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Monday, December 09, 2019

Steve Bannon Runs His 2020 'Election Fraud' Playbook Again

No recurring right-wing conspiracy theory is more threatening to the very foundation of American democracy than falsehoods about widespread electoral fraud. The majority of Republicans falsely believe the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, and his supporters staged a coup attempt. Today, half of all Americans expect there to be fraud in the 2022 midterms, according to one recent national poll. It’s bad.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for this tragedy among right-wing media culprits — but chief among them must be former Trump strategist Steve Bannon’s War Room, ground zero for conspiracy theories about the election being stolen in 2020. To this day, the show’s central reason for existence is to keep these conspiracy theories alive to fuel the further radicalization of the Republican Party and its base.

Even before Trump lost, Bannon was saying the election would be stolen from him. In September 2020, he launched a national tour titled “The Plot to Steal 2020” to demonstrate how Democrats would use “digital muscle” and “lawfare” in collaboration with the Chinese government, The New York Times, former Attorney General Eric Holder, and “street thugs of antifa and the radical parts of Black Lives Matter” to “foist an illegitimate regime onto the republic of the United States.”

On Election Day 2020, Bannon declared that Trump would claim victory “right before the 11 o’clock news” (a sentiment he also shared in private). Through the post-election period, Bannon continued to mold his platform into a central propaganda hub for the MAGA movement to radicalize Trump supporters on the idea that the election was stolen, using violentrhetoric to whip them into a frenzy and even calling for the beheading of Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray. This continued in the days leading up to the January 6 Capitol insurrection.

Here we are again. Bannon is once more trying to organize his conservative audience around falsehoods and conspiracy theories about supposed election fraud. But this time, he has taken the last two years to regroup and strategize, rather than riding the reactive rollercoaster that was the final days of the Trump presidency. Almost immediately after the January 6 disaster, Bannon began hosting local Republican Party activist Dan Schultz to recruit and train election deniers to work as precinct officers. The responsibilities of these positions vary by state; according to ProPublica, they can “have a say in choosing poll workers” in some states and even “help pick members of boards that oversee elections.”

In the last few months, the plan of attack has expanded. In late August, Bannon declared that Democrats were planning to steal the 2022 midterms while broadcasting live from Mike Lindell’s “Moment of Truth” Summit. (Bannon does MyPillow ad reads multiple times an hour for four hours a day, five days a week, with an additional two hours on Saturday. He recently told The New York Times Lindell is “the most significant financier in all of conservative media.”)

Echoing 2020, this falsehood is now a constantrefrainonthe show, a slightly updated backdrop to Bannon’s protestations from two years ago. What’s different this time is the pro-Trump election denial movement is now more prepared. As Bannon told his audience in September: “It’s going to be MAGA in the room, counting the votes, because only MAGA can count fair.”

“We are prepared this time. We are trained this time.”

On October 28, he again warned the midterms are “a whole different game” because “we are prepared this time. We are trained this time."

To execute, War Room hosts a virtual parade of extremist activists pushing election denial efforts across the country. One of the most prominent is Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who collaborated with Trump to attempt to overturn the 2020 election. She is now leading an election denial group called the Election Integrity Network, which recruits and trains people to work as poll watchers and other positions in election administration. (At one recent training hosted by Mitchell’s group, coup memo author John Eastman told volunteers to “document what you’ve seen, raise the challenge” and “get it all written down” because “that then becomes the basis for an affidavit in a court challenge after the fact.”)

Mitchell has also instructed the War Room audience to volunteer in Democratic stronghold counties previously subjected to destructive conspiracy theories during the Trump campaign in 2020, including ones they don’t live in. One of the counties she highlighted is DeKalb County, Georgia, one of four counties that make up the metropolitan Atlanta area and which also has the second largest population of Black voters in the state.

Republican National Committee head Ronna McDaniel has also made War Room her home base to promote the RNC’s first time “election integrity” efforts, now that it has been freed from a consent decree that limited the group’s ability to organize due to concerns over racially motivated voter suppression and intimidation. On November 1, McDaniel told Bannon her recruitment efforts saw a “jump” after her appearance on War Room.

In addition to partnering with the RNC and a laundry list of other election denial organizations, Bannon is now aligned with Alex Jones. This is a relatively new development -- Jones was not much of a character at all in the 2020 rendition of this song and dance. Jones recently appeared on the show to tell Bannon’s audience that they should be “documenting everything” to prevent supposed fraud in the upcoming election. In turn, Bannon has appeared on Infowars to recruit viewers to become poll workers, asking them on October 26 to join in “an overwhelming show of force” aiming “to destroy the groomer party, to destroy the globalist party.”

Bannon’s Violent Rhetoric

Undermining public confidence in the midterms is just the first part of Bannon’s agenda; to really set his listeners on fire, they are also inundated with repeat calls to violence. Bannon has referred to Mitchell’s election denier recruitment efforts as a “call to arms.” He recently promised to threaten members of Congress “by bayonet” if they don’t fall in line with the extremist right. He later doubled down on this statement, reposting the video on his GETTR page and promising “the Battle to reign in an out-of-control Government [commences] immediately upon Victory.”

Perhaps most concerning is Bannon’s repeateddefense of men wearing camouflage and carrying guns while loitering outside ballot drop boxes in Arizona as a part of an effort by QAnon support Melody Jennings, who has repeatedly appeared on War Room recruiting volunteers to “monitor” drop boxes in the state. Defending the armed men from reports that they were intimidating voters, he said, “It’s not intimidation to put a set of eyeballs on these things.”

