CNN: Ashley Vanderbilt fell down the QAnon rabbit hole but after Joe Biden was inaugurated, she knew she'd been tricked. She tells CNN Business' Donie O'Sullivan how she escaped.
ASHLEY VANDERBILT, FORMER QANON BELIEVER: When President Biden was sworn in --
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. --
VANDERBILT: I was just crying. I mean, I couldn't stop. Like that ugly cry that you do. It just kept going. And I was like, oh, my gosh, like I'm seeing the funeral of our country.
And, instantly, I went into panic mode. I had to call my mom. And I just told her, I was like, we're all going to die. We're going to be owned by China. And I was like, I might have to pull my daughter out of school because they're going to take her. I was scared to death.
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER (voice over): Ashley Vanderbilt, a South Carolina mom who says she lost her job early in the pandemic fell deep down the QAnon conspiracy theory rabbit hole before November's election.
O'SULLIVAN (on camera): How did you get into this world and go down this rabbit hole?
VANDERBILT: Well, I started seeing TikToks. And I didn't know that it was conspiracy things. I just thought it was -- they were telling me something that nobody else knew.
So then I would reach out to different friends of mine that were bigger Trump supporters. I would say, you know, I saw this on TikTok, what do you think? And they'd start sending me YouTube videos. They would start sending me different FaceBook Live videos. And one thing led to another. I just went down this rabbit hole learning all this stuff.
But, I mean, what have we heard the last four or five years. Don't watch the news. Fake news. Fake news.
I don't watch the news. I don't read newspapers. Look, I don't do anything. I've always been someone that you just tell me what to do and I do it. I grew up being told we were Republican, so I've always been that straight red ticket.
O'SULLIVAN: How do you think that videos like this started showing up in your feed?
VANDERBILT: Well, originally, I was just following like entertainment stuff. But sometime when maybe people started like campaigning, I started liking a lot of Trump posts and things that were anti-Biden. And the algorithm must have just brought that kind of stuff to me.
O'SULLIVAN: Right before the inauguration, you didn't believe Biden was really going to get sworn in.
VANDERBILT: No, I expected a blackout. I expected the TV to go black and nothing to work and so we wouldn't see anything. The assumption of what would happen would be that most of the Democratic leaders there, quite a few of the Republican leaders, all the Hollywood elite that had attended, they'd all be arrested.
The military is going to haul them off. They said that Trump opened back up Guantanamo Bay and then the military would run the country, put us in martial law because the left had come too unhinged and they'd be a danger to us and then Trump would come back when the government was rebuilt.
I know it sounds crazy.
O'SULLIVAN: But you believed this?
VANDERBILT: I did.
O'SULLIVAN: And then Biden got sworn in.
O'SULLIVAN: How did you feel?
VANDERBILT: I was devastated.
O'SULLIVAN (voice over): The belief among QAnon supporters that Biden would not be inaugurated was wrong. Ashley Vanderbilt realized she had bought into a conspiracy theory.
VANDERBILT: Well, I was wrong.
O'SULLIVAN (on camera): How do you feel now knowing that you believed all this stuff?
VANDERBILT: It's weird. I think I spent a lot of time this year isolated from everybody. You know, I've just been home a lot. I lost my job last April in 2020, and I was super depressed. And I think, in a way, I probably lost touch with a little bit of reality in that -- almost like common sense. And so I'm not so much embarrassed for what I believed, but, I mean, I feel foolish.
I was stressed out all the time. So my home life like with my four- year-old, I feel like I definitely had a lot less patience with her. There would just be times where I'd just snap, I would just get so upset with her. So I -- I've had to apologized to her a lot for, like, I'm sorry for just even getting hateful toward you. Like, I -- it is not you. It's me. I've got my own stuff going on.
O'SULLIVAN: I mean you must be happy that, for your daughter's sake, that you've been able to get out of this?
VANDERBILT: Yes. She needs her mom. And I wasn't 100 percent there like I should have been.
O'SULLIVAN (voice over): A spokesperson for TikTok said the company is committed to countering misinformation and content promoting QAnon is not allowed on its platform. After finding QAnon through TikTok, Ashley said the only thing that might have pulled her out of it before the inauguration was if Trump spoke out against it.
VANDERBILT: I was the biggest Trump supporter there was. If he were to have said something, and if he were to just say, Q is illegitimate, nothing's real in there, I think some people would leave. Maybe not all, the people that are way too far into it, but I think it would help a lot of --
SULLIVAN (on camera): It would have helped you?
VANDERBILT: Uh-huh. I thought the world of him. So if he would have said, that's not real, I'm not coming back, it is over, I would have believed him.
HARLOW: I give her, Donie, so much credit for speaking so candidly to you about this and hopefully it helps others. But she made really clear, former President Trump could have changed all of this.
O'SULLIVAN: Absolutely. I mean, you know, she said he -- she idolized him. She also told me that, you know, she's a religious person. She's a Christian and she said she was worried at points that she was putting Trump above God.
He was an idol. And, obviously, we have seen Trump not condemn this movement, but instead praise their supporters and retweet prominent QAnon accounts.