On Monday night you delivered a twenty-three minute long monologue in which you sought to reassure your viewers that they were not crazy for worrying about widespread fraud in the recent election. Your viewers were right to be concerned, you said, and you made a number of claims both about the election itself and the surrounding context that gave the impression that our system of voting is fundamentally unfair. In fact, you suggested that it is unfair by design, with the specific intent to harm certain voters.
“It’s the milk bottles at the fair. They knew you were coming. They laughed at you when you left. We wish that wasn’t true, but it is true and you are not crazy for knowing it. You are right.”
But is that true? In other parts of your monologue you acknowledged that even if the claims of fraud were true, it likely wouldn’t effect the outcome of the race. You say you just want the truth. Who could argue with that? You talk about healing, but despite your assurances that you vetted the claims you made Monday, a quick Google search shows that most of them are completely unsubstantiated, and several had already been debunked before you went on air. By repeating them, claims that Trump’s own lawyers haven’t raised in court because they know they can’t back them up, you are just pouring gasoline on the fire.
Let’s go through your claims one by one. I apologize in advance if I miss any, as you cover a lot of ground in that twenty-three minutes, but I will try to get to most of them.
First, you repeated the claim first made in a viral video that postal workers in Michigan were told to backdate mail-in ballots to November 3 so that they could be counted. However, according to Tracy Wimmer, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of State, “the information in that video is entirely false. Michigan does not have a postmark deadline for ballots. It has a hard deadline — they must all be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day to count. Changing postmarks on ballots yesterday would not have mattered. Any ballots in the post office yesterday means they were not already in the hands of a clerk Tuesday night and therefore would be rejected.”
Bonnie Scheele, county clerk for Grand Traverse County, said that “Even if the ballots were postmarked as Nov. 3, they cannot be counted because the ballots had to be in the hands of the township or city clerks by 8 p.m. Nov. 3. All ballots received up to that time were counted and have been secured. Late ballots will not be counted in Michigan.”
Before moving on, it bears mentioning that the source of the video in which this claim was made was none other than Project Veritas. Owned by conservative activist James O’Keefe, Project Veritas has a reputation for making false or misleading videos going back to its purported “sting” operation against the liberal voter registration effort ACORN. For his role in smearing ACORN workers, he was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine, though that experience does not appear to have taught him a lesson. His subsequent efforts to tar prominent Democrats like Beto O’Rourke with charges of campaign finance violations, or Rep. Ilhan Omar with claims of voter fraud, have also been deemed false by the media watchdog group Media Bias Fact Check.
Another claim you make about voting in Michigan concerns the voting software designed by Dominion Voting Systems. “We don’t know how many votes were stolen on Tuesday night,” you said. “We don’t know anything about the software that many say was rigged. We don’t know. We’ve gotta find out.”
Well, we actually do know. There is no evidence that the voting software was rigged to change votes for Trump into votes for Biden, although this claim has been repeated by Trump surrogates like Rudy Giuliani and bruited about by conservative media sites like Breitbart. In fact, “the Dominion software was used in only two of the five counties that had problems in Michigan and Georgia, and in every instance there was a detailed explanation for what had happened. In all of the cases, software did not affect the vote counts.
In the two Michigan counties that had mistakes, the inaccuracies were because of human errors, not software problems, according to the Michigan Department of State, county officials and election-security experts. Only one of the two Michigan counties used Dominion software.”
If you care to read the detailed statement from Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, I have included it in the sources below.
In Nevada, you claim that about a week before Election Day, a large cache of ballots were delivered to a Biden/Harris campaign van, where they were improperly filled out and returned to the polling place. The same poll worker who witnessed this alleged illegal ballot harvesting also claims to have witnessed other poll workers allowing people to cast provisional ballots despite having improper identification. It is not clear whether the latter is actually a violation of local election law, since voters without proper identification are one of the categories of voter for whom provisional ballots were designed.
I haven’t been able to find anything about the van story except in right-leaning sources like the Washington Examiner and the Washington Times. The witness in both articles is unnamed, although it is alleged this witness has made out an affidavit containing his version of events. I have been unable to locate the affidavit. The only named source I can find behind these stories is Matt Schlapp, a conservative activist and Trump Campaign operative.
It does appear, however, that Trump’s challenge to the counting of mail-in ballots in Nevada, which was recently dismissed, made no reference to any such illegal ballot harvesting or improprieties in the casting of provisional ballots. That would be a curious omission, if Trump’s attorneys really believed fraud had taken place. But as former U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal has pointed out, you can say anything you want on television. In a courtroom, you are bound by the law and the rules of professional conduct.
