most of us by wearing masks and getting a shot, so much easier to resolve than an issue that’s been going on for almost all of human history.

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              Not to mention, we can be worried about more than one thing at a time. I’m in favor of stopping all forms of child harm, including kidnapping (not very likely if we’re talking the stereotypical strangers with candy version these memes are usually referring to) and COVID (becoming much more likely with every new variant turning out to be more dangerous for children than the one that preceded it).

        3. LKW*

          As far as I understand, and I understand very little about this fringe group, they’re more of a collective of “concerned citizens” than an organized group with assets. That said… I can definitely see a non-profit led by a delusional zealot whose purpose is to bring in funding look to raise money from said “concerned citizens” by spreading the word across the forums and platforms where Q’ers hang out.

        4. Jam Today*

          My dark hypothesis is that its actually the vector for them to describe and share stories of (fictional) child abuse in vivid detail — essentially pornography — using their “save the children” mission statement as cover. I truly think this is wish-fulfillment for them.

          1. MM*

            This is something that has been discussed on forums for people who have lost loved ones to Q. (I highly recommend spending some time on those for anyone who’s interested. r/QAnonCasualties is the main one I know of.) I think many of them are not even fully aware that this is what they’re doing, but absolutely the obsession with physical and sexual harm to children quickly becomes a lurid fascination.* And to the degree that they “warn” teens and kids online about these “threats,” they often do so by quite literally sharing child pornography or violent imagery with them. So they are distributing the stuff to minors in the guise of protecting minors. Probably some of them know what they’re doing and are acting deliberately–i.e., they were already p*dophiles and came to Q because it makes a useful cover community and outlet for them–but a lot seem to be caught up in an emotional/somatic cycle and have never put two and two together about what their behavior actually is.

            *You can see this beyond Q too. Q is relatively new and has kind of subsumed a lot of other preexisting conspiracy strands, but many, many conspiracy theories have revolved around child welfare for decades or centuries. I was watching a talk from a Gabonese expat for totally unrelated research purposes, and midway through he showed a video with stills of dead, mutilated children as part of his argument that the Gabonese President has orchestrated murders. “Ali Bongo kills people” is a pretty common narrative and may even be true in some form (it’s a very politically repressive government), but the images in that video immediately told me this man was a conspiracy theorist because of the lurid display of harm specifically to children. Looked at his facebook page and, yup.

          2. JD*

            YES. I definitely think this is true. They either fantasize about fictional child abuse and enjoy sharing that erotic thrill with others, and/or the same thing but with violent fantasies about killing/torturing those they perceive to be harming children.

            I was an actual “sex trafficked” child, so I know something about avoiding abusers now, and every bit of “Q” stuff I see sets off constant red flags.

        5. Siege*

          No, it’s definitely the kind of thing where protecting children from imaginary threats (Democrats, Jews) is much better than protecting them from real threats (Larry Nassar, multiple religious leaders). It doesn’t follow, on that basis alone, that these are people who are really committed to spending money on intangibles. They’ll buy the merch, but I’d be surprised if affiliating with QAnon got any increase in donations for any non-profit. There’s a lot of valueless for-show spending in a certain sector of evangelical Christianity that overlaps very strongly with Q belief.

        6. meyer lemon*

          I think they use the CHILDREN as a recruiting tactic. It makes them sound more legitimate to people who are susceptible but would be turned off if they got the full fire hose of hate speech right from the start. It’s not dissimilar to the Satanic Panic, really. Just a lot of FOR THE CHILDREN rhetoric without much actual consideration for what would actually help children beyond what props up their culty belief system.

        7. A Poster Has No Name*

          Right, which is why the LW is 100% correct that using QAnon to fundraise is a terrible, terrible idea if the non-profit is a legit victim services organization. Associating with the crazy will inevitably see some of the crazy rub off on you (at least in the eyes of the non-crazy), and that won’t help the mission or the population they serve.

      3. Littorally*

        The problem is that these same people often tend to handwave the actual abuse victims they encounter, as the perps don’t fit into their stereotype of what a child abuser looks or acts like.

      4. Anoni*

        Side note: There’s a really interesting connection between QAnon/Cosmic Pizza now and the Satanic Panic/McMartin Daycare case in the 80s. This isn’t a new phenomenon.

        1. Damn it, Hardison!*

          It’s fascinating, in a horrible way, isn’t it? Moral panic is powerful.

          1. quill*

            conspiracy theories are like some sort of brain virus. It just keeps mutating and coming back.

            1. Zennish*

              People become addicted to the constant state of being emotionally hijacked and ability to justify, even glorify, their own worst inclinations, prejudices and fears. IMHO, it’s fully as bad as a serious drug addiction.

      5. Butterfly Counter*

        I can see them wanting to get involved, but can’t imagine them actually getting beyond the “setting up” stage.

        I am heavily involved in human trafficking research that includes the child sex trafficking that Q is so vocally against. However, when you see the reality of human trafficking, it is incredibly different than so many people think: it truly exploits the most vulnerable in our population. And the most vulnerable aren’t white cherubic children, but minorities, poor, drug addicted, LGBTQ kids who often have behavioral problems and don’t thank the people who “rescue” them.

        Seeing the reality of human trafficking would expose Q as a lie, so I don’t see the organization that relies on Q as being effective at all beyond gathering money and blathering more lies to its donors. And anyone who is involved in boots on the ground organizing around sex trafficking knows to stay far away from these damaging lies that Q spouts because they do so much more harm.

        So I can see those who are involved with Q WANTING to help. However, if they actually helped, they’d see what a sham Q is. They’d have to decide if they want to deal with reality and reject the lies or wrap themselves in comforting misinformation that demonizes those they already hate.

      6. Nesprin*

        I’d argue that QAnon is about accusing your political enemies of child abuse, because everyone hates child abusers.

    2. ian*

      I’m kinda hoping that this is more of a grifter-type “we’re collecting money to provide support for children rescued from the Satanic pedophile Democrats when they’re eventually exposed and in the meantime we’ll just pay ourselves out of that fund!”.

      Because at least that way, they’re not actually interacting with any children…

      1. Anonym*

        That would honestly be better. Also, WAY secondarily, but… board members with that poor of a grasp of cultivating donor relationships? Not sure they’re really able to contribute effectively to the organization’s mission if they’re that far afield in multiple areas.

      2. LunaLena*

        Yeah, I’m skeptical that they do much in the way of actually interacting with children. Some people get into services for children because they figure it’s an easy way to guilt others into contributing. I should know, because I briefly worked for one. If anyone disagreed or showed hesitation about doing what he wanted, his immediate go-to was “but this is to keep children safe! Don’t you want to keep children safe? It’s a PUBLIC SAFETY issue! For CHILDREN!” (this was long before QAnon and 8Chan and those kinds of sites)

        If that guy thought he could get money out of QAnon supporters, he probably would’ve done it too. In fact, a lot of things about this letter (including calling references to badmouth the OP) sounds like the sort of thing he would do. If he hadn’t been a one-person start-up who definitely sent up a lot of red flags during the interview (I learned an important lesson about listening to my gut instinct after working for that guy), I’d wonder if he was involved.

