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Why Do Mainstream Media Enable GOP Sabotage Of Jan. 6 Investigation?

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Following the attempt by House Republicans to place members on the January 6 select committee who have not only lied about the 2020 election but openly signaled their intention to undermine the investigation on behalf of former President Donald Trump, mainstream media outlets are engaging in a both-sides narrative. Instead of focusing on the organized Republican efforts to undermine the investigation, they are shifting the blame onto Democrats for somehow not trying hard enough to keep the investigation bipartisan with those very same wreckers.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rejected two out of the five members that Republicans had offered to sit on the committee — to which Republicans replied by declaring they would boycott the committee entirely. (A single Republican remains on the committee, however: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) whom Pelosi had already named.)

Of those two members whom Pelosi rejected, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) had previously met with Trump in late December to confer on strategy to reject the certification of the election results, and declared this week that the committee was "impeachment round 3, this is to go after President Trump" — rather than to investigate a matter of national security. The other, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), had released a statement accusing the committee of having been formed "solely to malign conservatives and to justify the Left's authoritarian agenda."

Politico Digs In On The Both-Sides Play

This week, Politico echoed the Republican spin and ignored the obvious reality that the Republican committee picks would be set on sabotaging an investigation. The site followed up in its Playbook newsletter Thursday morning, declaring that partisan oversight had hit "a new low," at once acknowledging Republican opposition to the investigation and putting the burden on Democrats to please them.

"When Republicans voted against an outside bipartisan commission to investigate the siege because of what it might turn up in an election year, we called them out for acting in cowardice," the Playbook authors wrote. "But Pelosi's move will make the investigation even easier to dismiss for people who aren't die-hard members of Team Blue."

The newsletter also removed the moral onus from individuals sympathizing with January 6 rioters by declaring, "It also comes as polling for CBS News finds that Republican voters are increasingly sympathetic to the rioters … making a probe that's credible to the right even more important."

CNN's Chris Cillizza Keeps Blaming Democrats

Perhaps the single worst example of this kind of willful both-sides spin game is CNN's Chris Cillizza — who not only keeps pinning an equal (or greater) blame on Democrats, but also repeatedly shows with his comments that he does know better. On Wednesday, Cillizza published a widely-mocked column declaring that Pelosi had "just doomed the already tiny chances of the 1/6 committee actually mattering."

If you ever held any hope that the House select committee on the January 6 US Capitol riot might produce a report that would help us understand what happened in the lead-up to that day and, in so doing, provide us avenues to keeping it from happening again, you should give up on those hopes now.

No matter Pelosi's reasoning, her decision to reject Jordan and Banks, the two most high-profile Republicans put forward by McCarthy, dooms even the possibility of the committee being perceived as bipartisan or its eventual findings being seen as independent.

But as others pointed out, Cillizza had published another column just the day before titled "Kevin McCarthy's picks for the 1/6 commission reveal his true goals."In it, he had declared that the House minority leader's selection of Jordan and Banks demonstrated that the Republican leader had "zero interest in getting to the bottom of what really happened" on January 6 — further adding that Jordan's presence on the committee would ensure "that it will be a circus" since Jordan is there to "muddy the waters."

And during an appearance Wednesday on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper, Cillizza acknowledged that "the reason that we're where we are, generally speaking with this, is because Mitch McConnell decided that they didn't want to play ball within a true bipartisan, independent commission. It's the only reason that there's a select committee now."

But Cillizza wasn't alone at CNN in his obtuseness. A news article by reporters Annie Grayer and Jeremy Herb claimed in its second paragraph that Pelosi's decision had "injected new fuel into the partisan fight over the select committee" — as if the open declarations by Jordan and Banks that they would seek to undercut the investigation on partisan grounds had not done that very thing to begin with.

Other Mainstream Outlets Are Giving In

The Washington Post ran an article headlined "Bipartisan House probe of Jan. 6 insurrection falls apart after Pelosi blocks two GOP members" — though in fact, the committee still has a bipartisan membership including Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY). The article also featured a both-sides narrative about Congress' supposed inability to investigate the storming of the Capitol by supporters of a single political leader:

The inability of the House to move forward with a bipartisan committee marks the latest failure in repeated attempts by members of Congress to investigate the first storming of the Capitol in more than 200 years. Both parties have attacked the other as insincere and uninterested in conducting a fair-minded examination of the attack by Trump supporters seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

Similarly, ABC News reporter Ben Siegel wrote an article headlined "Jan. 6 commission collapses after Nancy Pelosi vetoes GOP selections Jim Jordan, Jim Banks." By contrast, Thursday morning's editing of ABC's newsletter The Note cast Cheney as "now perhaps the only person standing in the way of final Jan. 6 takeaways devolving into wearying and meaningless 'both sides-ism.'"

In a discussion on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Associated Press White House reporter Jonathan Lemire detailed the "deeply cynical" actions by congressional Republicans. But then he made the media into just a passive observer, saying that Republican efforts to cover up January 6 were "just going to lead to more and more Americans just shrugging their shoulders and saying, 'Look, this is why Washington is so broken.'"

But mainstream media voices like himself have the ability to prevent that impression from just sinking in among the American public — they don't just have to accept it.

Carlson Pushes Election 'Audits' — And Threatens Another Insurrection

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Fox News prime time host Tucker Carlson on Wednesday night elevated a melange of conspiracy theories about the 2020 election that have circulated online among the right-wing fringe, seeking to discredit President Joe Biden's victory in Georgia and promote more efforts to recount ballots again.

In so doing, Carlson has placed his show — and with his leading position at Fox News, the entire network — back at the forefront of efforts to delegitimize the 2020 election and push the lies that led to the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

Carlson Goes After Ballot-Scanners — Even After Georgia's Hand Recount

Since last week, Carlson had been teasing a segment on election "misconduct" in Fulton County, Georgia, which includes Atlanta. On Wednesday night, much of his monologue focused on alleged "fraud" involving the double-scanning of a few batches of ballots in the initial count from election night.

Just as with prior conspiracy theories about the election in Georgia, this scrutiny on ballot scans in the initial count is conveniently ignoring a simple fact: There was already a manual hand recount of the 5 million paper ballots in the state, which corrected a few mistakes in local areas but did not significantly alter Biden's victory in the state. As a result, the double-scanning of some small number of ballots in the initial count would no longer have an impact even in a very close race.

In this sense, this claim is similar to other lurid allegations about the election based on a small mistake genuinely did occur but was then blown up beyond any plausibility — even long after the error was already fixed.

Indeed, Trump gained more votes in Fulton County during the recount than Biden did, thus demonstrating that these small mistakes were found and corrected without bias in the process. Furthermore, other significant errors were found in a pair of pro-Trump counties, which when corrected in the recount served to eat into (but not reverse) Biden's overall statewide lead — and yet those errors in pro-Trump Georgia counties have not received the same attention or level of accusations as the election administration in a heavily Black, pro-Biden county.

The main claim at hand has been hyped online by discredited right-wing columnist John Solomon, former New York City police commissioner and Trump-pardoned felon Bernard Kerik, the QAnon-linked former U.S. Senate candidate Lauren Witzke, and former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon. Other claims in Carlson's monologue were also pushed by The Gateway Pundit, which also promoted Carlson's upcoming segment. Following Carlson's monologue, far-right outlets and figures including The Gateway Pundit, The Post Millennial, and Newsmax chief White House correspondent Emerald Robinson lauded his report.

The Goal: Another Ballot "Audit"

Carlson promoted claims by VoterGA, a group that has been part of a right-wing effort to hold another ballot audit targeting Fulton County — similar to the one in Maricopa County, Arizona, which has been promoted and fundraised for by One America News, in an effort to spread the "forensic audits" nationwide — even though in Georgia the entire state already recounted all its ballots by hand. The group, headed up by a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, enjoyed some legal victories that made scanned absentee ballot images publicly available, but ultimately most of its claims have been thrown out of court.

"We already know what happened. We've counted those same ballots four times. The election has been certified. Stop already," Carlson said mockingly. "And that's the argument that Fulton County has used in court to keep those ballots locked away in a warehouse. Except it's not true. It now appears there actually was meaningful voter fraud in Fulton County, Georgia, last November. That is not a conspiracy theory; it's true."

Carlson's Claims Are Wrong — And Easy To Debunk

While Carlson seemed confident and authoritative in his assertions of serious election malfeasance, it is worth cataloging in brief terms the ways in which so many of his statements were not only false, but easily disprovable.