Next, you claim that the election was tainted with untold numbers of ballots from dead people. You give several examples, and have given more since, including former Nevada resident Fred Stokes, Jr. (more on him in a moment).
In every election there are concerns about people improperly using absentee ballots to vote in the name of dead relatives. However, according to Loyola Law School professor and election law expert Justin Levitt, the vast majority of supposed instances of dead people voting are in fact due to “administrative error and list-matching problems.” In other words, a valid voter happens to have the same or similar name to a deceased person, and the latter’s name is the one checked off as having voted. Sometimes it looks as though a person voted whose birth date would make them well over a hundred years old, but more often than not this is due to a simple typographical error.
After that, the second most likely explanation is that a voter requested an absentee ballot, mailed it in, and died before Election Day. Since all legally cast ballots get counted, this would be an instance of a dead person literally voting, and it would be perfectly legal.
Least likely is that a relative is knowingly filling out and returning a ballot in the name of their dead relative. This does in fact happen, but it is very rare. And it brings me back to Fred Stokes, Jr. Fred Stokes, Jr. died in 2017 at the age of 92. His name was apparently not stricken from the voting rolls, and this year a ballot was mailed to his last known address. That ballot was filled out and mailed back. The current resident of that address is his son, Fred Stokes III. Fred Stokes III voted in person.
So we may indeed have a case here of someone fraudulently voting in the name of a dead relative, and if that is the case, it will be easy for the prosecutor to prove thanks in large part to the many layers of security Nevada uses to maintain the integrity of its mail in voting process. But consider for a moment whether there might be a more innocent explanation. What if the ballot mailed to Stokes’ address was simply addressed to Fred Stokes? Might Stokes have filled it out and sent it back thinking it was his ballot? Sure, you say, but then why would he vote in person too? Well, I don’t know, but someone whose father would have been 95 this year is likely no spring chicken. Maybe he forgot, or simply wasn’t sure. In every state, Nevada included, if you vote by mail and then try to vote again in person, they will be able to see that you’ve already voted when you show up at the polling place, and you won’t be allowed to double vote. Maybe Stokes wasn’t sure whether he voted, but figured they would set him straight when he got there. Except that since the ballot he returned had been addressed to his father, they wouldn’t. I’m not saying that’s what happened. I’m simply saying that there may be an explanation other than fraud for Stokes’ double voting.
And that’s about it for your claims about voter fraud. They run the gamut from the routine (a handful of ballots that may have been sent in by dead voters’ relatives) to unsubstantiated (illegal ballot harvesting) to the already debunked (backdating of postmarks, software issues).
But you also make some claims about an alleged conspiracy between Democrats and Big Tech that are worth addressing. You claim that conservative voices are routinely censored on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. But analyses of the stories and personalities trending on those platforms show that, far from being censored, conservatives are dominating the discussion.
“Data from CrowdTangle, a public insights tool owned by Facebook, puts together the most popular posts for each day on Facebook. On any given day the top 10 most popular political posts are dominated by right-leaning commentators like Dan Bongino and Ben Shapiro, along with posts by Fox News and President Trump.”
“Right-wing social media influencers, conservative media outlets and other GOP supporters dominate online discussions around two of the election’s hottest issues, the Black Lives Matter movement and voter fraud, according to the review of Facebook posts, Instagram feeds, Twitter messages and conversations on two popular message boards. And their lead isn’t close.”
You make the specific claim that the group Committee to Defend the President was banned from Facebook. This makes it sound like a group of Facebook users with conservative views was deleted from the platform. In fact, the group is a Political Action Committee (PAC), it still exists on Facebook, but it was temporarily prohibited from purchasing ads on Facebook because its ads had been repeatedly flagged as false or misleading, in violation of Facebooks Terms of Service.
You also claim that Google knowingly suppressed search results for Joe Biden from May 2020 onward, apparently to prevent people from finding stories about his son Hunter and the latter’s ties to questionable business dealings in Eastern Europe. I have not been able to find any corroboration for this claim except for a story on Remix, a right wing site that focuses on news from Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. That story cites a video of an alleged Google employee making the claim that you passed on during your show.
The source of that video, however, is… wait for it… our old friend James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas. Given his consistent reputation for false and misleading claims, and given the complete absence of any corroboration for this claim in any reputable source, I think it’s safe to say it has no legs.
And that’s about it. I don’t want to get into your rhetoric about media elites wanting “to hurt” those of your viewers who happen to harbor doubts about how the election was conducted. You talk on the one hand as if all you really want is mutual respect, but then accuse your ideological opponents of plotting to silence people, fire them from their jobs, or otherwise attack them. Not exactly the most conciliatory tone to take if your goal is rapprochement.
