Trump 'photographer' candidate scrubs QAnon from website as conspiracy group 'infiltrates' local races
Gene Ho with MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell (Facebook)

A QAnon "true believer" who is running for mayor in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has scrubbed references to the conspiracy group from his campaign merchandise website.

Gene Ho, a minor MAGA celebrity who claims to have served as former president Donald Trump's personal campaign photographer, has repeatedly endorsed the QAnon conspiracy theory over the years — even emceeing the group's "Red Pill Roadshow" last year. But since launching his mayoral campaign, Ho has tried to distance himself from QAnon and run as a "milquetoast MAGA candidate" removing items from the site such as a mug bearing the slogan "WWG1WGA" (Where We Go 1, We Go All) and a T-shirt saying "Get WQke," according to a report from Rolling Stone.

"Ho's run for mayor of the South Carolina city is a prime example of how far-right conspiracy theorists have pivoted from largely promoting misinformation online to focusing on efforts to affect change in the real-world political sphere, all while toeing the ever-winnowing line between mainstream respectability and going full-throttle Q," the magazine reports. "It's a strategy that's yielding dividends, as the ranks of elected officials with ties to the movement grows — particularly in South Carolina."

Mike Rothschild, author of the QAnon history The Storm Is Upon Us, told Rolling Stone that Ho's candidacy "is definitely a sign of Q's infiltration into local office, which are usually low-turnout elections that don't take a ton of effort to win, just name recognition."

Angelo Carusone, CEO of Media Matters for America, said Ho's claim that he served as the former president's photographer — which Trump's campaign has not confirmed — has brought "real credibility for the QAnon movement."

Ho, who attended the "Stop the Steal" rally prior to the Capitol insurrection, has been endorsed by pro-Trump conspiracy theorists Michael Flynn and Juanita Broaddrick, as well as Fox News darlings Diamond and Silk.

While Ho is still considered a long-shot to win the race, South Carolina GOP consultant Jim Wiles said that with six weeks remaining before the election, and more high-profile endorsements possible, "all bets are off."

South Carolina — where Trump "Kraken" lawyer L. Lin Wood ran unsuccessfully for state GOP chair earlier this year — has become "a magnet for conspiracy theorists" and is "well-primed for a QAnon takeover," according to Rolling Stone.

"The QAnon movement has told people to go run and win elected office and that is basically what has happened here," Wiles said.

Carusone, of Media Matters, said he's less concerned about Ho's chances of winning than the long-term implications his campaign could have.

"The reality is they're gonna break through," Carusone said of QAnon candidates, adding that the group "was never going to just go away because Trump lost the election."

"They're gonna get into parts of the Republican party at the county levels and they will be an increasing political force," Carusone said. "And it will continue to happen, and it will almost become another part of our politics. That's to me the part that is unsettling."

Read more here.