As the transition to Joe Biden's presidency gets underway, we may soon see an end to Donald Trump's attempts to steal and thwart the election. But as his team's efforts falter in court and fade from media coverage, it's worth remembering the details of this antidemocratic maneuver — and the propaganda campaign in conservative media that supported it.
Below is a catalog of right-wing media figures who have supported Trump’s efforts to spread false claims and conspiracy theories about the election — promoted by Trump-connected lawyers such as Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, and others — in order to undermine confidence in the election, including a specific plan to throw out the results through an obscure maneuver in the state legislatures and the courts.
In the wake of an attempt to overturn a national election that saw historically high levels of turnout, their names ought to be remembered.
The Fox Business anchor has been at the forefront of those spreading conspiracy theories about the election, acting as a major conduit for Giuliani and Powell. She also declared that she had “not given up” on Attorney General Bill Barr and was “expecting a full-on investigation of these irregularities that we're seeing in terms of voting and the ballots.” She even boldly repeated the Trump campaign’s message: “The 2020 election will be overturned.”
On November 29, Bartiromo hosted Trump for a phone interview, during which she further aided and abetted his various false claims about the election. Bartiromo began the interview: “Mr. President, you have said many times that this election was rigged, that there was much fraud — and the facts are on your side.”
Days after the election, the Fox News host claimed that even though there had not been any evidence produced of electoral fraud in Philadelphia, “the onus is on them” to disprove it. He later declared, “We need to find out exactly what happened in this election,” and claimed votes were cast under the names of dead people in Georgia — only for it to turn out that those people were actually still alive. And even as he publicly criticized Sidney Powell for not providing him evidence of her conspiratorial claims, he simultaneously demanded that those claims be investigated. He eventually concluded: “The 2020 election was not fair. No honest person would say it was fair.”
The day after the election, the Fox News host called the continued vote count in Pennsylvania “an absolute disgrace.” The next day, he called for Republican state legislatures to override the vote results in their state and install pro-Trump electors. He also claimed, “I can factually tell you tonight, it will be impossible to ever know the true, fair, accurate election results.” He also attacked the Republican governor and secretary of state in Georgia for not obstructing the certification of Biden’s victory in that state, while defending the Republican canvassing board members in Michigan who attempted to block certification of the votes from heavily Democratic Wayne County.
In the days after the election, the Fox News host brought on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to spread conspiracy theories and sow doubts about the election result. She then blamed the outcome, in part, on “huge amounts of money from Mark Zuckerberg and George Soros” and told him that Republicans had “better remember who helped expand this party. … It was Donald Trump. And they better stand and fight for him.” She also raised the idea of the courts overturning the election: “We don't know exactly what the Supreme Court will do, but there is precedent for courts overturning the results of elections.”
The Fox Business host and his guests have covered just about every bit of territory when it comes to pro-Trump election denial: calling upon Trump supporters to surround vote-counting centers; spreading baseless theories about dead people voting; looking for the Supreme Court to intervene on Trump’s side; and spreading Sidney Powell’s conspiracy theories about the vote totals being changed by secret government computer systems. Dobbs summed up his approach in rather basic terms: “This is a war; this is a battle for the control of our government and for the future of this nation.”
On the November 30 edition of his show, Dobbs also proclaimed that “this president has to take, I believe, drastic action, dramatic action to make certain that the integrity of this election is understood or lack of it, the crimes that have been committed against him and the American people. And if the Justice Department doesn't want to do it, if the FBI cannot do it, then we have to find other resources within the federal government.”
The Fox News host amplified the Trump campaign’s conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems “flipping votes” for Biden while calling for continued challenges to the election: “They say the risk of our giving false hope should be enough to stop us two weeks later. I say the risk of not looking at what is staring us in the face is too great to not stop us.” She also spread another debunked conspiracy theory about the U.S. military seizing computer servers in Germany that belong to another voting technology company, Scytl. (Not only did the U.S. Army say the allegation is false, but Scytl is based in Spain and doesn’t even have any current offices or servers in Germany.)
The Fox News contributor and former Republican speaker of the House declared the day after the election that “the president should be prepared to file suit in every single state.” Then in the following days, he called for the arrest of election workers and for votes from entire precincts to be thrown out, and he described the election as “a left-wing power grab financed by people like George Soros,” saying, “Frankly, I think that it is a corrupt, stolen election.” On November 18, he also called for Trump supporters to surround the Georgia governor’s mansion to prevent the certification of the state’s election for Biden.
The Fox News and talk radio host tweeted a strongly worded message in the days after the election, calling upon Republican state legislatures to override the state boards of elections and “DO YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY” in the selection of presidential electors.
Since then, Levin has denied that he was referring to a plan to discard the state election results, falsely claiming that he “never said electors should be chosen by the legislatures.” And yet, he has also continued to discuss using Republican-controlled state legislatures to appoint pro-Trump electors with other conservative media figures.
The Fox News contributor, former independent counsel who led the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, and later a member of the defense in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial also said to Levin:. “If the legislature of a state, let's just say Pennsylvania, believes that the election cannot be trusted, it can step in and determine how the electors are chosen from the commonwealth.” (Levin agreed and lambasted people who had criticized him over this issue.)
