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Editor's note, June 11, 2021: Some of the videos that PolitiFact viewed and linked to in this story have been subsequently removed from YouTube and are no longer available for public viewing. A brief clip is available via Twitter; view it here.
Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, appeared to say a coup to overtake the Biden administration should happen in the U.S. during a conference organized by supporters of QAnon.
Flynn later said he was being taken out of context.
We wanted to look at what Flynn told a conference of QAnon adherents using our In Context feature.
Flynn was speaking at the For God and Country Patriot Roundup, a conference in Dallas, Texas, created by a group called The Patriot Voice. Keynote speakers included Flynn, former Trump election lawyer Sidney Powell, YouTube personality Jordan Sather and others.
Over the course of the weekend, speakers embraced false claims about a fraudulent presidential election, with Powell saying Trump should be reinstated as president. The idea of a military takeover was prominent throughout the conference, including in the run-up to one of Flynn’s appearances, according to videos that we watched.
Flynn’s keynote address on May 29, 2021, was live streamed, along with an audience Q&A session the next day.
Flynn’s keynote didn’t mention Myanmar. In his speech, Flynn said that neither he nor Powell were conspiracy theorists, but went on to make false claims that Trump won the election, referring to President Joe Biden as "Administrator Biden." Flynn also described an "information war," something that came up in the May 30 Q&A session.
Radio host Doug Billings opened that session and introduced Flynn alongside Jason Sullivan, former adviser to Trump ally Roger Stone. The three began by stating that they and audience members were part of a digital army, and they discussed military tactics for "information warfare." Sullivan said that a method to send out information had been created — anyone who signed up to a newly created media site with their phone number would receive text messages with information and videos that could be shared to their personal social media accounts.
The crowd became riled up a few times during the session, at one point standing up and shouting at reporters in the room to "get out" until they left.
The panel then opened to questions from the audience, and it was during this segment that Flynn took a question that referenced the military coup in Myanmar. On Feb. 1, 2021, following a democratic election, Myanmar’s military seized control of the government, claiming that the election was fraudulent. News articles cited numbers from activist group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which put the death toll of civilians at 842.
A member of the audience spoke into the microphone and said: "I’m a simple Marine. I want to know why what happened in (Myanmar) can’t happen here?"
The audience erupted into cheers.
Flynn replied, "No reason. I mean, it should happen here. No reason. That’s right."
As more people clapped, the Q&A continued with Flynn calling for one more question. We watched a full video of the Q&A on YouTube. The subject of Myanmar didn’t come up again.
On social media, many politicians and pundits understood Flynn’s comment as saying a coup should happen in the U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., tweeted, "No American should advocate or support the violent overthrow of the United States."
But Flynn said his comments were being misinterpreted.
He wrote the following message on his Telegram account May 31: "Let me be VERY CLEAR – There is NO reason whatsoever for any coup in America, and I do not and have not at any time called for any action of that sort.
"Any reporting of any other belief by me is a boldface fabrication based on twisted reporting at a lively panel at a conference of Patriotic Americans who love this country, just as I do.
"I am no stranger to media manipulating my words and therefore let me repeat my response to a question asked at the conference: There is no reason it (a coup) should happen here (in America)."
In Flynn’s explanation, he was saying that a coup should not happen in the U.S.
Flynn’s captured statement on video sounds much different in both words and tone. Washington Post’s senior political reporter Aaron Blake pointed out Flynn’s preferred reading of what he said is "plausible if you’re reading the text." But in the video, Blake wrote, Flynn emphasized the word "‘should’ in a way that makes his intent rather clear."
Watch the moment from the full clip below and decide for yourself.
The Patriot Voice, accessed June 1, 2021
Rumble, Sidney Powell Discusses What Happens After Fraud Is Exposed, May 30, 2021
YouTube, Take 2 - Live in Dallas TX - Patriots Roundup, May 29, 2021
YouTube, Special Sunday PM Restream of Patriots Roundup in Texas, May 30, 2021
Tweeted video, May 30, 2021
New York Times, Myanmar coup and violence, explained, May 29, 2021
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, accessed June 2, 2021
Liz Cheney, Twitter post, May 31, 2021
Joe Walsh, Twitter post, May 31, 2021
Michael Flynn Telegram post, May 31, 2021
The Washington Post, Michael Flynn’s ridiculous defense of his coup comments, in context, June 1, 2021