  6. Pony Puff*

    It’s shocking they were able to present as normal until the final stage of a long interview process. They sound totally bonkers!

      1. ian*

        I wonder if the lower levels are just people trying to do a real job and its more the management that’s fallen into the conspiracy theories?

    1. Save the Hellbender*

      Or they’re not bonkers and don’t believe that Democrats traffic children, but they don’t see an ethical problem capitalizing on the moral panic. I feel like it’s easier to hide that level of cynicism than being actual conspiracy theorists. Like maybe the board member really believes it but the staff just want to target ads to those shades of YouTube

      1. Mental Lentil*

        This may be it. It’s like selling “alien brain-wave proof” tin foil (that’s really just ordinary tinfoil) to people who are inclined to make tin foil hats. Capitalism at its finest. /s

  7. LadyL*

    This organization is incredibly dangerous, and I am now very actively worried about whatever population* it is they claim they’re trying to help. I’m not gonna tell LW to put themselves further into the fire with this group, but somebody should report this/put them on blast/SOMEthing. Awful awful. Thank goodness they revealed their depravity right away and you got away, LW!

    *I have guesses but I assume LW was vague for a reason.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      I am with LadyL on this one. I am guessing that this is a social service organization and thus employees many social workers who have to abide by the NASW code of ethics. The idea of using Q ideas in practice goes against all of these ethics. Now board members may not themselves be social workers, if they are it may be worth filing a complaint against their license as this action itself goes against the “professional behavior” sections of the code of ethics. If they are doing this when the target is someone who can advocate for themselves what are they doing when the target is a client who cannot stand up and protect themselves?

      1. Self Employed*

        Board members are almost certainly not social workers–they’re typically rich people who are on the board because they have connections with other wealthy potential donors. I found this out when someone suggested I apply to be on the Board of Directors of a local adult disability organization. Most of the application focused on “prove you’re gonna be a rainmaker” not “what are your qualifications advocating for Disability Justice?”

    2. coldsassy*

      I was thinking the same thing. God help anyone who ends up at this organization needing help.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*


      Honestly, if I were in OP’s shoes, I would want to get word out to other donors/supporters that this group was comfortable with the idea of partnering with a group that peddles complete false and dangerous conspiracy theories that actually harm the efforts of legitimate groups that want to protect children.

      1. Temperance*

        I definitely see that part, but Q Anoners are kind of known for their rabid dedication to the cause. It could very well put OP in actual danger to do so.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          That’s a completely fair point.

          OP should only do that if they can do so safely (anonymously).

  8. bunniferous*

    What in the absolute hades did I just read… least OP dodged a major bullet. Strike that, I mean cannonball….wow…..

  9. OhGee*

    OP 100% did the correct thing in nopeing out of this prospective job. If this organization understood anything about QAnon, they’d realize that they aren’t going to get any money out of that gaggle of blithering conspiracy theorists.

    1. Mary Connell*

      Unfortunately some QAnon or QAnon adjacent groups are very successful at fundraising and are evidently creating more problems for the populations they’re supposed to be serving than they’re solving. (See, for example, recent exposes about a man named Tim Ballard, who appears to be growing wealthy from all of this, based on the 990s for his organization.)

      1. JB*

        Yeah, there’s a lot of people willing to throw money into these kinds of beliefs, unfortunately. I have a feeling the nonprofit owners are thinking they can get rich the same way.

  10. I'm A Little Teapot*

    Is it wrong of me to hope that org folds under the weight of disapproval from their donors? Or the entire board and executive director is turned over?

    OP, Alison’s advice is good. Assuming your other clients are familiar with your work and are reasonable people, their response is likely going to be that the org it itself is the problem.

  11. Chad #5*

    Wow — I am speechless. We have a QAnoner in the HR office and I, too, am curious how this person will be handling themselves going forward. Will keep an eye on this thread for some advice :)

    1. Just Me*

      I have a direct report who has expressed some Q “philosophy”. I try to change the subject while disagreeing with his premise (apparently more than 10,000 people have died from the vaccine). I couldn’t let it go without saying they pulled the J&J vaccine when only a few people had died, but he still wanted to prove he was correct.

      It’s difficult because I didn’t want to engage at work and harm our relationship, but I also don’t want looney ideas representing us. Luckily he’s pretty professional normally, but I am still shaking my head (and keeping a close eye on it).

      1. Mousekeeping*

        3 deaths in the US have been linked to vaccines in the US, out of 343 million doses.

        Out of at least 200 million COVID cases worldwide, at least 4 million people have died.

        Posting for readers’ reference.

    2. Sharrbe*

      The last few years have left me feeling like we’re trapped in a warped production of “Invasion of the Bodysnatchers” meets “Groundhog Day”.

    3. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      Be ready for things to get weird. In mid-August the My Pillow guy is having his “symposium” on “election fraud,” and a lot of the QAnon types are thinking that is finally the day that Biden resigns, Trump returns, the 10 days of darkness, fall of the cabal, and so on (I don’t know anyone in QAnon, thank heavens, but I keep an eye on what they’re talking about). When none of that happens, a lot of them aren’t going to take it well.

      1. JB*

        They’ve had a lot of days like that come and go already. Generally, the people who don’t leave a doomsday cult after the first missed rapture just get used to living in a world of perpetually looming ‘final reckonings’ that never come to pass.

        1. Mental Lentil*

          Yep, if I had a dollar for every “second coming” that’s been predicted (first for the year 1,000, because you know, that’s a magic number) I’d have a lot of dollars.

          This behavior is very predictable. We’ve just never seen it promulgated from such a high perch before.

  12. Witch*

    I think a quick follow up note of, “Hey thanks for acting as my reference,” can also serve to remind clients that you actually are pretty professional, thanks.

  13. Jake*

    A LOT of child service organizations, both formally and informally, have latched onto “save our children” as a dog whistle for the QAnon crowd. They view it as a harmless way to get dollars to put towards actual, real, good, causes that have nothing to do with Hillary Clinton being the head of a pedophilia ring.

    It is especially common on social media. Go to any well known child services org on facebook and look for QAnon catchphrases, and you’ll find them EVERYWHERE. It isn’t a coincidence because the language being used is substantially different than the language from 5 years ago.

    It doesn’t surprise me that the board felt that way, even if they abhor QAnon. A person with the mindset that they will help as much as they can, regardless of the method, this seems like a very reasonable action. Frankly, I’m shocked the OP doesn’t run into this regularly since they work with child services nonprofits.

  14. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    My immediate response to anyone quoting QAnon is a serious string of British profanity. Those people are effing disgusting. (A lot of conspiracy theories are also very antisemetic, qanon is one of them).

    I’m really seriously alarmed that a professional firm is quoting this BS.