Fox & Friends
- The morning after the election, co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked about the extended vote counting period, “Is that fair to the American people, and how do we know that this is all legitimate, that these counts are legitimate?”
- Over two weeks after the national media — including Fox News itself — declared Biden the winner, co-host Pete Hegseth insisted: “State legislatures have a chance to look at these and review them and ultimately, the challenge that might be made in state legislatures is casting doubt, … and it is premature to declare that Joe Biden is the president-elect.”
- On November 29, Hegseth told unsuccessful Republican House candidate Sean Parnell, “thanks for keeping up the fight” — in his lawsuit attempting to throw out all mail-in votes in Pennsylvania.
- Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Will Cain also later added: “I think what's happening here is we are quickly moving towards a political case being made. … There may not be enough evidence for a court system, but there should be enough evidence for state legislators to change their electors.”
Fox’s “straight news” division
- On the November 12 edition of The Story with Martha MacCallum, the anchor voiced her agreement with the White House press secretary and Trump campaign adviser) Kayleigh McEnany’s efforts to sow doubts about the election: “Yeah, I mean, I think you're right — I think people, you know, everyone accepts skepticism about what this looks like.”
- On the November 16 edition of Fox News’ Bill Hemmer Reports, the anchor referred to Biden as “President-elect Joe Biden — if all these legal challenges fail.” In a later segment that day, Hemmer claimed that the baseless conspiracy theories then-Trump attorney Sidney Powell was spreading had “sounded convincing.”
- On the November 18 edition of America’s Newsroom, in a segment covering the attempt by Republican canvassing board members to refuse to certify the vote returns from Detroit, co-anchor Sandra Smith declared that “new claims of voter fraud” had been “pushed aside in Michigan,” while co-anchor Trace Gallagher said that the canvassers were “caving.” (No explanation was given to viewers that the pretext for this whole attempt was a poll book imbalance of roughly 400 out of roughly 250,000 total votes in the city.)
Fox News now faces some escalating competition from other right-wing outlets — putting them all in a race to the bottom for right-wing disinformation.
Newsmax has brought more than its fair share of denunciations about the election among its on-air hosts.
- Greg Kelly has compared the election supposedly being “stolen” to past failures of government and media oversight such as the 9/11 attacks and the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle. And when Tucker Carlson criticized Sidney Powell for not providing evidence of the voting machine conspiracy theory, Kelly accused Carlson of having “some competing interests” to undermine Trump’s dispute of the election — in order to clear the way for Carlson’s own potential White House bid.
- Diamond and Silk have railed against the presence of supposedly “mysterious” votes appearing in large amounts for Biden — in reality a product of the lengthy vote counts — and called in tweets for the Department of Justice or the U.S. military to get involved during the ongoing vote counts.
- Howie Carr has hosted both Powell and Lin Wood, to spread debunked theories about the voting machine systems supposedly being under foreign control and changing votes across the country.
- Chris Salcedo spoke with Trump-connected attorneys Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing and bizarrely posited that President-elect Joe Biden would be beholden to foreign countries that might “have confirmation from their intelligence agencies of massive voter fraud.”
- Benny Johnson declared, “You have every right to be suspicious about an election that was suspicious as hell,” and he promoted the effort to have state legislatures overrule the vote results and install pro-Trump electors.
- Grant Stinchfield has spread conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems being used to “steal” the election, and he hosted a friendly interview with a Pennsylvania state senator leading the effort to throw out the state’s popular vote and substitute in pro-Trump electors.
One America News
- OAN’s Christina Bobb declared: “America, our biggest threat we're facing right now is that radical socialists hijacked our election and are trying to install their own government.” Meanwhile, The Daily Beast reported that Bobb has been working with Giuliani — while campaign senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis explained, “Christina is an attorney and has helped with some legal work in her personal capacity and not on behalf of OAN.”
- The network has also given friendly interviews to Giuliani and Ellis to advance the argument that state legislatures should throw out the vote results.
- Anchor Alex Salvi has also promoted the Trump supporters’ efforts to stop certification of the vote totals.
- Anchor Dan Ball and White House correspondent Chanel Rion promoted her feature, “Dominion-izing the Vote,” to spread debunked theories about the vote count.
- A week after Biden was projected as the winner by the rest of the media, OAN continued to display an election map, described as “the latest and most up-to-date tally,” showing six of the swing states Biden won still with an undecided label.
- Company founder Glenn Beck, a prolific conspiracy theorist, told Sidney Powell that Trump had “kept his promises”by challenging the results. He also tweeted attacks against Fox News, over his former network projecting Biden as the winner of Arizona on election night.
- Mark Levin, in addition to his presence on Fox News, is also a host on BlazeTV, where he has urged Trump to dispute the election and for the Supreme Court to take up Trump’s challenges. He has also denounced the media’s recognition of Biden as president-elect.
- In a November 5 article, writer Daniel Horowitz called for state legislatures to disregard the election results and appoint a slate of pro-Trump electors, under the pretext of combatting supposed voter fraud.