  • At the 4 minute mark, Carlson asserted that "the strongly left-of-center Atlanta Journal-Constitution appears to agree with this, at least in outline," having reviewed the digital ballot images and found doubles. However, Carlon omitted that the paper also made clear these mistakes would have occurred before the recount, and that as a result of such corrective processes, there was "no indication any vote for president was counted more than once in official results." (Carlson also claimed that the error affected more than 4,000 ballots — the Journal-Constitution put the number at 200.)
  • At the 6:10 mark, Carlson claimed mockingly that "the county claims that any errors were caught in previous recounts," then saying this was not true — though he did not provide any evidence that the error would have been repeated in a hand recount.
  • At the 6:33 mark, Carlson urged his viewers to "pay attention" to a video clip of an election worker inserting the same ballots into a scanner multiple times. However, the reinsertion of ballots into optical scanners can occur for normal reasons, such as when there was some problem in the initial scan and a stack had to be run through again.. An expert who debunked other examples of conspiracy theories in Michigan compared the rerunning of a ballot to "a vending machine returning a dollar bill that was inserted incorrectly." (From here, a person can also imagine how mistakes of double-counting could pop up from time to time.)
  • At the 7:20 mark Carlson read the VoterGA claim that tally sheets in the recount had been falsified, with reports of batches of ballots giving unanimous totals of 100 or 850 votes for Biden. "How is that not flat-out criminal fraud?" Carlson asked. "We'd love to know, because it certainly sounds like flat-out criminal fraud." This claim has also circulated for months, and it's already been explained: In a recount situation for just one race on the ballot — that is, the presidency — election workers often sort ballots by candidate as they count, so there end up being counted piles entirely for one candidate or the other.
  • At the 9:05 mark, Carlson promoted another set of claims, recently spread by The Federalist, that nearly 35,000 Georgia voters had moved to another county within the state but still voted in their old county. Carlson said that "violating election law is something we should care about and by law their vote should have been excluded from the total, but they were not excluded." However, despite the site's sensationalist headline "New Evidence Indicates Enough Illegal Votes In Georgia To Tip 2020 Results," even the article's own text acknowledged that such moves "could have been temporary, involving students or members of the military" and noted that "under Georgia law temporary relocations do not alter citizens' residency status or render their votes illegal."

Carlson Says There Was No Insurrection — But Threatens Another One

"Without answers to legitimate questions like the one we just posed — and those are legitimate questions — democracy dies," Carlson concluded. "People begin to understand that the system they've been told is on the level is in fact rigged, and when they believe that, God knows what they do next."

And with that warning of "God knows what they do next," Carlson essentially justified a repeat of the January 6 insurrection — just as when he had initially justified it on January 6: "If people begin to believe that their democracy is fraudulent, if they conclude that voting is a charade, the system is rigged and it is run in secret by a small group of powerful, dishonest people who are acting in their own interests, then God knows what could happen."

Since then, Carlson has painted an alternate reality in which there was no insurrection at all — or conversely pushed a 9/11 Truther-style narrative in which the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters was instead a setup by federal authorities.

But with his parting comment Wednesday night, Carlson showed how this entire sleight of hand really works: He will at once insist that Trump supporters did not attempt the violent overthrow of democracy in America — while also threatening liberals that it may just happen again.

Research contributions from Laura Chavez-Varela

Right-Wing Propaganda Outlets Intensify Schizoid Vaccine Scare

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

The White House has been stepping up its community outreach efforts for the coronavirus vaccines, with President Joe Biden announcing an effort to get ahead of emerging variants in a speech on July 6. But at the same time as many public health experts say there should be even more stringent requirements for people to get vaccinated, right-wing media outlets are instead waging their own scare campaign against even the community outreach, continuing their shameful record of undermining the vaccination campaigns.

Polling data has shown that Republican voters are far less likely than Democrats to even want to get the vaccines, seriously contributing to the country having missed Biden's goal for 70 percent of adults to have been vaccinated by July 4. (Most of the states that fell short were won by former President Donald Trump in 2020, while the states that have surpassed the goal were all won by Biden.)

But conservative media figures have quickly seized on one particular line from Biden's speech on Tuesday, in which he appealed to people to get vaccinated as "a patriotic thing to do."

"Now we need to go to community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and oftentimes, door to door — literally knocking on doors — to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus," Biden said. "Look, equity, equality — it remains at the heart of our responsibility of ensuring that communities that are the hardest hit by the virus have the information and the access to get vaccinated."

Now, right-wing media is engaged in a dishonest and irresponsible spin operation, warning people that the government is coming to get them with the vaccine.

Saving Lives With Vaccine Is 'Worse Than The Iraq War'

Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson, who has led a propaganda campaign in concert with anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists and with Fox's full corporate support, fear-mongered about Biden's speech during his program on Tuesday night.

Following a segment in which he claimed the pandemic had been "overhyped "because most deaths occurred in the elderly — though this argument also disregarded other adverse effects associated with "long COVID" — Carlson warned anyone who might come knocking to promote the vaccine to "stay the hell out of my house, for real." Carlson then claimed that a door-to-door vaccine promotion campaign was a "much bigger" scandal than even the Iraq War.

TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): So, because this disease -- the median age in Ohio of death is 80, your 15-year-old needs to have Joe Biden's health authority show up at your house with a needle. I mean, I don't — this is the — I think — I honestly think it's the greatest scandal in my lifetime by far. I thought the Iraq War was, it seems much bigger than that.

The idea that you would force people to take medicine they don't want or need, is there a precedent for that in our lifetimes?

BRIT HUME (FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST): Well, look to be fair, it seems to me that what they're doing is — what their argument would be, Tucker, that what they're trying to do is make it as easy as possible for people to get the vaccine and, for people who are hesitant, to perhaps encourage them that they have nothing to fear. However, you know, vaccines do have side effects.

This after all is not yet an FDA-approved medicine. This is operating under a temporary use — a temporary emergency-use authorization. Perhaps it will in the future be authorized, fully authorized by the FDA, fully approved. But it's not yet, and if people — it seems to me, if people are hesitant to take it, particularly if they're not in the vulnerable category, it seems to me that's not an unreasonable thing and should be respected.

So that's what I would have to say about that.

CARLSON: Yeah, not letting kids get education if they're not vaccinated. Pretty amazing.

Fox's far-right competitors were not to be outdone Tuesday night, either. One America News warned its viewers that "the Biden administration is threatening to send political operatives to the homes of people who refuse to take an experimental COVID vaccine." Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield declared, "Hey, Joe, how about no — and I'm the guy that steps out onto my porch and calmly asks you to get off my lawn," even as Stinchfield capped off a defense of people refusing the "vaccine Kool-Aid" being pushed by both government agencies and businesses.

Shouldn't We Give Trump Credit For The Vaccine?

During a Wednesday morning panel discussion, however, it was disgraced former MSNBC analyst and Newsmax contributor Mark Halperin who reminded other conservative commentators that they ought to be promoting the vaccines on behalf of former President Trump.

"I think this is the depth of partisan lunacy," Halperin told former Trump administration staffer Hogan Gidley, who had been denouncing the "government overreach" of the vaccination campaigns and defending people for not trusting the expert advice.

"With all due respect to Hogan — Hogan, who developed the vaccine?" asked Halperin. "Your former boss, President Trump doesn't get nearly enough credit for what he did to unshackle the administration and the regulation and allowed these private-sector companies to go forward. The vaccines are, by historical standards, effective and safe, and everybody should get them. If people don't want to get them, it's their choice, but everybody should get them."

People "Up In Arms" — According To Fox & Friends

Meanwhile, the manufactured outrage continued on Fox & Friends, with co-host Ainsley Earhardt declaring: "People are up in arms about this, because we as Americans can make our own choices for our own families, for our own bodies. And when someone's knocking at your door with a vaccine — are they going to have the shot in their hand? Or are they going to encourage you to go, ask you questions like the Census Bureau does?"

Co-host Brian Kilmeade also warned of negative side effects from the vaccines.

"More and more people are saying — I'm not saying it's an epidemic and a problem — but no one addresses the fact that there are some people having negative reactions," Kilmeade said, discussing worries about vaccine requirements being imposed for sports at his own daughters' schools.

"How scary is that for you as a parent," Earhardt said, "because you're hearing all these kids that are having heart problems, inflammation."

Despite what Kilmeade and Earhardt said, media outlets and experts are indeed addressing these questions: The New York Times reported in late June that researchers had "estimated that out of a million second doses given to boys ages 12 to 17, the vaccines might cause a maximum of 70 myocarditis cases, but would prevent 5,700 infections, 215 hospitalizations and two deaths."

In a later segment, Fox News medical correspondent Dr. Marc Siegel — who had previously downplayed the pandemic and publicly supported various missteps by Trump — attempted to play a political game of gotcha: "I don't think we have to allow Biden on our door with a syringe yet and say here's a vaccine — after he doubted the vaccine to begin with." (Siegel appeared to be referring to statements Biden made during the 2020 campaign, saying he would trust scientists on the vaccine but not Trump's promises to have a vaccine distributed in time before the election.)

Knocking On Doors "Goes To The Core Of Our Country"

And during America's Newsroom on Wednesday, co-anchor Dana Perino spoke with Fox medical contributor Dr. Nicole Saphier, with the two actually talking about the importance of educating the public about vaccines — but Saphier argued that the appearance of compulsion and being "confrontational" about it would go against "the core of our country."

DANA PERINO (CO-ANCHOR): I also noted today, in The Washington Post it said in Maryland, 100 people died of COVID in June in Maryland — and 100% of them were unvaccinated. And that was one of the things that the president was trying to say yesterday, I suppose.

DR. NICOLE SAPHIER (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Well, and that's not just Maryland, that's many states across the country, and other countries are seeing that as well. Yes, the deaths that are still occurring from SARS-Cov2 tend to be those that are unvaccinated. So, the best way to protect people is to get vaccinated.

But again, this is a freedom of choice, and that is what is very important. It goes to the core of our country. When you turn on other media outlets, you actually hear people calling for requiring them -- and mandates. And if — you can't declare independence and the freedom to choose vaccination and then require them as well and say we're going to be sending government officials. These are conversations that need to be had between physicians and patients and not by low-level grassroots people knocking on doors.