    1. Allypopx*

      I didn’t realize that about QAnon but I’m not shocked to hear it (I intentionally haven’t researched them a ton)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I learnt a lot about the very anti-Semitic underlying views of conspiracy theories from this site! And I really thank the commentators and Alison for it.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I decided to research QAnon – general search on its website and followers, posts on Reddit, Twitter, etc., targeted search on ‘leaders’, and so on. I braced myself for the worst but it was so much worse than I expected. I was even sickened reading low-key, matter-of-fact comments from their followers. QAnon and its followers are truly frightening.

          It’s fair to say I was so shaken that if anyone in my personal circle embraces QAnon and their hateful rhetoric, they are dead to me.

      2. LadyL*

        Anything revolving around ritual blood stealing or a group of people secretly controlling world power is utilizing very long standing antisemitic tropes. So qanon’s “cabal of elites sacrificing children to keep power/youth” fits very neatly into some very disgusting and old antisemitic rhetoric.

        1. InsufficientlySubordinate*

          Almost all conspiracy theories begin/based on or end up as Anti-semitic bullshit.

    2. quill*

      Taxonomically you can boil all conspiracy theories to “antisemitism” and “medical hoaxes”

  15. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    Yikes! If that organization believes in QAnon (which seems most likely based on what has transpired), then that Board member sees anyone who doesn’t accept QAnon as part of the conspiracy. They were probably making calls in the sincere (to them) belief that they must warn your references that you are one of the evil actors.

    Call your references and let them know the Board member is a QAnon believer. That should be enough to solidify YOUR professionalism.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I can’t imagine working somewhere where QAnon is spoken about in a professional capacity. Yeah, there could be a corner office where a few gossip about it, but to bring it up as a strategy? It’s like talking about Mole People or Flat Earth.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Even if they don’t really believe in it, the sheer cynicism of thinking “how can we take money from these deluded people” is breathtaking.

      1. ratatatcat*

        Honestly, simple classic grifting like that’s almost better to me than them being actual Q-Anoners.

        1. JB*

          Unfortunately, grifters at the top are what create and sustain cults like this. Very few harmful groups are run by ‘true believers’, they’re run by people who found a way to make money off of others’ fears, insecurities and hatred.

          It goes poorly for the grifters, too. A lot of the current big names in the alt right have been known to reach out privately to various people, looking for some strategy on how to de-escalate their own fanbase so that they can exit the movement without their own followers turning on them. But nobody knows how to help them do that.

    3. Firecat*

      I agree. I would call each of my references instead of assuming they will write off the call. The founder was purposefully vague and inflammatory in a plausible deniability way.

      I’d say something like – I wanted to let you know that I withdrew from the org application process. During the final stage of interviews the founder turned very combative when I suggested aligning the org publibaly with QAnon could turn off some donors. Unfortunately the interview turned so hostile I decided to cut the interview short and immediately withdrew my candidacy. I figured that was the end of it, but then I heard from one of my references that Founder called her to lambaste me as unprofessional. I figured you were owed the context. I appreciate you serving as my reference! Do you have any concerns about continuing to serve as my reference moving forward given these events?

  16. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    Anonymous tip to an enterprising local reporter? Report to state Department of Human Services? Seriously, this org should not be put in charge of anyone’s well-being, but particularly children.

    1. PolarVortex*

      Something. Anything but not doing nothing. There are child victims at stake here and I wouldn’t trust that board to oversee a taxidermied squirrel.

    2. gmg22*

      Co-sign this. The founder and board of this organization have apparently collectively gone off the deep end, and should not be allowed to work with vulnerable populations.

    3. DG*

      I also feel like LW needs to tell someone, but I worry that, depending on how many other candidates have interacted with the founder and board recently, they would know it was LW who tipped off the news/state agency/etc. and would retaliate in a way that would compromise LW’s safety. If their reaction to LW politely bowing out of consideration was to trash LW’s professional reputation, what would they do if they believed LW was making them face real consequences?

  17. Free Meerkats*

    While I’m sure following Alison’s advice might serve to put the LW’s mind more at ease, I feel the communication should be more pointed. Tell the references exactly what the disconnect between the LW and the board were.

    Q Anon nutcases need to be called out and publicly shamed. They are dangerous and in no way should be in a field like this. And if they were only looking at it in terms of money, that’s possibly worse.

    Name and Shame them, they tried to do it to you.

    1. generic_username*

      I agree. I would use Alison’s script and specifically mention the exact strategy to which I had balked.

    2. Anon (and on and on)*

      I had the opposite reaction, actually. If I were the LW I’d tell my references that they found out this organization was contacting their references AFTER they had withdrawn their candidacy, and don’t include any details. That’s already so beyond-the-pale inappropriate that the content of the calls is basically irrelevant. That way, if the organization hasn’t actually contacted them, it doesn’t open up a can of worms about what they may have been said.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        One could phrase it that way: “Subsequent to my withdrawing my candidacy a member of the organization’s board has called my references and spoken poorly of me, apparently in retaliation for what they saw as the “political” decision not to proceed with the hiring process” or some such.

  18. Katherine Vigneras*

    Yikes, but at least now you don’t have to work there to find out how unhinged they are. Close shave!

  19. Allie*

    So I was actually just down the street in a bookshop three doors down when someone deluded by conspiracy theories a lot like QAnon’s brought a gun into a pizza place in DC (remember when that happened?) I was buying Christmas presents for my nephew at the time. The police locked us down.

    I was scared. I wasn’t sure if I should tell my mom because it would scare her so much.

    I would want to know if an organization had anything to do with QAnon or did nonsense like that because I would not donate to them, not have any association with them and would warn people to stay away. This stuff puts people’s lives in danger and undercuts actual attempts to help kids.

  20. Gina*

    My take? They really were Q followers but tried to say that it was just a good way to raise money to cover for their beliefs. And when OP refused to go along? Well their true colors came out. OP dodge a huge bullet there.

    1. Colette*

      Yeah, that sounds right. (Interesting leap from “Q Anon might cost us donors” to “politics”, too, although Q Anon is very political.)

    2. Littorally*

      Agreed. I don’t think for a moment that they were ‘only trying to use them as a fundraising source’ or whatever. That’s just the cover excuse. Taking it incredibly personally and trying to smear the OP in such an unhinged way is pretty damning.

    3. hbc*

      Yeah, at first I thought there was a plausible “look, we want to help kids, these nutcases have a delusional belief that kids are being hurt in a specific way, let’s see if we can take advantage.” I mean, in theory, I would love the idea of getting the KKK to fund “getting minorities out of our neighborhoods” and using that money to send underprivileged kids to summer camps.

      But if you’re setting up such a scheme, you have to know that some people are not going to be fans of that, and you don’t go bad mouthing them for it. At best, their belief systems are along the lines of “I don’t think Q gets all the details right, but they make some good points.”

  21. Dutch*

    If these people are in the field of child welfare, and they really buy into the Qanon conspiracies, it feels like they should be reported. There have been cases before where children were wrongly removed from families because of bias from agencies involved, and I could see that happening with folks who buy into pizzagate or frazzledrip (I’m not even making these up, I wish I were).

