Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to South Florida on Friday was not without controversy, as a photograph soon spread online showing a Broward Sheriff’s Office SWAT sergeant greeting Pence while wearing a “QAnon” conspiracy patch on his official uniform.
Sgt. Matt Patten, a 27-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, was among a corps of deputies on location as Pence landed at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport ahead of an appearance at the 2018 Israeli-American Council National Conference taking place this weekend in Hollywood.
His patch, which includes an upper-case “Q” along with the phrase “Question the Narrative,” is linked to a baseless, far-right conspiracy theory birthed online that purports the existence of an international pedophilia ring affiliated with prominent Democrats.
The photograph gained attention after it was published online Friday afternoon via Pence’s official Twitter page. Jared Holt, a reporter for Right Wing Watch first flagged the tweet to his followers. Pence’s tweet was later deleted.
Broward Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright told the Miami New Times on Friday that Patten’s patch was “not unauthorized by BSO” and that the incident “will be addressed immediately” by the agency.
BSO did not respond to the Miami Herald’s request for comment on Saturday about what this immediate action was and if any potential punitive action BSO would take against Patten. A phone number associated with Patten was not in service Saturday afternoon.
The QAnon conspiracy picked up traction in mainstream circles after several attendees of an August rally for President Donald Trump in Tampa were photographed waiving signs or wearing clothing bearing symbols of the conspiracy.
News of Patten’s apparent support for the conspiracy led to criticism of the deputy and his agency, and speculation of Patten’s fitness to serve. Followers of the conspiracy hailed him as a “hero” in a series of online postings.