Mollie Hemingway: Just Stop Trying — And Declare It A "Win"

Co-anchor Bill Hemmer spoke later in the program with Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway, who has spent much of the pandemic era undermining public efforts around mask-wearing and previously denounced Biden's July 4 goal as "just so un-American." So it might seem odd that Hemingway was brought on by a purported "news side" program to discuss the matter at all.

This time around, Hemingway's advice was for Biden to essentially "take the win" by moving his own goalposts.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): More importantly, vaccine — vaccination rates among the vulnerable populations, older people and people with comorbidities, is really high. And so, President Biden needs to just take the win. I know he missed his own personal goal for vaccination rates, but we've done a good job, and he should accept that and keep going forward.

BILL HEMMER (CO-ANCHOR): We can still get there, probably get there pretty soon actually.

Of course, the strategy of simply trying to do nothing and declare victory goes back a long way during the pandemic — and it kept failing.

Fox's "Straight News" And Opinion Hosts Push Same Scare Campaign

On Wednesday's edition of The Story with Martha MacCallum, guest anchor Trace Gallagher opened a segment by likening "door-to-door vaccine pushers" to door-to-door salesmen. Gallagher then ended a discussion with Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Will Cain by quoting an old line from Ronald Reagan about being afraid of the government — sounding remarkably similar to a tweet sent by a right-wing U.S. representative about an hour-and-a-half earlier.

TRACE GALLAGHER (FOX NEWS ANCHOR): Yup. Ronald Reagan once said, "The government's at your door saying, 'We're here to help.' And that's when —

(CROSSTALK)

WILL CAIN (CO-HOST, Fox & Friends Weekend): The scariest thing you could hear. Right?

GALLAGHER: Right.

CAIN: That's right.

Things only got worse that night. In a segment titled "Power Grabs & Needle Jabs," Laura Ingraham connected the vaccination campaign to the conspiracy theory of "global resetters" purportedly involved in COVID-19 public health protocols, and praised Americans for "wising up" by refusing the vaccines. (The monologue also featured a cartoonish visual of Biden holding a needle to a crying baby. Just to be clear, the COVID-19 vaccines have thus far been recommended for children ages 12 and up, not for infants.)

LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Every day, the barbarity of the left's COVID lockdowns and school closures becomes more apparent. The great global resetters, who love seeing us shut in and shut up, who were fine with seeing our economy destroyed, and even turning kids into screen zombies. The political forces that exploited health fears, the medical officials who became stars by helping them, and the media that covered for them all. All of them should be held accountable.

Now, it took a while, but Americans are wising up to this charade. Yet, despite everything the experts either got wrong or lied about, they still think that parents should trust them and inject their kids with an experimental drug to prevent a disease almost none of those kids will ever get sick from.



Going door-to-door? This is creepy stuff. You know, someone comes up to your door, outside wearing a mask, showing up at your house, claiming to work for the government, asking you personal medical questions. What could possibly go wrong there?

By the way, are these government vaccine ambassadors going to ask people about their vaccine status? What sort of notes will they take on each door-to-door encounter? And what will be done with those notes? How will this information be used? These are all important questions that bear directly on matters of personal medical privacy.

And on Fox & Friends, Kilmeade warned again: "They're going to be knocking on your doors, I guess with a cotton ball and a needle, and they're going to look to put a needle into your deltoid — stop asking questions."

Kilmeade then responded to a video of Dr. Anthony Fauci the night before on MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes, urging people to "get over this political statement" of not taking the vaccine, and instead to "try and save the lives of yourself and your family."

Kilmeade then got nearly to the same point that Halperin did the day before: "How about saying, 'I just have to underline the fact that this vaccine was driven by the Trump administration, and conducted by and pushed forward by Operation Warp Speed. It was put together by the previous administration, and implemented by this one.' As much as they want you vaccinated, they are determined not to let you know who came up with it."

In response, though, Earhardt continued to warn of harmful side effects from the vaccines, and then Hegseth cued up a video clip from Ingraham's show the night before, in which a guest claimed that "no one under age of 30" should get the vaccines.

So it appears that right-wing media have arrived at a new resolution of competing ideas: The vaccines are one of the great accomplishments of the Trump administration, for which Trump is being denied his personal credit — and they are also very dangerous, and people shouldn't take them.

It's Too Late To Erase Barr’s Role In Spreading Election Lies

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

ABC News chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl has made waves with his recent piece in The Atlantic, titled "Inside William Barr's Breakup With Trump," recounting the former U.S. attorney general's story of a nasty falling-out with former President Donald Trump in the wake of Barr's public admission in early December that there was no evidence of voter fraud that Trump was alleging had stolen the election from him.

USA Today also gave a deferential treatment to Barr's current telling of the story, with a write-up of Karl's piece entitled "It's just a joke': Former AG William Barr derided Trump's false election claims."

However, none of this fawning coverage did anything to provide accountability for Barr's own prominent role in helping Trump build up a false public narrative of massive fraud in the months before the election.

Indeed, right before the 2020 election, ABC News had tracked some of Barr's "unfounded argument" seeking to sow distrust in the expanded use of mail-in voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. In September, Karl had also reported on a Department of Homeland Security bulletin on Russian disinformation against mail-in voting, which sought to further spread Trump's own false claims. USA Today had also published a guest column in July by cybersecurity experts, debunking many of Barr's claims.

But now, Barr's actual record in this matter is left on the cutting-room floor.

Barr Pushed False Claims Of Voter Fraud

Karl wrote about Barr's informal review of various claims of voter fraud in the weeks following Election Day because he "knew that at some point, Trump was going to confront him about the allegations." As Barr told Karl, "If there was evidence of fraud, I had no motive to suppress it. But my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all bullshit."

However, Trump would have had every reasonable expectation that Barr would help him out — because throughout 2020, Barr mounted his own propaganda operation against the security of the upcoming election. Far from treating it like "bullshit," at this stage, the attorney general pushed multiple false claims that the Trump campaign would use to try and overturn the election from Election Day through January 6 — and which are even still in circulation today.

In the spring of 2020, Barr floated a conspiracy theory in an interview with The New York Times that "there are a number of foreign countries that could easily make counterfeit ballots, put names on them, send them in." He then dug in on this idea again in September, telling CNN that he was "basing it on logic."

Election experts would explain all the ways such fraud was impossible, because real mail-in ballots have individual identifiers such as barcodes and signatures for tracking and processing, and they must be correctly printed on the right kind of paper to be scanned by each local ballot machine. However, Barr's claim still lives on today, with the QAnon-linked ballot "audit" in Arizona looking for such things as rumored bamboo fibers as evidence of fake ballots being flown in or secret watermarks that were placed as part of an elaborate sting operation for false ballots.

In September, Barr also asserted that mail-in voting would destroy the protections of the secret ballot: "There's no more secret vote. … Your name is associated with a particular ballot. The government and the people involved can find out and know how you voted. And it opens up the door to coercion." (This, too, was false, as there are safeguards in place to prevent a specific person's vote from being identified at the counting stage.)

Notably, in one interview with Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, Barr also sought to discredit the counting of mail-in votes as he painted a picture of the exact scenario that Trump and his allies would later seek to take advantage of — a "red mirage" followed by a "blue shift," in which Trump would appear to be ahead on Election Night before the counting of mail-in votes that were disproportionately cast by Democrats. "Someone will say the president just won Nevada," Barr offered hypothetically. "'Oh, wait a minute! We just discovered 100,000 ballots! Every vote will be counted!' Yeah, but we don't know where these freaking votes came from."

In the same interview, Barr also dismissed the idea that Trump would attempt to subvert the election result. "You know liberals project," Barr said. "All this bulls--- about how the president is going to stay in office and seize power? I've never heard of any of that crap. I mean, I'm the attorney general. I would think I would have heard about it." (Later, in the wake of the January 6 insurrection, Barr said in a statement that Trump's conduct that day was a "betrayal of his office and supporters.")

Nowhere in his Atlantic piece did Karl grapple with any of these statements. Instead, he simply left the reader with the impression that Barr knew after the election that claims of widespread voter fraud were "all bullshit."

Barr Said Claims Of Voter Fraud Would "Continue To Be Pursued"

At the end of his Atlantic piece, Karl gave a sympathetic slant to Barr's resignation as attorney general in late December, when Barr seemingly tried to leave on positive terms while separating himself from the disastrous efforts of Trump's inner circle to reverse the election res

Barr almost immediately began to regret his decision to stay. His statement on election fraud did nothing to deter Trump, who was now listening, almost exclusively, to Giuliani and others outside his administration. They were telling him that he was still going to win the election.
Two weeks later, Barr went down to the White House to tell the president that he planned to resign before the end of the year. It was their first meeting since their confrontation. To defuse the tension, Barr had written an effusive resignation letter, which he handed to the president when he got to the Oval Office. The letter praised Trump's record and played directly into his complaints about how he had been treated by Democrats, saying his efforts "had been met by a partisan onslaught against you in which no tactic, no matter how abusive and deceitful, was out of bounds."

To be exact, those quotes came from the second paragraph of Barr's published resignation letter. However, Karl omitted the very first paragraph of the full letter, in which Barr continued to publicly dignify Trump's efforts to sow mistrust in the election:

I appreciate the opportunity to update you this afternoon on the Department's review of voter fraud allegations in the 2020 election and how these allegations will continue to be pursued. At a time when the country is so deeply divided, it is incumbent on all levels of government, and all agencies acting within their purview, to do all we can to assure the integrity of elections and promote public confidence in their outcome.