    See the Orkney Satanic abuse case for an example.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Protip: Do NOT google frazzledrip if you don’t know what it is.

      Trust me. You are better off not knowing.

  22. SheLooksFamiliar*

    My references know me well enough to know my political bent, and/or that I don’t bring politics into a business-specific discussion – ever – and I don’t participate in those discussions if someone else starts one. A call like this would alarm them only because, first, this is such a crappy, out-there thing to do that second, they would know the caller is making an effort to cause trouble for me.

    I’m willing to bet your references would respond the same way, OP. All the same, I agree that it’s a good idea to let your references know they might get a peculiar call, and leave it at that. So sorry you’re dealing with this.

  23. Bilateralrope*

    I get the feeling that an update to this story could consist of the letter writer sending links to news articles about them.

  24. Llewe*

    This letter may be the (unfortunate) winner of the most and biggest red flags EVER.
    My brain can barely comprehend the level of bathsh!t bizarre this is.

  25. generic_username*


    The suggestion is exploitative (imo, people who buy into QAnon conspiracies are brainwashed and mentally compromised – using that to get their money is icky) and you are totally correct that it would turn off other donors (and fully discredit the mission of the org).

  26. Murphy*

    This is one of those times where you read the headline and need to take a minute to let it sit before diving in.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I honestly think I’d rather have to work in a bath house to earn some office perks than go through what LW did here.

  27. LDN Layabout*

    And here we had a talk/training session at work that warned about the dangers of QAnon and how it can affect what we do (public health related).

    While contacting your references is horrific, I would not worry over much because no one reasonable if going to take this seriously.

  28. Nanani*

    A textbook example of projection.
    THEY brought politics into it and THEY were unreasonable about their beliefs, so they called around telling other people you did that.

    LW, this mostly makes their organization look bad, not you. Most of the people they called will just be weirded out and not think badly of you, even if they don’t ask you for details. Let your actual performance and profesionalism speak for itself.

    (But also document incidents just in case the tinfoilers escalate somehow)

  29. Tobias Funke*

    This type of stuff has been happening in social work. The folks who genuinely and legitimately work in child welfare and with victims of childhood sexual abuse and/or trafficking are Tired.

  30. Allie*

    I should note my sibling is a prosecutor who actually has prosecuted child abuse and human trafficking cases. And she finds Qanon just as vile as anyone. It doesn’t do a darn thing to help kids and makes things worse.

  31. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    The board stared into the abyss, the abyss stared back, and so they thought “how can we raise money off this?”

  32. irene adler*

    Wonder if the remaining board members are aware of this one board member’s actions.
    If this board member was tasked with checking references, she would be expected to report the results back to the rest of the board members. So not asking questions of the reference seems like this is something this one board member did on her own-and not actually a reference check? Motive? Heaven only knows.

    If I were one of those board members, I’d sure like to know this was going on.

    (independent of the QAnon malarkey. That’s a whole ‘nother thing!)

    1. ShakenNotStirred*

      Ooooh, good point! I find it hard to believe that a board made of rational people would ok this. Of course, when it comes to QAnon, anything is possible.

      1. .LC.*

        I mean, at best, the board is full of people who find it not only acceptable but desirable to extort (would that be the right word?) money in the guise of a “good cause” from a group of people who are, to be polite, unhinged.

        So even if they aren’t QAnon believers themselves, or they’d be horrified that one of them would call someone’s reference like this, I don’t think we can operate under the assumption that they are rational.

  33. cubone*

    I feel like the “unfortunately it may have resulted in a strange call” line is just a bit too ….vague and nonspecific? If I was one of those references and didn’t get a strange call, I feel like I’d be confused (and SUPER curious) about what this means (and if I did get a call that wasn’t strange, I’d be second guessing if I was supposed to feel strange about it!). I’d be a bit more explicit that this DID happen, not maybe it may have resulted in something but not sure – more like:

    “Thanks for agreeing to be a reference for me! Unfortunately, one of my other references received a really strange phone call from an organization I’m very sure I don’t want to work for, but which was offended by my disagreement with some of their proposed strategies” (and then the rest of the proposed wording)

    1. Reba*

      I agree that being more matter of fact and as un-mysterious as possible is how I would want this to go. And, depending on how well you know the references, I would say more than “disagreement”– this is situation is both much more strange and more upsetting than disagreement would cover, imo.

      “One of the members of the interview panel brought up things related to conspiracy theories, and I of course felt I had to push back on that, which I did politely. Now I’ve learned that he is trying to retaliate or something by contacting you — I’m so sorry about that, by the way — so I just wanted to touch base about the situation.”

      Like, clearly bad-mouthing the OP is already out of line but I feel like I would want to try to underline just how out of bounds the whole situation is and make it clear that on the OP’s side there was nothing but professionalism.

      And, assuming that the references are in the same field, maybe it would be good for them to have this information about the org in question, too.

      1. cubone*

        Totally agree – saw a similar comment above. I really think this is one of the few situations where being upfront makes way more sense. If these folks are going to be that up front about their beliefs, I don’t see why the OP should shy away from being matter of fact about it.

  34. That One Person*

    I think on a bright side you don’t have to put THEM down on a resume or anything. A friend’s having an issue where his scummy boss is badmouthing him to potential employers so he’s had to get something of a “cease and desist” order against him to just confirm employment. That is, of course, assuming the vindictive guy keeps to it, but it’s made getting jobs harder.

    It’s probably a good idea to thank the references for being references, and as Alison said sort of apologize for the weirdness? Certainly gives the clients a chance to steer clear of the place if they want, shows an openness and willingness to talk about any concerns, and maybe a little curiosity fix for those who may have been left out of the loop =P (though to be fair if I didn’t get this phone call I would definitely be curious and want to know, if only for the first reason I outlined, but admittedly also pure curiosity).

  35. exactly one yike*

    *stares in social media manager* do they… think QAnon is a demographic now?????

    1. Me*

      Of course they do. It very scarily is.

      See any number of Qanon touting politicians who were successfully elected because of that demographic when no sane person of any political party should be electing people who believe in lizard people.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Why wouldn’t it be?

      It’s a terrifying one, but it definitely is a demographic in our current reality.

    3. nonbinary writer*

      I think something like 1/5 of Americans believe at least some QAnon beliefs (many of them don’t realize that what they believe comes from QAnon because of how QAnon disseminates its misinformation). It’s a MAJOR demographic.

  36. learnedthehardway*

    I would suggest you call your references and tell them exactly what happened – ie. that in the final interview, it became clear that the board / leadership of the organization is seriously looking at “harnessing the power of QAnon”, and took it very badly when you warned them that this would compromise their credibility and donor relationships. You understand that the Chair of the Board has reached out to at least one of your references to complain that you were not supportive of this idea, and has spun this into attacks on your character and professionalism. You wanted to make sure your reference was aware of this situation, as you are concerned that it may reflect badly on your judgment that you considered a role with them, but you honestly did not see any red flags before this last interview. You have withdrawn your name from consideration, and apologize if your reference has been contacted or inconvenienced in any way.

