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The head of a ‘QAnon-adjacent’ anti-sex trafficking group is set to testify at Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation

It's part of a campaign to smear her as a pedophile enabler.


Claire Goforth


Posted on Mar 23, 2022   Updated on Apr 11, 2022, 9:16 am CDT

On Wednesday, senators announced their final round of witnesses for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing for the United States Supreme Court. One of the witnesses Republicans plan to call is on the leadership team of an anti-human trafficking group some have described as QAnon-adjacent.

The effort is part of an ongoing campaign to smear Jackson as a pedophile enabler because she sentenced people convicted of possessing child pornography to less than the maximum penalty. The White House characterized this line of attack as a signal to QAnon followers, specifically the conspiracy theorists’ fixation on pedophilia.

QAnon is a false belief that a powerful group of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles runs the world. Its hold on followers—the vast majority of whom are conservatives—is so strong that it’s been likened to a collective delusion or a cult. Its followers have inspired numerous false sex trafficking panics based on unsubstantiated rumors.

Many were appalled Wednesday morning when Republican senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee announced they plan to call Alessandra Serano, chief legal officer of Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), to testify in Jackson’s hearing.

OUR is a child sex trafficking rescue group. In recent years, it’s increasingly been linked to QAnon. A 2020 New Republic piece noted that the two are quite different on paper—OUR is a registered charity and QAnon a conspiracy theory sprung from the cesspool of an anonymous messaging board. “Yet both now operate in the same chaotic space, swimming in the same false claims and exaggerated campaigns, which for two decades have imagined sex trafficking as an omnipresent danger that no one can see and no one is talking about—except for them,” it reported.

OUR has sought to disassociate itself from QAnon, writing in a blog that it “does not condone conspiracy theories and is not affiliated with any conspiracy theory group.”

The group faced additional criticism and controversy as well, which some feel renders it an inappropriate witness for Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination. VICE reported last year that OUR was under multiple investigations, ranging from financial crimes to whether members engaged in sexual acts with human trafficking victims. In October, the Herald-Journal News reported that the investigation was ongoing. OUR has categorically denied all allegations of wrongdoing.

Melissa Gira Grant, who wrote the New Republic piece, tweeted of the news, “Republicans are roping in Operation Underground Railroad, one of the most MAGA and also QAnon-adjacent anti-sex trafficking groups into the KBJ confirmation hearings.”

Serano is to testify at Jackson’s confirmation hearing on Thursday. While Republicans have sought to publicly distance themselves from QAnon on a number of occasions, it’s clear they have no problem pushing its core tenets to sink a Supreme Court nominee. Even if they deny that’s what they are doing.

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*First Published: Mar 23, 2022, 12:16 pm CDT