Nowhere in that paragraph did Barr acknowledge that these allegations of fraud were all "bullshit," as he now puts it, but instead stated they would "continue to be pursued" as a valid concern for the American public.

Karl could have held Barr accountable for that opening paragraph. Instead, his piece said nothing about it.

While guest anchoring on Sunday's edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Karl touted his own "amazing interview" in which Barr "talked about what he really thought of Donald Trump's claims of election fraud." (Notably, Karl also did not correct former Trump administration official Sarah Isgur's false claim during the subsequent panel discussion that the Mueller Report "for the most part" had exonerated the Trump campaign of collusion with Russia in 2016.)

Trump Urged Justice Department To Probe QAnon's Conspiracy Theories

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

The ongoing release of materials on former President Donald Trump's attempts to subvert the 2020 election has shown the extent to which the White House pushed for the Department of Justice to investigate far-out conspiracy theories linked to the QAnon movement. And the latest example might also show that false stories circulated in far-right media made their way to Trump himself.

The Detroit News reported last week on emails recently released by the House oversight committee showing some of the Trump administration's efforts to overturn the 2020 election. On December 14 — the same day when the members of the Electoral College met across the country to formalize Joe Biden's victory — White House aide Molly Michael sent an email to acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen with the subject "From POTUS."

The email contained a PDF file of a report from a right-wing investigator on an election counting error in the small locale of Antrim County, Michigan, and a set of talking points apparently written by the report's author declaring that "Michigan cannot certify for Biden" due to a "seditious conspiracy to undermine the election process and the will of the American people."

Two minutes after that email was sent to Rosen, another unnamed person in the attorney general's office forwarded the documents to the U.S. attorneys in Michigan, asking them to "see attachments per Rich Donoghue," Trump's newly appointed deputy attorney general.

The QAnon Conspiracy Theory Links

According to The New York Times, the private group that conducted this report, Allied Security Operations Group, is a sponsor and financial backer of the website Everylegalvote.com, which had also "posted content from a source with links to" the QAnon conspiracy theory. The author of the report was also a former Republican candidate for Congress from Texas, having lost in a primary in 2016.

Later in January 2021, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows tried to get the Department of Justice to investigate another QAnon-linked election conspiracy theory that Italian military satellites had been used to change the voting returns.

What Actually Happened In Antrim County

While the claim about election interference from Italy was pure fantasy, the story about Antrim County instead belonged to a particular variety of conspiracy theory, in which a small kernel of fact is then exploited and twisted beyond any plausibility. In this case, an election-night reporting error genuinely did occur at the local level, seemingly flipping a small Republican-leaning county to Joe Biden for a time. But the problem was also quickly spotted and fixed by the local officials. As the Detroit Free Press reported just days after the election, an error in the software setup resulted in the county having what was, in essence, a botched merger of results from across its precincts.

After the error was fixed, Trump's lead in the county was restored — seemingly a very simple event. But it soon became the stuff of legend in right-wing media, promoted by then-Fox Business host Lou Dobbs and The Gateway Pundit.

"From POTUS" — But Where Did Trump Get The Idea?

The "From POTUS" email to Rosen was sent late in the day on December 14. But earlier that same day, the report was promoted online by The Gateway Pundit, Newsmax White House correspondent Emerald Robinson, and One America News White House correspondent Chanel Rion — all outlets that Trump is known to favor.

Also, in the days following these emails, Michigan completed an extra hand count of Antrim County's presidential results, as part of a genuine effort to try assuaging any remaining doubts about the situation there. This resulted in a net gain of only 12 additional votes for Trump, in comparison to the previously corrected spreadsheets from the election.

Not that such reassurances have worked, as the county has been chased with spurious litigation well into this year, incurring substantial legal fees in the process. And in a similar fashion, QAnon conspiracy theorists continue to be affiliated with the "audit" of election results in Arizona, which Republican politicians backing the effort say is meant to address voters' ongoing "questions"about the election.

Fox News Hyped Benghazi Probes— But Now Wants No Jan. 6 Inquiry

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Last week, Senate Republicans filibustered the proposal for a bipartisan commission to study the events of January 6, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building in an attempt to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election.

Fox News' spin during the negotiations for the January 6 commission — condemning the small number of Republicans who supported one, denying that an insurrection had ever taken place, and even bringing back the election conspiracy theories that incited the attack — was further proof of why such a commission was needed.

But on a deeper level, it also provides a further contrast between Fox's overall efforts to sweep the insurrection under the rug on the one hand, and its relentless calls for more investigations of the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya — when the network played a key role in pushing for a congressional select committee.

At the time, Fox figures even bragged about helping with the creation of the select committee, in the wake of the network's unrelenting coverage of the 2012 attacks. But in the year 2021, network personalities like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Tammy Bruce cheer on congressional Republicans for blocking a January 6 commission.

Carlson previously declared that he was "totally for" a Benghazi committee, because he was "always interested in learning more about any mystery, and Benghazi has mysteries at the center of it." But as for a January 6 commission, he now says: "It's a complete farce. It's partisan as hell. It's fake. Don't play along with the fraud," while he also ridicules the notion of an insurrection having occurred at all.

Back in 2014, Ingraham decried how "the left is already branding this as a witch hunt" when it came to the Benghazi Committee — only to turn around seven years later and declare that the House of Representatives had just "greenlit another witch hunt, this one into the January 6 riots."

In 2013, Fox News host Sean Hannity asked rhetorically, "Why not [have] a special investigative committee" into the Benghazi attacks, with the power to call "witnesses under oath?" Then in May 2021, Hannity declared that Congress was "rehashing the events of January 6," and that it was "obvious they cannot be trusted in any way, shape, manner, or form to conduct any fair hearing whatsoever."

Hannity's guest in 2013, Rudy Giuliani, who later became former President Donald Trump's attorney, said that the public needed answers on Benghazi "in order to prevent something like this from happening in the future." In 2021, Giuliani's own lawyers now say that his speech on January 6 calling for "trial by combat" before the Capitol attack was "clearly hyperbolic." (It should also be noted that Giuliani attempted to call a Senate Republican on January 6, while the chamber was in lockdown, but left a voicemail with a wrong number in which he hoped to further slow down the certification of the presidential election.)

Back in 2014, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) implored that "all we ask for is truth and justice, and we just want to understand what really happened" in Benghazi, which was "the constitutional responsibility of Congress." But in 2021, the now-Fox News contributor said that he would not have voted for a January 6 commission if he were still in Congress.

The network has also frequently hosted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), helping to promote his stances on special investigations — both for and against. Back in 2015, when McCarthy was seeking to become speaker of the House, he infamously touted to Hannity how the Benghazi special committee was set up in order to drag down Hillary Clinton's poll ratings. Hannity gave McCarthy "credit" for accomplishing those politically -motivated investigations.

When McCarthy appeared on Ingraham's Fox prime-time show in the year 2021, however, the host dismissively stated that "the Democrats are claiming that you are covering up for insurrectionists by opposing this commission." In response to the friendly question, McCarthy protested that he was instead opposing a Democratic effort to "put a political commission" in place.

Fox's refrain years ago was that a "cover-up" was going on, what Hannity called a "lie," and a congressional investigation was the only way to find the truth. But in the wake of the network's own role in spreading a big lie and even attempting to subvert a national election result in the lead-up to a violent attack on the Capitol, covering things up is now the order of the day.

Lachlan Murdoch Endorses Carlson's Lies About Vaccine 'Deaths'

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch has publicly endorsed a debunked conspiracy theory spread by Fox News prime time host Tucker Carlson, who has claimed that thousands of people died in connection with the COVID-19 vaccines.

Carlson has increasingly become the network's top personality on TV and to push its online content, and he has used to platform to undermine the public vaccination campaign ever since last year. Other network figures have gotten their shots — most notably Fox News founder and Lachlan's father Rupert Murdoch — while the network has continually taken pandemic health measures more seriously for itselfthan for its audiences. (Carlson has still not disclosed whether he has been vaccinated.)

For this latest example, Carlson has relied on a public system known as VAERS, or the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, to which anybody can submit a report of health events. False claims surrounding the unverified database had been spreading for months online, from the likes of anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Robert Kennedy Jr., frequent Fox News guest Alex Berenson, and prominent influencers in the far-right QAnon movement.

However, the VAERS system does not include any key context of what other factors might have contributed to an individual's negative health events, and because it is publicly sourced it can include many errors. (For example, a report that a 2-year-old died after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine during clinical trials has been removed from the VAERS system for being "completely made up" — as vaccine trials for young children had not even begun yet when the report was filed.)

But when these problems were widely pointed out, Carlson only dug in further, asking, "What exactly are the real numbers? How much harm have the COVID vaccines caused?"

In an interview with Business Insider, Lachlan Murdoch stood by Carlson's falsehoods:

Lachlan called Carlson and some of his viewpoints, which he says caters to what many Americans are quietly thinking, "brave." And when Carlson questioned the efficacy of vaccines for COVID-19 and cited the number of people who died after taking the vaccine, Lachlan came to his defense again.
"He basically just went into the CDC data, right?" Lachlan said. "So there's nothing the CDC itself isn't saying."

Business Insider noted that "Factcheck.org denounced Carlson's statement, explaining that anyone can submit a report of an adverse side effect following vaccination, without verification or proof that it was caused by the vaccine."

