The conspiracy theorist who organized a far-right event calling for an audit of Maine’s 2020 election results in Belfast last month has died from COVID-19.
Robert David Steele, a former CIA officer turned promoter of far-right QAnon conspiracy theories, was hospitalized earlier this month after he began displaying symptoms of COVID-19, according to Vice News.
“I will not take the vaccination, though I did test positive for whatever they’re calling ‘COVID’ today, but the bottom line is that my lungs are not functioning,” Steele wrote in an Aug. 17 blog post.
A friend confirmed Steele’s death in a Sunday Instagram post that also suggested his illness was “very suspicious,” according to Vice.
His death came at the end of a three-month Arise USA tour that took Steele across the country spreading baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and conspiracy theories about the pandemic. Congress certified Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election early on Jan. 7 hours after a mob loyal to Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to avert the certification.
Steele also promoted antisemitic conspiracies and opinions, including that “satanic Zionists” are plotting against white people, that Jews aren’t “loyal” to the U.S. and called for the eradication of “every Zionist who refuses to be loyal to their country of citizenship and the rule of law,” according to the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.
During last month’s event at the Crosby Center in Belfast, Steele and other attendees pushed for a “forensic audit” of Maine’s election results, although no such legal mechanism exists and there is no evidence of significant voter fraud or election irregularities here or nationally.
In addition to Steele, the event featured speeches from Richard Mack, the leader of a group arguing sheriffs can overrule federal law, and state Rep. Heidi Sampson, R-Alfred, who faces calls for her resignation over remarks she made earlier this month comparing Gov. Janet Mills to the Nazi “Angel of Death” Josef Mengele.
About 150 people attended the event, which was targeted by counterprotesters outside.
At one point, Steele told the crowd in Belfast he had been planning to move to Florida, but that he may instead settle in Maine.
In response to its decision to host Steele’s event, the city of Belfast dropped the Crosby Center as one of its municipal voting locations.