- BlazeTV host Steven Crowder got involved in election misinformation early on, spreading an easily disproved story about ballots supposedly being carried on a small wagon into the counting room at the TCF Center in Detroit. (The wagon actually belonged to a local TV news photographer, who was bringing in his own work equipment.) Crowder has not given up, though, and is still continuing his attempts to prove a vast web of voter fraud in Michigan.
In the immediate wake of the election, the right-wing talk radio host spread a false claim about the voter registration numbers in Wisconsin and an idiotic voter fraud conspiracy theory that Democrats were in such a hurry to fill out fake ballots for Biden that they couldn’t handle the down-ballot races. He later went on to claim that Democratic popular vote victories in both 2020 and 2016 were the result of massive electoral fraud and declared: “There's simply no way Joe Biden was legitimately elected president. I just can't believe it.”
Limbaugh also at first praised the disastrous November 19 press conference by Giuliani and Powell and their claim that so many people had voted for Trump that it broke the massively powerful computers that would be switching the vote counts. In the days to come, however — and after the Trump campaign disavowed Powell — he immediately changed his tune: “They promised blockbuster stuff, and then nothing happened. … It's not good.”
While the voting was still taking place on Election Day, the former Trump White House chief strategist was already spreading a conspiracy theory about a secret computer system altering the vote totals. Since then, he has quoted poetry to suggest that disputing the election on Trump’s behalf would be a cause worth fighting and dying for and spread a number of further theories tying the election to a vast plot to “depopulate” the human race.
“Will you get focused and stop focusing on the little, like, you're in junior high school gossip?” Bannon implored his listeners, telling them, “Grow up. We are in a war right now.”
The publisher of the perennially inaccurate right-wing website The Gateway Pundit has spread a variety of false claims and conspiracy theories about the election, trying to come up with “the latest proof that Democrats cheated in massive ways to steal the presidency.” On November 9, days after the media at large first projected Biden as the election winner, Hoft declared: “Overall right now President Trump is leading in the Presidential race. … Have faith, trust your eyes not their lies.”
Hoft has also been an avid promoter of the plot to have Republican state legislatures throw out the election, saying just two days after Election Day that the legislatures “may end up saving the Union” and praising the specific efforts by Republican state legislators and judges to block the election result in Pennsylvania.
Even as votes were initially being counted on election night, the right-wing podcaster and Turning Point USA founder declared that the result was fraudulent:
Since then, he has touted poll results showing Republicans not trusting the election results “with good reason,” cheered on the Republican canvassing board members in Michigan who refused to certify the vote for Biden, continued to express doubts that people are “really supposed to believe Trump UNDER-performed,” and applauded Trump’s legal team for supposedly laying out “overwhelming” evidence at a disastrous press conference.
The far-right political commentator and former deputy assistant to Trump told his listeners the day after the election that it was “time to fight” against the purported Democratic effort to steal the election. The next day, he said Trump supporters should “just force our way in” to the vote count centers, and he called for U.S. marshals to “break down the doors of those polling stations and stop the crimes being committed.”
In recent days, he has called for continued protests against the certification of the election results:
The right-wing provocateur and Trump pardon recipient called for the FBI to investigate the election and later posted a video declaring, “We’re not going to concede the election,” calling for the Supreme Court to decide which votes should be legally counted. Later on, he developed a message that it was Democrats who were trying to “overturn” the election, not Trump.
In the days immediately after the election, the talk radio host called for Trump supporters to “take to the streets” on the president’s behalf.
Starnes also promoted the idea of state legislatures throwing out the election results, and he lambasted the “cowardice” of Republican canvassers in Wayne County, Michigan, for agreeing to certify the election results (which they later attempted to take back, though this effort had no legal weight).
The religious-right author and radio host has predicted that Trump will remain in office and his political enemies will go to jail:
And on November 30, in an interview with Trump himself, Metaxas offered to fight and die for the cause:
Alex Jones and Roger Stone — and the logical next step to “martial law.”
Since Election Day, the Infowars founder has called for Biden’s arrest, made violent threats against some of Trump’s political opponents, and urged his followers to surround the Georgia governor’s mansion to prevent the state’s election results from being certified.
And now, Jones is championing a public call by Lin Wood and Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn — who just received a presidential pardon — that Trump should “temporarily suspend the Constitution and civilian control of these federal elections in order to have the military implement a national re-vote that reflects the true will of the people.”
“This is the UN global takeover,” Jones asserted. “So the response is martial law — to stop their martial law and arrest them.”
This concept is nothing new for Jones. It was bubbling up on his show even before the election — thanks to Trump associate Roger Stone, whose criminal sentence was commuted by the president earlier this year. Appearing on Jones’ show in September, Stone called for Trump to declare martial law, seize ballots, and have various political enemies arrested.
And now he’s back on Jones’ show, declaring on December 2 that “all the conditions that I did list in that article, Lin Wood seems to believe that we have exceeded, and I think the president has to have all options on the table as to how he proceeds.”
Update (12/10/20): This post has been updated with additional examples.