FactCheck.org listed some examples, as well:

Another report included in Carlson's count was for a woman who was vaccinated on Jan. 9, had a car accident two weeks later, and died with a brain hemorrhage nine days after that.
Another report was for a 17-year-old who killed himself with a gun eight days after he was vaccinated.
This doesn't mean that no deaths could be related to the vaccines. But these examples make it clear that "VAERS accepts all reports without judging whether the event was caused by the vaccine," as the Department of Health and Human Services explains.

And while Lachlan Murdoch characterizes the VAERS reports as "CDC data," a disclaimer on the VAERS site actually makes clear: "The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable" — which, come to think of it, would be a better slogan for Fox News.

Why Are The New York Times And Politico Promoting A Fake Kerry Scandal?

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

The New York Times and Politico are helping spread a manufactured scandal against former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, now the White House's special climate envoy, over the manifestly absurd claim that he disclosed secret Israeli operations in the Syrian civil war to Iran's foreign minister.

In articles posted on Monday, the Times and Politico played up attacks on Kerry by Republican politicians such as Sens. Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Rick Scott of Florida, as well as former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley. By focusing on this aspect to their coverage, they are doing exactly what Fox News is demanding for other media outlets to follow its lead.

In addition, the Times and Politico pieces gave little consideration to the obvious objection that the information was not secret — even though both outlets had reported on the strikes before. (And so did Fox.)

Kerry has issued a strongly worded denial, saying that such an exchange never happened:

Iran International, a United Kingdom-based outlet, first reported on a leaked interview recording of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who claimed that military leaders kept him in the dark about Israeli strikes on Iranian assets in Syria and that he learned of the strikes from Kerry. According to the outlet, this claim is "not very credible," since those attacks were already reported via international media.

An analysis in the right-wing Jerusalem Post saw through the problem in Zarif's claim as well: "The idea that Zarif was told information on Israeli airstrikes by John Kerry and that he didn't know about airstrikes on Iranian convoys in Syria appears ridiculous. Does he not read his own Iranian media? Does he not have any sources inside his own ministry? … Is he the most uninformed foreign minister in the world?"

But in its latest story on Kerry's denial and Republican political attacks, the Times played down the extent to which the strikes have been public knowledge — which if emphasized, would have cast doubt on both Zarif's version of events and any notion of Republican outrage.

"Israel has made little effort to deny years of strikes attributed to it by Syria's government, news outlets and nongovernmental organizations tracking the Syrian conflict," the paper said. In fact, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted to the strikes on a hot microphone during a meeting with Eastern European leaders in 2017, with further public admissions in 2018 and early 2019. The Times also could have noted that the Israeli military publicly acknowledged in September 2018 that it had struck over 200 Iranian targets since just 2017 — let alone the time period before that — but the paper instead chose to be vague on just how public this knowledge is.

Instead the Times simply noted: "A New York Times article from 2019 included similar information on the number of Israeli strikes." Besides the hair-splitting over the particular number, the Times previously reported on Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in Syria multiple times in 2013 and also reported in 2018 on the escalating conflict between the two countries. But instead, it referred to just one of its articles from 2019, which happened to include information the Israeli military had already divulged the year before.

Politico followed a similar pattern, covering the story as more of a political back-and-forth in a piece headlined "GOP tears into Kerry amid Iran controversy," without acknowledging the fact that these attacks were already public knowledge.

And while it noted in the seventh paragraph that "Zarif's version of events has not been independently corroborated," one of the asterisks it attached to his remarks was that it is "also unclear whether Kerry allegedly revealed the Israeli operations to Zarif before they were publicly reported by Israel itself in 2018."

This framing depicts the Israeli actions in Syria as having been some kind of secret. In fact, Politico itself had casually mentioned the fact of the Israeli strikes over the years.

But noting such facts now would get in the way of media narratives that rely on covering political squabbles while treating partisan and opportunistic accusations as if they were legitimate.

How Fox News Channel Invented The Biden 'Burger Ban'

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Update (4/26/21 4 p.m.): This piece has been updated, to include Fox News anchor John Roberts' on-air correction Monday.

After a right-wing British news site introduced a blatant lie about President Joe Biden's green-energy and infrastructure proposals — fraudulently suggesting that the administration is attempting to limit people to having one hamburger a month — Fox News then stepped up as the venue to amplify it into a much wider and frankly embarrassing discourse with its American audience.

In doing so, the network's purported "news"-side personalities are just as guilty as the officially billed opinion hosts, who have all contributed to this fake story now being spread by high-level Republican politicians. For one, the Biden administration does not have a specific plan yet —but rather an outline of goals to reduce emissions, with a focus on transitioning to clean-energy infrastructure. There is nothing about mandating a virtual end to meat consumption — nor would there ever be in any eventual plan from an administration in the real world — not that the network's anchors would acknowledge such facts.

This latest narrative is in fact a revival of a false attack that right-wing media have been pushing for at least two years, attempting to exploit and discredit any proposal to reduce pollution that affects the climate, and turn it into a vast conspiracy of government controls.

This time, right-wing media are distorting a University of Michigan study from 2020, which found that "replacing half of all animal-based foods in the U.S. diet with plant-based alternatives could reduce climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions 1.6 billion metric tons by 2030." The study's lead author told CNN's Daniel Dale over the weekend: "I, admittedly, have no idea what Biden's plan has to say about our diets."

Essentially, in right-wing media's telling, Biden wants to reduce emissions by shifting to green energy and electric vehicles; this old study said that slashing meat consumption would reduce emissions; therefore, Biden wants to cut meat consumption. (This is a misuse of the transitive property of mathematics, a seemingly easy concept that is in fact "useful to study in order to avoid mistakes in situations where it doesn't hold.")

The right-wing British outlet The Daily Mail started this new cycle of false attacks with a headline claiming, "Biden's climate plan could limit you to eat just one burger a MONTH." The article cited "a study by Michigan University's Center for Sustainable Systems," without mentioning that the study was a year old and unrelated to any Biden plans. Soon,Fox News picked up this rhetorical sleight of hand on both its "news" and "opinion" sides.

On Friday's edition of America Reports with John Roberts & Sandra Smith, co-anchor Roberts opened a segment by declaring: "Say goodbye to your burgers if you want to sign up for the climate agenda. That's the finding of one study."

Roberts claimed that "researchers say" people would have to cut meat in order to meet Biden's climate goals, while an on-screen graphic cited the University of Michigan. A chyron at the bottom of the screen throughout the segment claimed "bye-bye burgers under Biden's climate plan."

Roberts and Smith then brought on Fox Business host and former Trump administration economic adviser Larry Kudlow. Roberts opened the discussion with a joking reference to the Wendy's fast-food advertising campaign from the 1980s, "Where's the Beef?"

And on Fox's late night news time slot, anchor Shannon Bream opened her broadcast by rhetorically asking viewers: "Could new climate impact plans limit you to just one burger a month?"

Fox News White House correspondent Kevin Corke falsely claimed: "The Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan says cutting, quote, 'small diet-related greenhouse gas emissions by half' could help reach Biden's climate numbers by the 2030 target date." (The Michigan study did not talk about Biden's plans or any government mandates.)

Bream responded: "OK. About the burger thing, I'm not going to comply with that. So, I'm wondering, can you buy credits, like you can go buy the carbon credits. Can I buy, like, cheeseburger credits? Because I'm willing to do that — I'm not willing to go one burger a month."



But then in an odd development, Roberts ran a short correction on Monday in which he acknowledged that the University of Michigan study was from 2020. He then blamed "a graphic and a script" for having "incorrectly implied" that limiting meat consumption "was part of Biden's plan for dealing with climate change. That is not the case."


The segment in question had featured an on-screen graphic claiming to explain "Biden's climate requirements," with the citation to the University of Michigan,. failing to mention that the study was from 2020. But the segment also involved multiple other chyrons, such as the aforementioned "Bye-bye burgers under Biden's climate plan" as well as "Study: 90% of red meat out with Biden climate plan" and "Biden's climate plan burns all-you-can-eat burgers."

Roberts himself had said in that segment: "In order to help hit the Biden administration's climate goals of reducing emissions by 50% from 2005 [levels] by 2030, researchers say you'd have to cut about 90% of red meat from your diet." Roberts, Smith, and Kudlow never acknowledged that the study was from 2020 and unconnected to any current proposals from the White House.

Roberts now appears to be implying that the words he said on the air as a news anchor were simply "a script," thus passing responsibility to others.

Fox Opinion And "News" Anchors Promote Same Falsehoods

The coverage from Fox's "news"-side personalities was indistinguishable from the "opinion" hosts, as they dishonestly told their viewers that Biden's climate goals or some direstly related study discussed banning burgers. Viewers were never told that the study being cited was a year old and not connected to the White House's proposals.

On Friday morning's edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt claimed that "part of [Biden's] climate or green targets are to cut our red meat. He wants to cut out 90% of the red meat that you all eat." Fox Nation host Rachel Campos-Duffy said in response that Biden never would have won Wisconsin in 2020, where she lives, if the public had known he was going to make this proposal.

Fox Business host Charles Payne also claimed that "one analysis of the plan" said that Biden's climate goals would cut meat consumption, which an on-screen graphic called "Biden policy effect on meat." Payne further compared the proposal to the 1970s dystopian sci-fi movie Soylent Green.

