In the lead-up to the 2022 midterms, far-right conspiracy theory outlet One America News has relentlessly promoted Big Lie supporters running for key statewide elected positions. It’s the latest iteration of the pro-Trump network’s ongoing effort to undermine U.S. elections: platform and potentially elect allies who've promised to turn OAN's favorite election conspiracy theories into state policy.
OAN has played a major role in promoting election-denying GOP candidates Doug Mastriano, Kari Lake, Mark Finchem, Matt Deperno, Kristina Karamo, and Burt Jones. According to a Media Matters review of OAN appearances since the 2020 election, these candidates have racked up more than 100 combined appearances on OAN, often through sycophantic interviews and campaign plugs disguised as news reports. A majority of these interviews aired before DirectTV booted the network off its largest distribution platform on April 4.
Fox News has seemingly aired just five interviews with these election denialist front-runners, who are instead turning toward more fringe conservative outlets for coverage. As a network dedicated to election lies and still able to hold Donald Trump’s attention, OAN is uniquely poised to promote right-wing election deniers running for office across the country. Two OAN hosts, The Real Story’s Natalie Harp and Weekly Briefing’s Christina Bobb, even recently left the network to help the former president’s Save America PAC elect election-denialist candidates.
Mastriano, Deperno, Karamo, and Jones have now won their primaries and will join other OAN-backed candidates like Ohio Republican congressional nominee J.R. Majewski in the general election. Polls predict that Lake and Finchem will join their cohorts after Arizona’s August 2 primary. All six of these candidates have ties to anti-government and extremist movements, including Stop the Steal, QAnon, the Oath Keepers, and the ongoing campaign to overturn the 2020 election.
Doug Mastriano (Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Nominee)
On May 17, state Sen. Doug Mastriano -- a QAnon-promoting “Stop the Steal” adherent being advised by former Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis -- won the crowded Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial primary. The following night, “the next Pennsylvania governor” fittingly celebrated with his “good friends” on OAN; the network had spent the past 20 months promoting his proposed state election audit and calling Mastriano an “election integrity warrior.”
According to Media Matters’ internal database, Mastriano hasn’t appeared on a weekday Fox show since May 2020. In contrast, Mastriano has appeared on OAN at least 34 separate times – mostly for interview segments and live coverage about his attempts to recreate the bogus Maricopa County, Arizona, election audit in Pennsylvania. Mastriano traveled to the Arizona audit site last June, where he was promptly interviewed by then-OAN hosts Christina Bobb and Natalie Harp. (At the time, Bobb was using her OAN-promoted nonprofit to fund far-right lawmakers' trips to the audit, which OAN did not disclose to viewers.)
Like Bobb, Mastriano has been subpoenaed by the House Select Committee for his involvement in the Capitol insurrection, including attempts to pressure GOP leadership into adopting a fake slate of electors. Six days before the insurrection, Real America host Dan Ball praised Mastriano for his attempt to overturn Pennsylvania’s 2020 election results, since “the numbers don’t add up.”
OAN also aired live coverage of the sham hearing on supposed election fraud that Mastriano spearheaded at a hotel in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in late November 2020. Less than two weeks before the January 6 insurrection, host Chanel Rion even praised the “domino effect” Mastriano’s “forum” had on efforts to overturn election results in Arizona, Michigan, and Georgia.
In a recent appearance discussing efforts to restore “election integrity” on Real America, Mastriano similarly boasted that “anything you see in Wisconsin, in Arizona, in Georgia had its roots actually in the hearing in Gettysburg.”
Appropriately, Mastriano seemingly announced his campaign for governor on the January 8 edition of Weekly Briefing, breaking the news to Bobb after lying about Pennsylvania’s 2020 election. He then asked OAN viewers to “help get us across the line” and become “the next governor of Pennsylvania” – then compared insurrectionists jailed for participating in the January 6 Capitol attack to Japanese Americans held in internment camps during World War II.
The former OAN host was particularly close with the GOP candidate. While at OAN, Bobb appeared on Mastriano’s radio show. Months later, Mastriano treated Bobb’s family to a “private tour” of Gettysburg.
Kari Lake (Arizona Gubernatorial Candidate)
OAN has hosted Kari Lake over 25 times since she announced her gubernatorial campaign last June, with the network consistently promoting the serial election liar. Though the presumed GOP nominee, tied to Nazi sympathizers and QAnon conspiracy theorists, has been a frequent presence on OAN and other fringe media, she hadn’t appeared on weekday Fox News until a June 27 interview on Special Report.
While appearing on OAN, Lake has pushed a variety of OAN-endorsed election conspiracy theories and lies. She repeatedly pushed the debunked “Sharpiegate” conspiracy theory, was a vocal proponent of the pointless Arizona election audit, and has told OAN that, as governor, she “would not have certified” or would “decertify” the 2020 election. (There is currently no legal pathway to decertify an election.)
In a June 1 Real America interview, the former local news anchor told host Dan Ball, “I believe these journalists, some of them have blood on their hands. Think about what happens when you have a stolen election." She continued, “Their day will come when they will have to face their maker, and it's not gonna be pretty." Minutes later, Ball doubled down on his endorsement of Lake and directed viewers to her campaign site.
OAN has also tapped Lake to spread anti-vaccine misinformation and LGBTQ hate. In a Real America segment attacking LGBTQ representation in children's cartoons last August, Lake complained about the “whole LGBTQ+ agenda that seems to be being pushed on our children.” Against clips of Muppet Babies character Gonzo coming out as nonbinary, Lake claimed that media's “whole intent is to divide us, separate us into groups, and put wedges between us.” She concluded, “In some ways, I hope they go under, because they’re not serving America, they’re destroying free press.”