    Doing this will a) be professional, b) demonstrate that you care about your reference’s time and potential discomfort, and c) provide an explanation for (if the Chair did call them) what must have been a very bizarre and disturbing conversation, d) reassure your reference if they got a negative impression about you from the Chair, and d) provide an opportunity for shocked commiseration about the experience.

    Overall, I would say that you are 99.999% likely to be more credible with your references than a random executive of a non-profit, but it doesn’t hurt to be proactive and fill in any missing pieces for your references. You normally would have thanked them, anyway, for acting as a reference, so it makes sense to tell them why things didn’t work out with this particular role.

    In terms of the non-profit, it may be reasonable to have a lawyer write a cease-and-desist letter, or if not, a strongly worded letter to the Chair, HR, and hiring committee, etc., stating that a) you strongly object to their proposed strategy, and why (ie. it’s unethical, exploitive, pandering to fringe conspiracy theories that have racist as well as extremely partisan political factions, and b) any further efforts to smear your reputation will be met with legal action and you will forward this letter to their donors.

    1. Purely Allegorical*

      This is perfect advice and exactly what I was going further in a comment further below. You said it perfectly.

    2. RabidChild*

      This is the perfect response. If it were me I’d worry about the fact this board member had called all the way down my reference list, and the effect those calls will have on my reputation. Some people can be very credulous, especially when a board member of another organization with similar values/mission proactively reaches out. This is the aspect of it that alarms me–that this person took time out of their day to call a stranger to smear another person’s reputation. I don’t think I’d stand for it, honestly, and this is great advice.

  37. some dude*

    This is coming from a place of ignorance, since I don’t know anyone involved in either qanon or conservative politics, but this letter reaffirms my belief that people in power are trying to use QAnon and other adjacent conspiracy theorists and white supremacists groups to advance their agendas, in the mistaken belief that they can somehow control the crazy. Which is how you end up with people storming the capitol and trying to kill the vice president. Gah.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Your belief is spot on.

      These people *want* violence and will turn on anyone who speaks against them.

  38. SlimeKnight*

    I work in child welfare and QAnon, or hysteria about Wayfare doing child trafficking, or whatever is actively harmful. 1) It leads people to make false reports which increases our workload. 2) It takes attention away from actual victims. 3) It makes people less like to believe actual reports of abuse, which are most often perpetrated by family and not evil Democrats/cultists/lizard people/online furniture sellers.

    1. Bree*

      This is a really excellent point, which really highlights how deeply irresponsible this Board is being even if they don’t actually believe in Q (which at least one of them definitely does).

    2. pepper*

      I cannot even imagine. I send you strength, and gratitude for doing such an important job.

  39. Mandycake*

    Agree. Lawyer can generate a letter alleging tortious interference quickly and ask for a cease and desist. This should be sent to the founder, executive director, and all members of the board. Might not help the OP at this point but could save their next candidate. IMHO, people who say stuff like that need to learn that it is not acceptable and bordering on actionable by candidates

    1. lawyer*

      I’m a lawyer (though I don’t practice civil litigation) and immediately thought tortious interference. Maybe even defamation.

  40. Purely Allegorical*

    I am going to actually — rarely! — disagree with AAM on this one. This could be very damaging to your reputation, especially depending on how small your field is and how much influence this company has. Even if a call comes off as a bit unhinged to the reference person, that person will forever have a little asterisk next to your name of someone who prompted an incredibly strong negative response.

    I would go on the offensive here. Ring up all your references and explain that you had an interview turn incredibly sour. I would not be shy about mentioning conspiracy theories, and how the org wanted to use conspiracy theories in order to prompt money from donors. Apologize for the unprofessionalism and the waste of their time.

    I may also get a quick meeting with a lawyer to enquire about a cease and desist letter, so that there is a written record for any potential future defamation issues.

    I hate to say but with people who have joined the QA cult, you really cannot be too careful. It has infected your reputation and could get much worse.

    1. irene adler*

      Agree. Given this board member did not ask the reference any questions (instead used the opportunity to tell them about the LW), I wonder how far this “telling” will go. Just the references? Other professionals in the field? Disturbing.

  41. quill*


    1) Congrats on dodging what is obviously an ethics tar pit if they’re willing not only to encourage conspiracy theorists for their own gain, but go after you for politely declining them / not working out as a candidate in any way.
    2) depending on how well you know your references, you can tailor the degree which you want to go into it about WHY they got these bannanacakes calls. Fortunately since they agreed to be references, their prior knowledge of you should make them far less susceptible to the whole, frankly conspiratorial, idea of “an allegation of unprofessional behavior is evidence of unprofessional behavior” when they consider that the source is… someone who called them out of the blue.
    3) *Still screaming from within the vents*

  42. Grey Panther*

    Hold it—am I understanding this correctly? The board member who supports QAnon wants to paint *LW* as having “unreasonable political beliefs”?
    I would be on the phone to my references in a hot second to tell them:
    1. If they haven’t already, they may be receiving a strange phone call about me.
    2. The ex-potential employer suggested aligning itself with QAnon.
    3. Apparently, my “unreasonable political belief” is that I do not support QAnon.
    Of course, you’d say it better than I did here, but … holy cats! I think polite euphemisms are a waste of time in this case.

    1. Katefish*

      This is one of the most extreme examples of the (incorrect) view that if people want to give you money, there can be no possible downside. (To be clear, I think that’s generally true, but this is a great example of an exception!)

  43. WandaT*

    This is fascinating to me. Just the other day I saw a big billboard sign in my neighborhood for a local nonprofit that does children’s advocacy (I’ve worked with them indirectly before and they seemed relatively sane) and said to my partner “that billboard looks like they’re trying to attract QAnon donors.” Now I’m convinced I was right and that there are multiple nonprofits out there chasing this poorly thought out revenue stream. Yikes.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Taking advantage of dumbasses who believe ridiculous conspiracy theories to help actual children = good

      “Harnessing the power of qanon” – VERY VERY BAD

      1. WandaT*

        RIGHT! Totally agree. I’d love it if nonprofits like this one could possibly reroute some of the folks who are maybe still on the fringe and just genuinely are looking for a way to help children. Their billboard just made me raise an eyebrow. They’ve had questionable ad campaigns in the past so who knows.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      What did the billboard say that made you think it looked like a way to attract QAnon? Just out of curiosity, and so I can see whether I see any such language on ads near me.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        My guess would be the hashtag “save the children”. I’ve seen it used in conjunction with a billboard and my brain immediately went to “WTAF?” and “I doubt they believe the Qanon nonsense, but I bet they’re trying to get donations from the fools…”. My brain registered that I recognized the organization, but not which one it was (see the part about my brain screaming “WTAF?!?!” It was occupied.)

  44. TiredMama*

    I am totally in OP’s corner but I am curious about what was said during the rest of the meeting. Must have really struck a nerve with the board member for them to think, I know how to get back at OP, I’ll call OP’s references to tell them how unprofessional OP is.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      The problem is that you are dealing with crazy. It wouldn’t make sense even if you actually knew what it was.