And on Kudlow's Fox Business show — around 90 minutes after he had just appeared with Roberts and Smith — the host cited "a study coming out of the University of Michigan, which says that to meet the Biden Green New Deal targets," Americans would have to stop eating meat. Kudlow then repeatedly warned that people would be subjected to the horrors of "plant-based beer" on the Fourth of July. Beer, of course, is a plant and fungi-based product to begin with, and Kudlow earned public mockery from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and many others on Twitter.

But on the other hand, Kudlow's parade of horribles does make a bit of sense when one realizes that he has made a successful career in both right-wing media and the government out of being wrong on just about everything.




Then things got even more absurd on Saturday night, starting with Fox host Jesse Watters on his show Watters' World.

"The Democrats always said they want government to stay out of the bedroom — but it looks like the government just walked downstairs into your kitchen," Watters said. "Because Americans are going to have to cut their red meat consumption by 90%, in order to reduce emissions to hit Biden's target. That means you're only allowed to eat four pounds of red meat a year. That adds up to a burger a month — that's it."

Of course, there is no such forthcoming government mandate.

Fox host Jeanine Pirro, meanwhile, told any of her viewers who might enjoy a burger that "the left with their Green New Deal wants to make sure you don't."

By this point, neither Watters nor Pirro even bothered to cite the misused study from the University of Michigan — instead, the accusation of the Biden administration virtually eliminating meat consumption had simply been given its own independent existence, without even requiring a pretext of any evidence.

Pirro went with a visual that simply must be seen to be believed:



‘Tucker Must Go’: Carlson Endorses Neo-Nazi Conspiracy Theory On Air

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, called on Friday morning for the firing of Fox News host Tucker Carlson, after Carlson embraced the white nationalist "replacement" conspiracy theory on Thursday night.

"Now, I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term 'replacement,' if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World," Carlson said during an appearance on Fox News Primetime. "But they become hysterical because that's what's happening actually. Let's just say it: That's true."

The so-called "great replacement" theory posits that white people are being systematically "replaced" by people of color through mass immigration. The Guardian explained that under this theory, "replacement has been orchestrated by a shadowy group as part of their grand plan to rule the world … . This group is often overtly identified as being Jews, but sometimes the antisemitism is more implicit."

The theory has also been linked to far-right terrorists who committed mass shootings in both New Zealand and El Paso, Texas, in 2019. The white nationalist groups who marched in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, were also heard chantingboth "You will not replace us" and the variant "Jews will not replace us."

In addition, Fox News personalities (including Carlson) have promoted the conspiracy theory for years, casting immigration as a "purposeful repopulation of America" and helping to propel the idea further into the mainstream of public discourse.

Carlson's own escalated rhetoric Thursday night also appeared to tap directly into the calls for direct action that motivated previous attackers. In a twisted logical pirouette, he declared that his opposition to immigration was a "voting rights" issue on the grounds that any new citizens in the country would mean "every time they import a new voter, I become disenfranchised as a current voter." (Meanwhile, he has also supported conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and the new wave of restrictions on voting rights.)

"Why should I sit back and take that?" he said. "The power that I have as an American guaranteed at birth is one man, one vote, and they are diluting it. No, they are not allowed to do it. Why are we putting up with this?"

Fox News Anchors Insist That Infrastructure Isn’t Really ‘Infrastructure’

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Fox News is mounting a rhetorical push against President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan announced on Wednesday and is trying to declare that a number of projects mentioned in the bill aren't "infrastructure" — even when they obviously are.

According to Fox's purported "news side" personalities as well as segments from opinion hosts, only roads and bridges actually qualify for the label — which leaves out the following: The electrical grid, broadband internet, building construction, plumbing networks, and who knows what else.

On Thursday morning's edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer asked Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg why only a portion of the spending money was "dedicated to roads and bridges," instead highlighting the bill's investments in "electric grid improvements, broadband, water systems, and on and on it goes."

Buttigieg then explained what was wrong with this argument: The electric grid, broadband internet, and other technologies are part of the infrastructure of a modern economy.


This line of argument, suggesting that various areas of technology don't really count as "infrastructure," began even before Biden delivered his speech. And it also becomes clear that Fox's goalposts have kept on moving.

On Wednesday's edition of Your World with Neil Cavuto, Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy said that there are "still some infrastructure priorities in this package," such as money for roads and bridges, as well as to replace all the lead pipes still being used in the country, and $213 billion for environmentally sustainable housing.

But other items, shown in a list on screen, included "$174 billion to 'win' electric vehicle market" — as if the emerging market of electric vehicles doesn't require a public strategy.


But then in the very next hour on The Five, co-host Jesse Watters contrasted the problem of potholes on the highways with building "a lot of electric car charging stations for all the Tesla drivers," though the bill also includes basic money for roads. He also complained about the environmental improvements to buildings, casting it as wasteful: "If they retrofit every single building here in Manhattan, I'm going to have a headache with all the hammering. It's enough already."


Similarly, Sean Hannity remarked on Wednesday night that a large portion of the bill would be dedicated to such purportedly non-infrastructure projects as "retrofitting millions of homes and hospitals and other buildings in an environmentally conscious way and other funds would go towards building new green schools."


Hannity also brought on South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, who declared: "I was shocked by how much doesn't go into infrastructure. It goes into research and development. It goes into housing, and pipes, and different initiatives, green energy, and it really is not an honest conversation we're having about what this proposal is."


The next morning, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt reaired the clip of Noem's comments. Keep in mind, of course, that Doocy's earlier segment had included the replacement of lead pipes and housing improvements as part of the genuine "infrastructure" components of the package. But now, the network will run that clip of Noem as a serious statement, even after it was widely reported and lampooned the night before.

Georgia Election Law Is A Civil Rights Issue, Not A Partisan Quarrel

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Georgia Gov. Brain Kemp signed a Republican-backed election bill into law on Thursday that contains sweeping changes to the state's elections that already have voting rights advocates filing a legal challenge. These changes include introduction of new voter-ID requirements for absentee ballots, limitations on the use of ballot drop boxes, and more legislative control over the elections. And in a bad indication of the environment, state lawmaker Park Cannon, who is Black, was arrested and hauled into a police car after knocking on Kemp's door during the bill signing.

In the 2020 election, Joe Biden became the first Democrat to win Georgia in a presidential election since 1992. And then in January, Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff swept the state's two Senate seats, taking the majority control of the U.S. Senate from the GOP. After an election season with historically high turnout across the country and Democratic wins heavily driven by Black voters support, Republicans in Georgia and across the country have now embarked on a coordinated effort to restrict access to voting.

But for some in the media, the issue of voting rights is just another political game between the parties, rather than an important struggle for constitutional rights.

Earlier on Thursday, for example, National Journal tweeted out an article that played the both-sides maneuver against coverage of congressional Democrats H.R. 1 bill, which passed the House on March 3 and is meant to protect voting rights, and Republican efforts to make voting more difficult.

Georgia Isn't Just An "Overheated" Political Play

Simply put, whether people can or cannot vote should not be viewed as equivalent positions in the course of political debate.

Politico, for example, had an item in Friday morning's Playbook highlighting Thursday's events in Georgia with the title, "Your Move, Democrats."

YOUR MOVE, DEMOCRATS — "Sweeping changes to Georgia elections signed into law," Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Gov. Brian Kemp quickly signed a vast rewrite of Georgia's election rules into law Thursday, imposing voter ID requirements, limiting drop boxes and allowing state takeovers of local elections after last year's close presidential race. Kemp finalized the bill just over an hour after it cleared the General Assembly, leaving no doubt about its fate amid public pressure against voting restrictions.
"Protesters outside the Capitol said the bill would disenfranchise voters, calling it 'Jim Crow 2.0.' State Rep. Park Cannon, D-Atlanta, was arrested by state Troopers after knocking on Kemp's office door to try to witness the bill signing. He briefly interrupted his prepared remarks as Cannon was forcibly removed from the building by officers."

National Journal's Josh Kraushaar also tweeted that the Democrats' "overheated" allegations of voter suppression might just spur on greater voter mobilization.

Kraushaar then remarked that "raising the flag of voter suppression is one of the more effective ways to turn out your base." He quickly attracted some critical responses:

Kraushaar also claimed that the bill "doesn't do nearly as much as advertised,"overlooking the political atmosphere in which far more extreme proposals have circulated and were changed only after vigorous public protest. Republican lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to abolish no-excuse absentee voting — available since 2005 and used heavily by Democratic voters in 2020 — and tried to curtail early voting on Sundays, which has traditionally been used by Black church leaders to mobilize voters. (Kraushaar simply noted that "Souls to the Polls remains in Georgia," without any acknowledgement of just how hard people had worked on the ground to keep it.)

The fact that a less extreme bill passed is not simply a non-story if it followed weeks of controversy and efforts to prevent something even worse.

Georgia Law Exists Because Black Voters Propelled Democratic Victories

Kemp said after signing the bill: "There's no doubt there were many alarming issues with how the election was handled, and those problems, understandably, led to a crisis of confidence in the ballot box here in Georgia."

Of course, this "crisis of confidence" about the 2020 election result exists because it was stirred up by Fox News, other right-wing media, and Republican politicians and activists pushing the Big Lie advanced by former President Donald Trump that the election was stolen from him. Most notoriously in Georgia's case, Trump threatened Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, with prosecution if he did not help to reverse Biden's victory in the state.