You say your viewers just want the truth, and so do you. That’s fair. We all do. But forgive me if I have a hard time taking you seriously on that score. After all, you don’t exactly have the best relationship with facts. Indeed, you and your network recently succeeded in having a defamation lawsuit thrown out by convincing a judge that no reasonable viewer would rely on your commentary as factual.
And that makes sense. I looked up your page on Politifact just to see how the claims you make on your show stand up to fact checkers. It doesn’t look good, my friend. Here is a list of the last dozen or so claims you made that were fact-checked by Politifact, the dates you made them, and the rating they were assigned (from True to Pants on Fire):
“When large numbers of people in Butler [PA] started killing themselves with narcotics, no one in Washington or New York or Los Angeles said a word about it.” November 2, 2020. Mostly False
“According to a recent CDC report, ‘almost everyone — 85% — who got the coronavirus in July was wearing a mask, and they were infected anyway. So clearly it doesn’t work the way they tell us it works.” October 13, 2020. False.
You said Kamala Harris “said she believed Joe Biden committed sexual assault against various women.” August 13, 2020. Mostly False.
“To children and the vast majority of young and middle-aged adults and the vast majority of teachers, [the coronavirus] poses virtually zero threat.” July 7, 2020. Mostly False.
“The [corona]virus just isn’t nearly as deadly as we thought it was.” April 27, 2020. Mostly False.
You said the Potomac River “has gotten dirtier and dirtier and dirtier. I go down there and that litter is left almost exclusively by immigrants.” December 15, 2019. Pants on Fire. (and can I just add, on a personal note, wow)
You said that Marie Yovanovich was “dishonest” when she claimed under oath that she never directly responded to an email from a Democratic staffer, but that “in fact, it turns out that she did respond.” November 7, 2019. False.
You said John Bolton “fundamentally was a man of the left.” September 10, 2019. Pants on Fire.
“There are more immigrants in our country right now than at any other time.” February 8, 2018. Mostly True. (good job!)
“The United States ended slavery around the world, and maybe we should get some of the credit for that, too.” August 15, 2017. Pants on Fire.
You said Democrats give “Newports to the homeless and get them to the polls.” October 28, 2014. Half true. (ok I’m really wondering which half of that is true now)
“Far more children died last year from drowning in their bathtubs than were killed accidentally by guns.” August 9, 2014. Pants on Fire.
So for as much as you talk about needing truth, you don’t seem to be a very consistent purveyor of it. And if we’re being honest, truth probably isn’t why your viewers tune in either, is it? If you wanted to hit them with the truth, you might point out that Secretaries of State and other election officials in every state have said that “there was no evidence that fraud or other irregularities played a role in the outcome of the presidential race.” Furthermore, twenty-eight foreign observers from thirteen countries who observed voting in a half a dozen states, including the very close elections in Michigan and Georgia, also report that they “saw no instances of fraud or voting irregularities in the U.S. presidential election.”
You could have decided to spend that twenty-three minutes reassuring your viewers that this election was, contrary to all the media hysteria that preceded it, remarkably transparent and well-run, given the pandemic and record turnout. You could have soberly noted that modern American elections always involve a handful of cases of potential fraud here and there, but that the rate of fraudulent voting in American elections is vanishingly small. In fact, election officials “identified just 372 possible cases of double voting or voting on behalf of deceased people out of about 14.6 million votes cast by mail in the 2016 and 2018 general elections, or 0.0025 percent.”
But that isn’t what your audience wants to hear, is it? They want to hear something that will confirm for them their feelings of alienation from and grievance against a cultural elite that you and others in the right wing media have fostered in them for years. It’s too late to go back now. If you tried, probably all that would happen is that your viewers would abandon you for One America Network. Perhaps you already realize this, and are trying, in your own way, to slowly edge them back from the brink you’ve spent your whole career leading them to. If so, good luck. I mean that. I’m pulling for you. But don’t blame me for harboring suspicions.
I want to close this letter with a quote from one of my favorite poets, one that I think captures the nature of the role you have assigned yourself in our culture, and the tragic fate of truth in a culture populated by figures such as yourself.
“The Stranger within my gate,
He may be true or kind,
But he does not talk my talk —
I cannot feel his mind.
I see the face and the eyes and the mouth,
But not the soul behind.
The men of my own stock,
They may do ill or well,
But they tell the lies I am wanted to,
They are used to the lies I tell;
And we do not need interpreters
When we go to buy or sell.”
I think if all of us really care about truth, we need to make an effort to “feel the minds” of others, and stop letting the men of our own stock tell us the lies “we are wanted to.” I recognize that the business models of whole media conglomerates are founded upon the very opposite proposition, and therefore that taking my advice comes with great risk to yourself. Still, a guy can hope.
Very truly yours,
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