  45. BlueBelle*

    My references and I would have a good chat starting with “WTAF?” I would also post a review on Glassdoor that this person did this. It is crazy pants!
    *bullet dodged*

  46. TWB*

    From personal experience (unfortunately), you cannot reason with the QAnon crowd. They take every disagreement, no matter how respectfully it’s done, any questioning of their belief system, or any request for more info VERY personally. Then a rampage will follow about how you’re “one of the sheeple” that you need to “WAKE UP!”|

    They believe they are smarter than all the rest of us, and we’re too dumb to see what’s right in front of us.

    Ask “can you share your source for (insert batshit claim here)?” and you will promptly be told to “Do your own research!!”

    I know some people who have argued with Q folks online that have received actual threats and have had to call in law enforcement. We’re dealing with a mindset here that prompted some guy to go shoot up Comet Ping Pong because he was convinced there was a child trafficking ring being run of out the basement by HRC and the rest of the “democratic elite cabal”. Except Comet doesn’t have a basement to begin with.

    I’ve also found that the ones who scream about child trafficking in particular, rarely actually DO anything to help child victims. They just post hashtags on the internet.

    You dodged a serious bullet here!

  47. Cake or Death?*

    If I got a call like this, my response would be, “you want to know what I think is very unprofessional? A board member calling an interviewee’s references just to trash talk them” CLICK

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Unfortunately, people like this are so far divorced from reality that your reaction would just be further “proof” that all the nonsense they believe in is actually happening.

    2. irene adler*

      As a reference, I’d want to contact the board myself to inform them about what this one board member is doing. I would be very upset that someone is trash-talking someone I know personally. And I would want it stopped immediately.

  48. Allypopx*

    …does this rise to the level of libel? Probably not, right, because they believe what they’re saying? Alison’s advice is great this just feels like it warrants a cease and desist letter or something especially if your business relies on word of mouth.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I wondered that. IANAL but seems like the kind of thing where a ‘back off’ letter would help if it continues.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Yep. Spending $50 – $100 bucks on a lawyer to send a letter may be worth it. This unhinged individual may need to burn off more steam and start calling anyone connected to the OP.
        Also, the organization needs to be aware of that this individual is doing. Who knows, maybe they have been trying to cut the guy loose for years and letter from a lawyer documenting his bizarre behavior may be enough to cut the cord.

        1. Mandycake*

          Agree. Lawyer can generate a letter alleging tortious interference quickly and ask for a cease and desist. This should be sent to the founder, executive director, and all members of the board. Might not help the OP at this point but could save their next candidate. IMHO, people who say stuff like that need to learn that it is not acceptable and bordering on actionable by candidates

          1. EPLawyer*

            Yeah no lawyer is going to send a lawyer. HOW is the person harmed? Unless it is defamation per se, you have to prove damages. A lawyer is not going to send a letter.

            The best advice is Alison’s, ignore it or if you MUST do something just thank your references and apologize for inadvertently exposing them to the cray-cray.

            P.S. I agree the only explanation is they believe Q themselves. Or why would they say “Well IF the theory is true our clients could be harmed.” Those who LEGITIMATELY work in human trafficking are HORRIFIED at the harm that Q is causing.

            1. Lalaroo*

              Lol, sure a lawyer will. Some lawyer will absolutely send a letter. You wouldn’t, which is fine, but OP would definitely be able to find someone to send a letter . You don’t have to prove damages to send a letter.

              1. World's Most Common Initials*

                Agreed. Never say never about what another lawyer will agree to do. If it continues and you hear from other references, it could well be worth an IRL consult. These statements strike directly at your potential to earn income and *could* be legally problematic.

              2. LL*

                Litigator here with 15 years experience. There’s nothing wrong with hiring a lawyer to write a letter asking the person (nicely) to kindly stop those communications to the references as it (sounds like to me) that those communications constitute tortious interference with a business s relationship, a cognizable legal claim in all states. It sounds like the Q person is opening themselves up to legal liability and frankly it would be a kindness to send a letter encouraging them to stop before the next person takes them to the cleaners.

            2. Selena*

              Those people are delusional. Either they are QAnon or they think they can work with QAnon.
              Sure, some of QAnon are rich and powerfull and thus an attractive donor, but they are way too unhinged to ever be worth the trouble in the long run.

      2. Total*

        Removed a bunch of inaccurate legal info in this thread. Y’all, please don’t post legal info if you’re not very sure you know what you are talking about (because you are, for instance, a lawyer). Otherwise please at least include a disclaimer that you are not a lawyer. – Alison

        1. Le Sigh*

          In the U.S., if it’s written, it’s libel. If it’s spoken, it’s slander. You of course have to prove whatever has been written or said about you legally qualifies as libel or slander to win a case (and I have no idea if LW’s would win — I imagine a lawyer could better explain), but those are things you can sue for and it’s not covered by the First Amendment. And even if you wouldn’t win a case, that’s why a simple cease and desist letter from a lawyer can be enough to shut people down when they pull this kind of thing.

          You cannot just go around making false statements about someone and claim First Amendment rights — that’s not how it works.

          1. Total*

            You cannot just go around making false statements about someone and claim First Amendment rights — that’s not how it works.

            Defamation requires not only the false statement of fact, but that that false statement injures someone’s reputation. Otherwise, it’s not defamation. If I say that you, Le Sigh, are a space alien, that would be false, but not injurious, and so it would be protected.

            1. Le Sigh*

              Fair enough. I think what I (and maybe some other commenters) reacted to that your original statement was a bit broad and definitive in that it states it was “pretty clearly” covered by the First Amendment. It might be, but I don’t think LW’s letter indicates it’s quite so open and shut — we don’t really know the full extent of everything said based on this letter. Combined with the fact that people have been screaming “First Amendment!!” for years, especially lately, without really understanding what that means or what it protects, I suspect that’s coloring people’s responses as well.

        2. Total*

          Well, first off, the First Amendment does actually protect people lying, so that’s not an automatic disqualifier. But in any case I’m not sure they made a “false statement of fact,” which is the crucial part of a defamation claim. They said the OP put politics first and thus wasn’t helping children. That’s clearly an opinion, and even more than that, an opinion based on undisputed facts (the interview happened, the OP reacted badly to the ideas the board put forth). Opinion is definitely covered by the First Amendment — even if it’s outrageously vile.

          1. Judd*

            Exactly this. Lies can be defamation, but opinion cannot be defamation. The problem is that the line between what is a “lie” and what is a very poorly-informed, vile”opinion” can be pretty murky and courts generally err on the side of of the defendant in these kinds of cases.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          What Le Sigh addresses above, as well as some of the replies to you by others. I’m not going to let a legal squabble take over the thread when multiple people are posting wrong info; I’m nuking the whole thing.

          But in the case of your comments, it was the insistence that there was definitely no legal violation. There are exceptions to free speech, tortious interference being one. Whether or not that’s in play here is fact-specific and something we don’t know. Broad statements that it’s definitely not are unfounded.