And now, this new law strips the secretary of state of their position as the chair of the state board of elections. Instead, a majority of the board will now be appointed by the legislature, and the board will have the ability to suspend and replace local county elections officials.

Georgia Public Broadcasting notes that the law caps the number of counties where the state board could replace the local officials at four. This number may be enough to take control of the counties with larger populations where both Joe Biden and the new Democratic senators carried their victories with overwhelming margins in the Atlanta metro area.

And perhaps most notoriously, the new law makes it a crime to give food or waterto voters waiting in lines. The important context here is that voters in Georgia, especially in minority communities, had to wait in line for up to 11 hours to vote last year. Academic studies have also shown that "relative to entirely-white neighborhoods, residents of entirely-black neighborhoods waited 29 percent longer to vote and were 74 percent more likely to spend more than 30 minutes at their polling place."

Simply put, urban areas with large minority populations are routinely not given enough resources and polling places, thus causing them to have to wait in line for much longer in order to vote. Though the new law does take some steps to correct this longstanding problem, a person might be suspicious at why delivering any basic rations to people in long lines that might still exist would also be forbidden.

And that particular provision has people calling for more civil disobedience in the 2022 elections — which could potentially result in yet more arrests.

Fox News Whines Because Doocy Couldn't Ask Biden About Covid 'Conspiracy'

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Immediately after President Joe Biden's first official press conference, Fox News had a complaint that now even some mainstream voices are covering as a storyin and of itself: The president did not call on network correspondent Peter Doocy.

The problem is that Doocy is not really part of a "news" organization at all. Fox News is instead the linchpin of a right-wing entertainment complex, while its own CEO Lachlan Murdoch has called the network the "loyal opposition" to the new administration. Fox also purged a number of its arguably legitimate journalists following the 2020 election, in addition to cutting down its "news side"in favor of more right-wing opinion programming, and would rather stir up cultural grievances than discuss serious national issues.

Furthermore, it is now clear that Doocy would've used such an opportunity to ask Biden about a running set of conspiracy theories from the network. And even besides that, Fox's own running spin on other key issues still filtered through in the questions from other reporters.

Slate's Ben Mathis-Lilley noted that the press conference featured questions seemingly right out of Fox's own talking points — including narratives originating from Stephen Miller, the former Trump immigration adviser with ties to white nationalist ideology who has now become a major presence on Fox.

NBC News chief White House correspondent Kristen Welker asked Biden during the press conference, regarding the U.S.-Mexico border: "Did you move too quickly to roll back some of the executive orders of your predecessor?"

Biden responded that the policies he reversed involved "separating children from their mothers," adding that he was only "ending programs that did not exist before Trump became president" and which had undermined both "international law" and "human dignity."



This question's framing echoed Fox's own purported "news side," such as anchor Harris Faulkner's interview with Trump this week, which maintained that Biden had undermined the protection of the border.

But in reality, Biden has drawn back Trump's border closure only slightly, in cases of unaccompanied minors and some families with young children. The policy has otherwise largely been kept intact, to the point that an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who first sued the Trump administration over this issue calls it "flatly illegal" and declares, "There is zero daylight between the Biden administration and Trump administration's position."

But in the meantime, many people in mainstream media are adopting Fox's broad framing of the issue, instead of properly examining the details.

Almost immediately after the press conference, Fox anchors John Roberts and Sandra Smith had on Doocy, who literally held up a binder to demonstrate the questions he wanted to ask. These subjects included "the investigation into the origins of" COVID-19, as well as about "this big idea to completely transform the economy" with green jobs.

Some key context here: Fox News has long pushed the theory that the coronavirus originated in a virology lab in China — even accusing Dr. Anthony Fauci of bearing culpability for it, too. (Just to be clear: Genome analysis has consistently shown that the coronavirus evolved naturally and was not man-made.)

Fox News anchor Dana Perino, former White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, said that if she were still working at the White House, "I would have told the president to call on Peter Doocy," and that Biden could have answered Doocy's questions.

"Why make Peter Doocy a story, right?" she said. "Just take his question and move on."



In the next hour, Fox anchor Martha MacCallum brought Doocy on again, to ask him what questions he would have asked the president if he'd gotten a chance. Doocy did not mention the "origins of COVID" this time. Instead, he said in more general terms that not enough questions had been asked about the pandemic and the transition to a greener economy.

"I just wish that maybe the schedule could have been done a little bit differently today, so we could have the president for longer," Doocy said, ending his appearance on an apparently sarcastic note. "But he's the president, and he was off to do something that the leader of the free world has to do — 3 o'clock on a Thursday."

"So next time, you should be at the top of the list," MacCallum replied in a friendly tone, to which Doocy readily agreed.


On the subject of a green economy, it is also worth noting that Fox News was a near-constant source of false information on the Texas blackouts in February, wrongly blaming the disaster on frozen wind turbines and "Green New Deal" policies — though of course, the Green New Deal has not been enacted in the Republican-run state, and the state's fossil fuel sources had also frozen over due to an overall failure to winterize the Texas power grid.

By contrast, local media in Texas widely debunked the misinformation, and a poll released earlier this month from the progressive strategy firm Data for Progress found that the American public at large did not buy into this propaganda campaign — though only a narrow plurality of Fox News viewers were able to provide the correct answer on what had caused the blackouts.

In fact, Fox has embraced climate denial and misinformation for years, making clear its intent to undermine action on climate change heading into the Biden administration.

Mainstream Media Hype Of Gov. DeSantis Ignores Harsh Facts

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Gov. Ron DeSantis is continuing his state's defiant response to the coronavirus pandemic by not only refusing to impose public restrictions, but even seeking to crack down on local governments which attempt to take such basic measures as mask mandates. In doing so, the Florida Republican has an ally in Fox News — the network that frequently undermined public health efforts and even now is trafficking in dangerous anti-vaccine theories — and also in mainstream media outlets, which are making some key mistakes in attempting to cover him.

On Thursday, DeSantis held a "public health roundtable" event featuring hand-picked supporters of his policies including Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist and frequent Fox News guest who also advised DeSantis last year. At the event, Atlas reportedly called contact tracing of infected individuals a "completely wrong strategy," and declared there was "no evidence that a mask mandate has worked."

Notably, Atlas had previously joined former President Donald Trump's team of medical advisers — after many appearances on Fox in which he frequently spoke out against most advice from virologists and epidemiologists on how the country should have dealt with the pandemic. The Washington Post had reported that during his time at the White House, Atlas advocated for a dangerous "herd immunity" strategy of simply allowing the virus to spread, and he had also "shot down attempts by Birx and Fauci to expand testing … and advanced fringe theories, such as that social distancing and mask-wearing were meaningless and would not have changed the course of the virus."

Much like Atlas' path to the White House, DeSantis also built his career on Fox News. As Politico explained in 2018, "DeSantis' cultivation of his Fox relationship made all the difference" in his upset victory in the Republican primary for governor that year. He then returned to the network in 2020 to build up a positive image at a time when the pandemic was ravaging his state, after he had reopened far earlier than elsewhere.

Now, he's relying on Fox and other media outlets to promote his handling of the public health crisis, while downplaying the costs of his decisions.

Fox News Pumping Up DeSantis

The Fox-DeSantis relationship continues into the present, as well. DeSantis appeared this past Saturday with Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, who asked him about his state's pandemic response: "New York is still a mess, and you got it right. How did you do it?"


Meanwhile, Fox's purported "news side" has also helped to spread a pro-DeSantis message.

On Monday's edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, the anchor used a misleading statistic, during a discussion with Fox senior analyst Brit Hume. "Cases in California 33,500,000, a little bit more than that as of March 15, deaths 55,000," Baier said. "Florida cases there, you see them, 1.9 million, deaths 32,000."


This statistic was also repeated on Fox News @ Night with Shannon Bream, in a discussion between the anchor and two right-wing guests, Florida Republican Party Vice Chair Christian Ziegler and Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen.

Baier and Ziegler only gave the raw numbers of cases and deaths in each state, along with an on-screen graphic that presented those numbers, seeming to give the impression that Florida had done a far better job than California. But in fact, California has nearly twice the population of Florida — making a raw-numbers comparison virtually useless without adjusting for that difference, an error that was quickly notedon social media.

When adjusted for population, Florida really has more cases and deaths per capita in comparison to California, with 151 deaths per 100,000 people in Florida compared to 140 in California. Also quite concerning, Florida has had a substantially higher number of cases in the past week, 141.3 cases per 100,000 people compared to just 47.6 in California.

Mainstream Outlets Bungling DeSantis Story, Too

CNN has run a segment this week by the network's chief national affairs correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, which begins with a clip of DeSantis triumphantly declaring that "it's booming here because you can live like a human being."

But both the segment and an accompanying text article by Zeleny fail their audiences by putting all of Desantis' own seemingly positive framing up front, such as a lede sentence declaring that he is "standing unabashedly tall among the nation's governors on the front lines of the coronavirus fight."


