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Obama: Trump is a 'symptom' of misinformation, QAnon is 'seeping' into GOP

Former President Obama criticized President TrumpDonald John TrumpStephen Miller: Trump to further crackdown on illegal immigration if he wins US records 97,000 new COVID-19 cases, shattering daily record Biden leads Trump by 8 points nationally: poll MORE for spreading misinformation as he kicks into campaign mode for Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden leads Trump by 8 points nationally: poll Ivanka Trump raises million in a week for father's campaign On The Money: McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 | Lawmakers see better prospects for COVID deal after election MORE.

Speaking on the “Pod Save America,” podcast, which is hosted by his former aides, Obama sounded the alarm on the rapid spread of false information on social media, accusing Trump of accelerating the trend. 

“Social media, media infrastructure, the conservative media infrastructure. We've had this conversation before. That is a problem that is going to outlast Trump. Trump is a symptom of it and an accelerant to it,” he said in the interview, which was released Wednesday evening. “It has gotten turbocharged because of social media. And because the head of our government, of our federal government has resorted to it.” 

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The former president said the rapid spread of misinformation online is hindering productive debates on substantive issues in the country, including climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I don't have a quick answer for that, because part of what happens within, when you get these echo chambers, is they become impenetrable, right? Any bit of information that contradicts the world view and the conspiracies within it or the conspiracy theories within it, it gets rejected as part of a conspiracy and part of the liberal plot. But I do think that that's going to be a big challenge that we all have. And I'm concerned about it,” he said.

A Cornell University study released this month analyzed more than 38 million articles about the coronavirus pandemic between Jan. 1 and May 26 and found that mentions of Trump made up 37.9 percent of “the overall misinformation conversation,” more than anything else. The study concluded that Trump was “likely the largest driver of the COVID-19 misinformation ‘infodemic,’” as the World Health Organization has called COVID-19 misinformation.

Trump himself admitted in an interview with Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward in February that he was downplaying the risks from the pandemic in order to prevent spreading panic, and he has since warned voters to not let the virus “dominate” their lives since overcoming his own bout with COVID-19.

Obama also noted in the interview that an alarming outgrowth of the spread of disinformation was the mushrooming popularity of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which alleges without evidence that Trump is working with the military to unmask and disband a pedophilic ring of deep-state actors.

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While lawmakers initially brushed off the conspiracy theory, a number of Republicans who have expressed support for QAnon have run for office, with at least one, Marjorie Taylor Greene, anticipated to win a House race in Georgia.

“When you look at insane conspiracy theories like QAnon seeping into the mainstream of the Republican Party, what that tells you is that there are no more guardrails within that media ecosystem,” Obama said.

The broadsides come as Obama reportedly prepares to hit the campaign trail for Biden, giving his former vice president a key boost in the final sprint to Election Day.

While Biden himself has increased his travel in recent days, Obama’s star power is still virtually unmatched among the Democratic Party base, easily making him Biden’s most effective surrogate.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.