          This has become derailing so leave this here, please.

    2. Rectilinear Propagation*

      I think it would not count because everything they said was an opinion, not a fact that could be proven false.

      1. Pippa K*

        I’m not a llama either but maybe this could be considered tortious interference with a business relationship? The Q weirdo phoned OP’s existing clients to tell them that OP is not doing the work they claim to do – that OP is ‘refusing to help victims’ – and it sounds like making defamatory assertions about OP in the process. But if it doesn’t do OP some demonstrable harm, then a letter from OP’s lawyer is probably unnecessary. I hope there’s no fallout for OP – the Q bubble can lead people to do some awful things.

              1. Moondoggy*

                Not a llama either but my late DH was and loved to ponder issues like this.
                Unless the OP has gives us an update, we won’t know if there has been damage to her reputation and business. Without an exact quote of the conversation with the reference, we don’t know if the board members speech fully meets the definition of slander (the legal term for the act of harming a person’s reputation by telling one or more other people something that is untrue and damaging about that person) or defamation (a false statement someone makes about you, which they publish or say as a statement of fact, and which harms your personal and/or professional reputation or causes you other damages, including financial loss and emotional distress).

                However a cease and desist letter individually and collectively to the board and the organizations executives warns them the the board member’s actions potentially meets the above criteria and should stop or there will be consequences.

                Many employers will not give references for employeesf or fear of being accused of slander.

            1. HerdingCatsWouldBeEasier*

              Now I’m imagining an attack llama letter. “Unless you cease your actions, I will have no choice but to release my attack llama against your company…”

            2. Biziki*

              @ecnaseener – Now *this* is libel, llama are a delight. To wit, their latin name is Lama glama, and how could anything so silly be mean?

        1. Koalafied*

          Yeah, another “not a lawyer” here and from what I understand (having worked at an advocacy group that brought a lot of civil lawsuits), one of the basic principles of civil law is that in order to have standing to bring a lawsuit against someone, you have to be able to show in a fairly concrete way that you (or someone you’ve been authorized to represent) were materially harmed by the defendant’s actions. Damage to reputation alone isn’t usually going to be enough because it’s so hard to prove and quantify; you’d have to show that the plaintiff was fired by a client or lost business or was kicked off a board or something along those lines, as a consequence of the libel.

          1. Nanani*

            Which is a thing that could happen since they’re badmouthing clients, right?
            Getting serious-looking letterhead warning them to back off could be useful. They don’t have to actually sue or take anything to court.

            1. Koalafied*

              Totally – you just wouldn’t typically have standing to bring the suit on the basis of what could happen, only on what actually has happened.

              I’m all in favor of the intimidating lawyer letter, though!

          2. TootsNYC*

            there are some situations in which damage to reputation is enough (you did say “usually”)

      2. twocents*

        My other concern is when you engage unhinged people, you risk triggering them further. Maybe a letter from a lawyer would work, but maybe they would take a picture of it and post it on social media and get their crazy fans after you.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*


          Do not engage the crazy. Back away slowly.

          A short and simple “I’m sorry if you got a very odd phone call from Organization X about me. I opted to withdraw from consideration for the position due to some very different views on how best to approach the important work they do” to each of the people who were listed as references is the best option.

        2. Le Sigh*

          Yeah, this was my thought. A cease and desist letter might normally make sense, but I wonder when dealing with Q’Anon types if perhaps it’s better to just Homer-Simpson-style back into the bushes, apologize to your references, and hope that’s the end of it. Even this letter being published makes me wonder….

        3. Zelda*

          Very much so. Looking like you take these allegations seriously is going to touch off the whole “LW is frightened of me because they have something to hide!” cascade of foolishness and aggravation. The mention of the Streisand Effect below is very apt.

          This is nonsense to combat with laughter and ridicule, not lawyers.

      3. Susana*

        It is not an “opinion” to spread wild theories like babies being murdered in the basement of the Whole House (and tragically, I know someone who wants to send me a “link” that “proves” this).

        Anyway, the question was about the First Amendment and censorship – words that get thrown around by people (including members of Congress) who seem to think it means you can say anything about anyone and you’re protected. In fact, censorship refers only to *government* restriction of speech – and even that is not absolute.

        1. Total*

          It is not an “opinion” to spread wild theories like babies being murdered in the basement of the Whole House

          But that’s not what the person did — in fact, the OP mentioned that the person *didn’t* bring up QANON in the calls.

          In fact, censorship refers only to *government* restriction of speech – and even that is not absolute.

          Again, the court system is the *government* carrying out laws passed by *Congress*. Can’t get much more governmental than that.

          1. Brisvegan*

            IAmAL, alneit in a different country, who has an interest in US law.

            Courts finding defamation or tortious interference to exist and awarding damages are very clearly not breaching US first amendment freedom of speech.

    3. Sharrbe*

      If the board member came out and said that OP was a pedophile or a human trafficker perhaps. They just gave their opinion of OP though. Not illegal to do that, just crappy.

    4. Phony Genius*

      Libel only applies to written material. In a phone call, it would be slander, assuming it were false non-opinion statements.

      1. CJ*

        This, because the other option is you’re suing a non-profit that works with children, and the Stresiand Effect knows no mercy or compassion.

        I would drop a line to the references to clarify exactly what OP was “unreasonable” about, though.

        1. LabTechNoMore*

          It’s extremely alarming that a non-profit that works with underage victims has anything to do with Q-Anon, particularly at the C-level. Enough so that I’m wondering if their work is even actually helping people or causing more harm.

    5. L.H. Puttgrass*

      I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer. And I am definitely not a defamation lawyer.

      That said, this seems like a situation where whoever sues, loses. Right now, the problem is someone calling a few references to badmouth you. These references are more likely to believe you than the board member anyway, and Alison’s suggested e-mail seems perfect to allay any nagging doubts they might have about the call. Suing would only raise the profile of the incident, cost money, and (reiterating here that I’m neither your lawyer nor a defamation lawyer) probably lose.

      Did I mention that I’m not your lawyer?

      1. Anoni*

        I don’t think it’s a sue-situation, but more along the lines of “don’t do this because you could be sued under this statute” sort of thing. Or basically, “what the hell is wrong with you, you weirdo, did you know this could be considered This Thing and what you’re doing is super weird. Weirdo.”

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          The same advice applies re: threatening to sue, or sending strongly worded letters implying that you might sue. With rational people, these kinds of letters aren’t all that effective when they’re obviously bluster without the law to back them up. With irrational people, a letter is even less likely to be useful.

          Now, if LW starts losing business because the QAnon board member is spreading lies about them, that might be different. But based on the facts as stated in the post, I think that having a lawyer send a letter (or even the LW sending an e-mail themselves) would be likely to stir up more trouble than it would solve.

      2. ecnaseener*

        Thanks so much for giving us your official legal opinion that we will 100% hold you to, now that you’ve agreed to be OP’s lawyer. Super nice of you! ;D

          1. Marthooh*

            I look forward to seeing you prosecute this case in defamation court. Alpaca lunch for it!

