Government & Politics

‘Satanic puppeteers’: Johnson County candidate under fire for ‘extremist’ posts

The citizen group Roeland Park Neighbors for Inclusivity distributed a flier containing controversial tweets by Roeland Park City Council candidate A.J. Cameron.
The citizen group Roeland Park Neighbors for Inclusivity distributed a flier containing controversial tweets by Roeland Park City Council candidate A.J. Cameron. Roeland Park Neighbors for Inclusivity

Opponents of Roeland Park City Council candidate A.J. Cameron are condemning his history of writing and retweeting “extremist” posts about global conspiracy theories that say certain political leaders push a “satanic agenda.”

Among the retweets are a picture of former President Barack Obama with a star and crescent superimposed on his forehead, with text calling him “Anti-American” and a “Muslim traitor.” Another post shares a conspiracy theory that “Big Abortion” used Hurricane Harvey as a way to raise money and increase abortions.

Along with sharing posts on Twitter, Cameron previously wrote for the website Canada Free Press, which spreads far-right viewpoints and theories. In his most recent post, dated August 2017, Cameron called the white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a “natural extension” of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore. He claimed “race-baiters were recruited from outside the communities and rioters were paid to damage as much as possible.”

“In hindsight,” he told The Star on Friday, “I should have not done a lot of stuff that I did. … I probably should have never gotten on Twitter.” He apologized for the posts.

“I’ve learned a lot, especially over the last week. And I’ve learned a lot over the last 10 years. And my focus is now on the local level, and not on the national or international level.”

Cameron is running for the 4th Ward seat currently held by Councilman Michael Poppa, who is not seeking reelection. Poppa, who is endorsing Cameron’s opponent, Michael Rebne, said during a phone interview that Roeland Park citizens “deserve representatives with solid values and convictions and not extremist views.”

Rebne, a teacher at Wyandotte High School, shared screenshots of Cameron’s posts on his Facebook page.

“I believe we need leadership that embraces mainstream views. Propagating extreme anti-government media is not in keeping with the beliefs and the character of our community,” Rebne wrote in the post.

Rebne told The Star he decided to share what he knew about Cameron because he was disturbed by the posts and concerned for voters.

“My family and I have lived in Roeland Park for 10 years. We love the fact that it’s a community that really supports each other and has a lot of good family values. I just didn’t think that kind of extremism lined up with what we appreciate about Roeland Park life,” he said.

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A.J. Cameron, a candidate for Roeland Park City Council, is facing backlash after a citizen group uncovered his tweets and online posts sharing anti-government and extremist views. Johnson County Election Office

Cameron says he didn’t read tweets

A Roeland Park resident of 33 years with a long career in sales, Cameron is running for city council for the first time. Details of his online profile and political views were recently distributed by a group called Roeland Park Neighbors for Inclusivity.

“My opponent has feelings significantly different than me. And I chose not to bring any of that stuff up because this is a city election, not a national or state election,” Cameron said. “It seems to me that there might be a feeling by some in the other camp that their message wasn’t resonating the way they wanted it to, so somebody decided that non-city issues should be brought into this.”

Cameron has now deleted his Twitter account. But his profile used to describe him as a “Catholic, independent, truth-seeker; I believe in the Holy Trinity, good prevailing over bad & I don’t suffer elitist, hood rat politicians or media well.”

He retweeted several posts from anti-immigration groups, such as FAIR, or Federation for American Immigration Reform, which has been described as a hate group and has accepted money from the Pioneer Fund, which has given money for research into eugenics. He also has shared theories about the “propaganda media machine.”

Cameron said that he hardly ever wrote his own tweets and that he retweeted posts without reading them.

“I am not very savvy with all of the social media. And on the retweets, I wasn’t really reading them. People would request retweets and I would usually forward them without actually reading whatever it was,” Cameron said. “They were friends of mine, so I figured they were legitimate retweets.”

He did not have an explanation for how he could share them without noticing the hard-to-miss photos and memes. When asked, he explained how residents can trust he will pay better attention if he were to sit on the City Council.

“I should have paid more attention to it. Because I didn’t understand how to tweet, I wasn’t really focused on it,” he said. “That wouldn’t be anything I’d be looking at doing on the City Council.”

Despite claiming he didn’t know what he was sharing, many of his retweets echoed similar viewpoints explained in his online forum posts. In his writing, he argues both political parties are controlled by “satanic puppeteers,” but he still largely criticized Obama and, as he called them, “Demoncrats.”

Cameron said he has considered himself both a Republican and Democrat in the past, but is now an independent. The City Council races are nonpartisan.

While he said he’s “learned a lot” since the last posts, he did not provide any examples of his views that may have changed in recent years. He said his main focus now is on local politics.

“I apologize for my past faux pas,” Cameron said. “My vow is to represent the residents of Ward 4 as best as I can. I know some people won’t believe that, but others will.”

The small Kansas City suburb of Roeland Park has drawn other controversies recently, such as Republican Kris Kobach condemning the city’s police policy on immigration earlier this month. Many city leaders said Kobach, who is campaigning for U.S. Senate, was spreading misinformation.

Johnson County voters will cast ballots in the general election on Nov. 5.

Roeland Park City Council candidate A.J. Cameron has been under fire after several controversial tweets were discovered on his account page. Roeland Park Neighbors for Inclusivity

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Sarah Ritter covers Johnson County for The Kansas City Star. Formerly a reporter for the Quad-City Times, Sarah is a graduate of Augustana College.