Mark Finchem (Arizona Secretary Of State Candidate)
Since current frontrunner and election denialist Mark Finchem launched his bid to become Arizona's next secretary of state last May, OAN has hosted him over 21 times; Finchem has not appeared on Fox News. The QAnon supporter and “Stop the Steal” adherent tied to an anti-government extremist group is OAN’s pick to stop leftists from enacting "totalitarian control” of the United States.
The House Select Committee recently subpoenaed Finchem over his involvement in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election – efforts which OAN regularly promoted. As the secretary of state candidate explained to Natalie Harp last November, Finchem helped draft an evidence book meant to sway then-Vice President Mike Pence into supporting an illegal alternate slate of electors for Trump.
On OAN, the Trump-endorsed candidate has pushed debunked conspiracy theories about “fictitious voters” and “sovereign fraud” to justify calls for “ending mail-in voting” and investigating election workers for “racketeering.”
Last July, Finchem assured Harp he would not have certified the 2020 election had he been secretary of state. Finchem falsely claimed that “under the 10th Amendment and the legal doctrine that the kid who steals a candy bar cannot keep a candy bar when he gets caught,” the ability to decertify elections is “a state right. it's an unenumerated power that the state legislatures have.” Finchem has also called for Arizona to “decertify, reclaim, and then petition other states to invoke the 12th Amendment" to rerun the 2020 election nationwide.
On- and off-air, OAN hosts have responded to these claims by repeatedly directing viewers to Finchem’s campaign site, which hosts a petition to decertify the 2020 election results. In February, the network promoted Finchem-backed legislation to decertify the election results of Maricopa, Pima, and Yuma counties. Legal experts and Arizona’s house speaker dismissed the OAN-promoted measure as “legally unsound” and “obviously unconstitutional."
Matt DePerno (Michigan Attorney General Candidate)
On April 23, the Michigan GOP endorsed Matt DePerno — a fringe lawyer who actively worked to overturn the 2020 election — for state attorney general. That night, DePerno tagged OAN’s Bobb in a tweet thanking his supporters for helping him win “this historic victory.”
DePerno, who has not appeared on Fox News, has been interviewed on OAN at least 16 times since the 2020 election, with the network often promoting the candidate and his “groundbreaking lawsuit” to (unsuccessfully) relitigate Michigan’s 2020 election.
Last September, “the next attorney general” promised Harp he would “assemble a coalition to investigate 2020 and prosecute anyone involved in this voter fraud.” One of DePerno’s targets is Michigan’s current Democratic secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson. On The Real Story, DePerno has falsely accused Benson of rigging election audits and entertained the host’s unfounded allegation that Benson purposefully kept dead voters on Michigan’s voting rolls to rig the 2020 election.
In a March 3 appearance on The Real Story, DePerno falsely declared the “No. 1 issue in this state” was the 2020 election, saying, “We have to cling to what’s left of the Constitution and claw back everything that’s been taken from us, and I'm the candidate to do that.” Instead of pressing him, Harp thanked DePerno for his “courage” and advertised his website to OAN viewers.
Kristina Karamo (Michigan Secretary Of State Candidate)
OAN has interviewed election-denying conspiracy theorist Kristina Karamo, the Trump-endorsed GOP pick for Michigan's secretary of state, at least 8 times since June 2021. The former poll watcher garnered attention with her December 2020 Fox interviews about supposedly witnessing election fraud in a Detroit polling center. Since then, Fox has not hosted Karamo.
On OAN, Karamo has routinely promised hosts she will recreate the OAN-supported Arizona audit, which experts decried as a “clown show,” in order to restore confidence in elections and the American republic. In one Weekly Briefing appearance last November, Karamo called voter fraud a “national security threat,” and told viewers that “we lack the people in government with the honesty and decency” to enforce the law “if a poll challenger's rights are violated.”
Against a Real Story chyron titled “Saving Michigan,” Karamo claimed on OAN last September that George Soros “injected people like Jocelyn Benson,” Michigan’s current secretary of state, into government in order to rig “one of the top states that determine presidential election outcomes.” (Karamo has spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories targeting Soros in the past, as well.)
One month later, Karamo baselessly called her Democratic opponent an out-of-state plant meant to “corrupt the election system so the people of Michigan can be disenfranchised, to put it plainly.” Harp agreed with Karamo’s comments and encouraged her to come back on OAN.
Burt Jones (Georgia Lieutenant Governor Candidate)
Georgia’s Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, Burt Jones has appeared on OAN over 10 times since Trump endorsed him last September. In the lead-up to Jones’ May 17 primary win, OAN repeatedly promoted Jones' bid to become the second-highest elected official in the state of Georgia.
The state senator— who has not appeared on Fox News— first joined OAN during a Bobb-funded June pilgrimage to check out last year’s Arizona audit, shortly after Jones’ colleagues had stripped him of his committee leadership positions for pushing election lies. On April 15, Jones told The Real Story that this resistance from colleagues, including current Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, inspired his campaign: “One of the main reasons why I’m running for lieutenant governor is because that's where a lot of the pushback came from.”
Last December, Harp essentially endorsed Jones, telling him, “You've been such a champion for election integrity, even when the RINOs were against you. Thank you for the work you're doing.” She stressed, “The people of Georgia have to be so excited that you're running having an election integrity champion as lieutenant governor.”
Earlier this year, Bobb asked Jones if people “actually get involved to secure their elections locally, that the election actually is salvageable, it can be saved and you can have a fair election. What do you think?” Jones responded “absolutely,” and once again plugged his efforts to eliminate voting machines and drop boxes.
At the request of OAN hosts, Jones has promised to investigate the 2020 election and fully support OAN-promoted conspiracy theorists “waging war against election corruption.” In January, OAN even recruited Jones for its ongoing campaign encouraging viewers to stop nonexistent election rigging and work the polls.
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.