            1. Baker*

              I agree with Puttgrass (I am also a lawyer who is NOT your lawyer, and not expert in this area).
              It seems to me that threatening *irrational* people — and with what appears to be a weak case — may cause more problems than it solves. Do you really want to become the focus of a group of irrational — and probably judgment-proof people?
              You should probably call your references, mention the Q-anon connection, and call it a day.

      3. Susana*

        It does seem over the top to threaten legal actin – these references can figure it out (though I personally wold call all of them and explain that this group is not only deluded, but trying to make money off of it).

        I would, OTOH, report them in some way to charitable group monitors. People need to know they are enabling lies about child abuse, and trying to get money from people who actually care about children.

        1. Mockingjay*

          Now that’s a good idea. It’s indirect but still holds the board and/or board member accountable, at least in some fashion. I often check these groups to vet a charity or nonprofit before contributing; an incident like this would get my attention.

    6. Ladybugger*

      This almost certainly rises to the level of libel, especially since there are real damages that could be incurred by the defendant. (I say almost because IANAL but by every definition of libel/slander I’ve ever been taught in journalism and PR school this qualifies.)

      1. WellRed*

        If you were taught in j school that this counts as libel I’d be very surprised because it’s not.

    7. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Libel refers to written bad words, slander refers to spoken bad words. The OP is being slandered by the board member. It’s ironic that the OP is being accused of being unprofessional by someone who is deliberately going out of their way to denigrate them because they don’t agree with their views.

  49. Veryanon*

    This is bonkers. Just bonkers. I wonder if the LW might want to consult an attorney about a nice “cease and desist” letter?

  50. AnonInCanada*

    Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor. (o)<(O)

    Whatever these numbskulls said, I wouldn't take much issue with them. Your references know your character a lot better than to believe whatever they told them. If anything, just as Alison said, it speaks more to whoever called them than you.

  51. Sue*

    Post a review, for employees & clients, on their website, on Glassdoor, etc. I don’t know if it’s worth it, but a nice letter from an attorney about slander might help.

    1. AnonInCanada*

      It would be unfounded, as OP would need to prove actual damages in order to file one. I would just leave the loonies in the asylum and not let them occupy any mental real estate IMHO.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        I think it depends on how much money is at stake. A cease-and-desist letter definitely has the potential to be a useful investment. Note that IANAL, and consult one before proceeding.

  52. Jean*

    Depending on the surrounding circumstances, some judges might find for the plaintiff in a defamation suit with this as the complaint. I’m just saying.

  53. Rebecca*

    I totally would have laughed, thinking it was a joke! Do their non-crazy donors know that their Board wants to “harness the power of Qanon”??! As an advocate for non-craziness, I would find a strategic way to get that information out to the citizens of that community. This organization basically wants to benefit from conspiracy theories. That is so wrong on so many levels.

  54. Bree*

    An additional layer of “yikes” for me is that at least one member of the board of a organization serving vulnerable children is a true believer in this dangerous cult, and appears to have gotten the rest of the board to take a “strategy” with such obvious organizational risk seriously. I’d be very, very surprised if there wasn’t other mismanagement happening. The LW’s is under no obligation to do so or course, but I’d be tempted to watch for other signs the organization isn’t being run ethically or in the best interest of the people they serve. If so, it could be worth reporting to regulators or funders, as appropriate.

  55. favorthebold*

    I just want to say that if I was the one giving the reference, I would absolutely want to know what the scoop is on the weirdo who called me. So I really like Alison’s wording here, it lets the reference know they can ask questions if they want.

  56. GS*

    “I’m calling to let you know I inadvertantly gave your phone number as a reference to a qanon group masquerading as fellow victim services advocates. Since I withdrew my candidacy they have been calling to harass my other references, and I want to make sure they haven’t given you too much trouble.”

  57. Sorry suckers.*

    Was anyone else shocked that they were looking to grift off Q believers because they know already they are gullible? Same way the former guy gets them to send in cash. Fools and their money are soon parted.

  58. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

    Talula should have had morning coffee before reading this letter, this is beyond crazy.

    They need to be reported to the relevant authorities, I have no idea who that is but they are dangerous.

  59. Coder von Frankenstein*

    I agree with the tone, but if I were one of the references, the proposed wording would leave me wondering exactly what happened here and whether it was something I needed to be worried about.

    I would suggest going just a little bit further; find a way to mention that the disagreement was over QAnon, and that you were on the “not QAnon” side. Anybody the least bit familiar with QAnon will immediately understand that Weirdness is to be expected in this situation and you are not to blame.

    (Unless they are themselves QAnon believers, in which case you probably don’t want them as references anyway.)

  60. Brooks Brothers Stan*

    THAT’S LITERALLY HOW IT WORKS. Do you think the Magic Fairy of the Common Law hovers around and goes, “No Total, don’t do that! That’s a slander!”

    Besides the fact that the courts have upheld restrictions on free speech rather continuously throughout history. I have to wonder if you feel that a yellow fringed flag invalidates anything that happens within the court.

  61. Jessica Fletcher*

    Yeah, that board has Q believers on it and that was them testing the waters with you. I hope you don’t end up truly harmed as a result, but keep a record of this in case it gets worse.

  62. Walk on the left side*

    Alison — I think we need a “worst interview of the year” runoff to go along with the “worst boss of the year” competition! This is a solid contender…

  63. Anonymous Today*

    In addition to creating problems for organizations that actually do work with victims of trafficking, QAnon followers have endangered people by going after them them in their cars. For some reason, a QAnon believer will see someone with a child, become convinced that the child is being trafficked, and start chasing after the car. I don’t recall hearing that anyone was ever injured in such incidents, but the potential is there. Of course, no one was ever found to be trafficking the child who was with them as it was generally a parent who had their own child in the car with them. Then there are the other crazies who believe that “they” are coming for their children and must get away. In some cases, their children actually have been taken away and their goal is to kidnap their own children from CPS or whoever has them currently because “they” are all part of some Satanic cult.

  64. RN*

    Honestly if someone called me about someone I was giving a reference for, that person would be someone I worked with and knew enough about to vouch for their work ethic and behavior and I would think the caller unprofessional and bizarre. However, if I were you, I wouldn’t just send the email to your references, I would find a nice lawyer, pay his $250 fee, and have him write a cease and desist letter not only to the caller, but the board members and the organization as a whole. Worth it to save your rep and most likely will either scare them into leaving you alone OR will show the rest of the board/organization what happened and maybe it was just this one person going off and they don’t know.

  65. CountryLass*

    What is QAnon? I’m not from America, and although I vaguely remember hearing something about it, it was about some weird bloke with antlers during the Capitol riots?

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Basically, it’s a conspiracy theory in far-right circles that holds that there’s a powerful satanic cannibalistic pedophile ring operating worldwide, and that they were conspiring against Donald Trump because he was the only one with the power to stop them. They believe that Democratic politicians, as well as a number of people in the entertainment industry and big business, are members of this cabal. Seriously whackadoodle stuff.

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