It is not until nearly three minutes into the video segment, and many paragraphs into the text piece, that certain caveats start to really become visible — as well as the hidden underside of DeSantis' preferred storyline:

  • It is not until the 16th paragraph that readers actually learn that experts believe "comparing one state to another is complicated and often counterproductive," with factors such as Florida's humidity or New York City's population density presenting very different pictures.
  • In the 20th paragraph, readers learn that DeSantis has been "locked in one fight after another with the state's media over transparency on Covid statistics and other issues." For example, the Miami Herald explained this month that Florida state government had "spent a year stonewalling, obfuscating and evading requests for information about such vital matters as the number of COVID deaths recorded by [medical] examiners' offices, details about contact tracing to see where transmission was occurring and which eldercare facilities had seen outbreaks among staff and residents."
  • And then, in the 25th paragraph, readers learn of a possible scandal about DeSantis allegedly giving his top donors privileged access to vaccinations by placing "invitation-only" clinics in their upscale communities. The Miami Herald also reported on this story, describing one such example: "Ocean Reef Club is an ultra-exclusive neighborhood that is arguably one of the highest-security private communities in the nation. … It's also home to many wealthy donors to the Florida Republican Party and GOP candidates, including Gov. Ron DeSantis."

The New York Times has also attempted a seemingly more balanced piece — though it begins with the wistful, dream-like headline 'I'd Much Rather Be in Florida.' The sub-headline then explains the real issue: "Floridians are out and about and pandemic restrictions have been lifted. There's just one problem: The virus never went away."

The article's lead paragraph is also quite blunt about the real cost of the state's decision to just play down the dangers: "Other than New York, no big city in the United States has been struggling with more coronavirus cases in recent weeks than Miami. But you would hardly know that if you lived here." The Times also explains that Florida's economy isn't exactly "booming," either, with tourism having fallen and the state government facing a $2.7 billion deficit that "will need an injection of federal stimulus money."

That headline, however, is immediately problematic — not only because most people do not click past headlines — but because the Times then leaves itself vulnerable to being twisted around by right-wing media outlets. And indeed, both Fox News and PJ Media have now cited that turn of phrase to claim that DeSantis is receiving a positive reappraisal.

Politico, meanwhile, is presenting a triumphalist, near-perfect image for DeSantis, with a post on Thursday night, "How Ron DeSantis won the pandemic," along with a full-length magazine profile touting his presidential hopes for 2024.

"He was right," the profile begins. "Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, has been saying as much for weeks — in partisan speeches, on conservative cable, at often out-of-the-way vaccine sites around the state in quick-hit appearances as spartan as they are scripted."

Deep into the article, one finally learns: "Mayors say DeSantis didn't make the hard decisions—they did. He shunted the onus as well as the political peril, they contend, by making them enforce rules he wouldn't and hasn't," and only toward the very end is it noted that Miami's Republican mayor is one of those critics, and "hasn't been able to get him on the phone for months."

Poll: Public Rejects Blaming Clean Energy For Texas Power Failure

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A poll released this weekend by the progressive strategy firm Data for Progress found the American public did not buy into a relentless propaganda campaign from right-wing media, which attempted to blame the Texas blackouts on renewable energy sources.

Instead, the public understood the reality of what went on: All power sources in the state had failed, including the state's primary fossil fuels.

The poll asked respondents which of the following options caused the power outages in Texas:

  1. Unusually cold winter weather conditions caused Texas power plants, including coal, natural gas, nuclear, and renewable energy sources, to go offline. This caused power outages across the state.
  2. Texas invested too much in renewable energy like wind and solar energy. Wind turbines froze because of the cold weather which led to power outages across the state.

In response, 64 percent of surveyed people correctly picked the first option, compared to only 28 percent who thought that Texas had over-invested itself in wind turbines. Even 50 percent of self-identified Republicans chose the correct answer, while 41 percent blamed renewable energy. The poll was conducted from February 19 to 22, surveying likely voters nationally via web panels.

poll graphs

Among self-identified Republicans who watch Fox News, the percentage was slightly lower: 47 percent picked the correct option. Finally, Republicans who watch Fox's far-right competitors Newsmax and One America News were even more divorced from reality — with an actual majority believing that the blackouts were because of wind turbines.

poll graphs

An earlier Media Matters study had found that Fox programming lied 128 times over less than 48 hours, falsely attributing the power outages to failures in renewable energy sources such as wind turbines.

For example, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott told Fox host Sean Hannity that his state's catastrophe "shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America." (Of course, the Green New Deal is not currently the law in Texas.) Meanwhile, Abbott had admitted in other settings that the state's natural gas and coal infrastructure had also frozen over.

Other right-wing media outlets pushing this campaign included Fox's corporate cousin The Wall Street Journal and the Sinclair Broadcast Group and its local TV stations across the country.

By contrast, local media in Texas widely debunked the misinformation, explaining that natural gas infrastructure was freezing over and more to blame than wind power, and that the root problem was from the state's failure to require utilities to winterize.

On Fox, Stephen Miller Falsely Claims Migrant Kids Were ‘Humanely Returned’ To Families

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Former Trump administration senior adviser Stephen Miller appeared Thursday morning on Fox & Friends, to attack President Joe Biden's immigration policies. During the interview, Miller falsely claimed that the Trump administration maintained a practice of "safely and humanely" returning unaccompanied minor immigrants to their families.

In fact, the practices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials during the Trump administration were notorious for their dysfunctional treatment of unaccompanied minors. A ProPublica report last year titled "The Trump Administration Is Rushing Deportations of Migrant Children During Coronavirus" included young children who had "a parent in the U.S. ready to receive them, and no one in their home country to care for them," and teenagers with dangerous family situations waiting for them back home.

The New York Times also documented that the administration had "deported hundreds of migrant children alone — in some cases, without notifying their families," which also included other relatives in the United States, and that "others have been pushed back into Mexico, where thousands of migrants are living in filthy tent camps and overrun shelters." The Times also reported the Trump administration had ordered the expulsion of minors who still had pending asylum appeals. Congressional Democrats had charged that the administration's practices violated the existing federal law for the treatment of unaccompanied children, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Miller played a key role in advocating for the worst abuses of Trump-era immigration policies, but on Fox & Friends, he claimed those policies actually "saved lives" and "kept children safe."

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Fox News has been continuously fearmongering against Biden's immigration policies, including a false claim that undocumented immigrants who committed violent crimes would not be investigated and deported, and alleging that immigration was the real insurrectionagainst America, rather than the attack against the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters on January 6. The network also recently attacked Biden's policies by repeatedly showing b-roll footage of a migrant caravan that had been broken up while crossing from Honduras into Guatemala, a 1,400-mile journey from U.S. territory.

QAnon And Trumpists Plot GOP Takeover -- With Bannon's Advice

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon's recent interview with a local Republican Party committee member on how Trump supporters might be able to take control of the party at the grassroots level is now being enthusiastically promoted on far-right platforms — including to followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which has been linked to domestic terrorism and the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

On February 6, Bannon hosted Dan Schultz, an attorney and a local GOP committee member from Arizona, on his podcast to discuss conservatives taking over the Republican Party by becoming the local precinct committee officers throughout the country as many of these positions are vacant from lack of public awareness. From there, according to Schultz, they could gain influence over local elected officials and even determine the course of national presidential nominations.

Bannon's interview with Schultz caught further attention, with social media posts appearing on far-right platforms 4chan, Patriots.win, and Gab. These posts especially focused on the claim by Bannon and Schultz that 200,000 local committee slots nationwide — roughly half of the total seats — currently stand empty and could be filled easily, potentially even by running unopposed. Some of the posts touted this as "The Best Kept Secret to taking over the Republican (GOP) Party."

These social media platforms have long served as havens for white nationalists, as well as spreading conspiracy theories about such topics as the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2020 election, as well as dangerous rhetoric related to the coronavirus pandemic and the January 6 insurrection.

In addition, one of the Telegram accounts promoting the plan is a follower of the the QAnon conspiracy theory; QAnon supporters have widely supported the January 6 insurrection and called for a military coup in the United States. A number of QAnon supporters ran for Congress and state legislatures in 2020, the most successful of whom was Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). This month, the House of Representatives voted to strip Greene of her committee assignments, due to her history of espousing conspiracy theories and supporting violent threats against members of Congress when she was an online commentator.

During the interview, Schultz spoke of the power and influence that comes from local committees at the grassroots level in speaking to politicians, and organizing votes in the primary elections that those local candidates must first win. Also key, Schultz explained, is the election of delegates and party officials higher up the line.

"You'll also elect the delegates to the four-year state presidential nominating convention. The delegates there that you've elected — and you can run for delegate — only the precinct committeemen elect the delegates," Schultz said. "The delegates elect the national convention delegates directly, and then they also elect the national committeeman and the national committeewoman to a four-year term on the RNC. That's real political power. We can take over the party if we invade it."

This has been a long-running project for Schultz, ever since the tea party movement gained prominence over a decade ago because of its opposition to President Barack Obama.

"And I've told people this since 2009. I told the tea partyers this," Schultz added. "If you will not at least try this, and get involved, and take over the party, I can't guarantee you that we'll save the republic, but I can guarantee you this: We'll lose it. If we conservatives don't take over the Republican Party, we're going to lose our republic."

Bannon also emphasized the importance of what Schultz was saying by commenting, "This is the ability to take over the Republican Party, because this is where the votes are. It's a pyramid, and this is the base of the pyramid."

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Citation

Bannon previously made numerous calls for former President Donald Trump to subvert the results of the 2020 election. He also compared pro-Trump protests after the elections to the American Revolution and on January 5, said that "all hell is going to break loose tomorrow" when the Electoral College votes were going to get counted. (Since then, he has tried to downplay the violence that took place that day — while also urging Trump's impeachment legal team to continue pursuing the false claims that the election was stolen.)