For the more hardcore elements of the War Room audience, some of whom showed up at the Capitol on January 6 and repeated his calls to violence verbatim, Steve Bannon’s bizarre circus of a show is not one of many measured perspectives they’re taking into account before drawing a larger conclusion on how they should vote or otherwise act politically. The show is exclusively available on right-wing platforms, whether it’s streamed directly from Real America’s Voice, the network home of the show, or on Rumble, described as “the right-wing’s go-to video site” that claims to have reached 78 million monthly users in August, more than 10 times that of Trump’s Truth Social platform. They are angry, unpersuadable, digitally walled off, and slurping up four hours of conspiratorial ranting a day. It’s the true definition of a fever swamp, where disease festers undisturbed.

Bridging the (small) gap between Alex Jones and the heights of the Republican Party establishment, War Room thrives off the same toxic combination of election denial and violent rhetoric that we saw in 2020. This time, the critical difference that two years of planning makes could have devastating consequences.

The recent assassination attempt at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home in San Francisco, where her husband remains in the ICU, should set off alarm bells. According to NBC News, alleged assailant David DePape told investigators the attack was intended to “show other Members of Congress there were consequences to actions,” echoing Bannon’s recent rhetoric. DePape also reportedly professed to be a transhumanism conspiracy theorist who credited the Gamergate harassment campaign for radicalizing him, a hallmark example of the violent consequences of online harassment campaigns that Bannon had a direct role in promoting during his time heading Breitbart.

Much attention was paid to Bannon’s contempt of Congress trial, conviction, and sentencing. There were good reasons for this -- it was a historic conviction and sentencing and a cathartic moment for those of us who watched the circle of criminals supporting Donald Trump’s presidency escape virtually unscathed. But while the mainstream media has always had a very close eye on Bannon’s legal problems, the daily drumbeat of his show, even after the House Select Committee put its influence on full display in front of the entire country, has not received the same attention outside of Media Matters and very few others.

War Room is filled to the brim with leads for journalists tracking how the extreme right is attempting to disrupt and undermine the midterm elections. Of the various campaigns and activists that appear on War Room, most will fail to have an impact. That is par for the course when you’re flooding the zone with shit, according to Bannon’s own characterization. But some, like rallying at the Capitol on January 6, will have consequences that will reverberate for generations. Every day, Bannon is laying out, in specific detail, tied to specific calls to action, the strategy to create chaos at the polls and in the streets, on Election Day and beyond. Two years since Bannon started saying the 2020 election would be stolen and he is still running this same play.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Kanye West And Alex Jones' Infowars Join In Bashing Jews

Far-right outlet Infowars celebrated Kanye West after he made antis-Semitic remarks on Instagram and Twitter over the weekend and pushed conspiracy theories on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight. The admiration goes both ways — West shouted out Infowars head Alex Jones during his interview on Fox.

West has made multiple anti-Semitic remarks over the course of his recent media tour. On Instagram, he posted screenshots of a text message allegedly sent to media mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, in which he wrote “I'ma use you as an example to show the Jewish people that told you to call me that no one can threaten or influence me.” After he was restricted from posting on Instagram, he took to Twitter and threatened to go “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE,” who he claimed “have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.”

On the October 9 edition of InfowarsSunday Night Live, Jones reacted to West’s segment on Tucker Carlson Tonight, during which the rapper remarked, “Have I reached Alex Jones territory yet?”

Jones said “people are waking up and very exciting, positive things are happening” in response to West’s conspiracy theory suggesting that actor Matthew McConaughey and clothing retailer the Gap knew about the Uvalde school shooting before it happened. Jones added that West “has a lot of courage, and so does Candace Owens,” after the pair wore T-shirts that said “White Lives Matter” at West’s Paris fashion show. Jones took credit, saying, “We woke up Kanye West, folks.”

Later on, Infowars host Owen Shroyer took over the broadcast and went on a full-fledged anti-Semitic rant, saying he has “yet to see what Kanye West has said that’s bigoted.” Shroyer defended West, and concluded his segment by blaming Jewish people for poverty among Black Americans “when Jewish people are making out like bandits making millions of dollars on foreign policies.” He also said West is “being attacked relentlessly because he said ‘Jew.’”

OWEN SHROYER (HOST): I don’t see anything bigoted about it. Now you have the Democrat Party, you have the ADL, you have the SPLC, you have all these different groups and you have the conservative wing, the Israel First MAGA conservative wing, they’re all going after Kanye West too, saying he is bigoted. I did not hear one thing Kanye West said that was bigoted.

I don’t want to be involved in Russia-Ukraine. I don’t want to be involved in Israel-Palestine. I don’t want to be involved in Saudi Arabia-Yemen. I don’t want to be involved in any of this crap, and neither does Kanye West. And he sees this and he says why are Americans poor and hungry — specifically Black Americans — poor and hungry, when Jewish people are making out like bandits making millions of dollars on foreign policies? … So Kanye being attacked relentlessly because he said “Jew.” That’s what it is. You’re not even allowed to say it, you’re not even allowed to point out that there’s anybody Jewish in the media or anybody Jewish in the Congress, you’re not allowed to do it.

When the broadcast resumed after a break, Shroyer said the backlash to West’s remarks “only proves what he is talking about is real.”

Infowars also published an article with the headline “Establishment Sends Warning to Kanye West For Speaking His Mind.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Far-Right Conspiracists Deny Russian Atrocities In Bucha

Right-wing media influencers have spread narratives denying the Russian military’s involvement in reported war crimes committed in the town of Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, Ukraine.

Following the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region, mainstream media outlets have reported on satellite images from the region that show mass graves, bodies that show signs of execution, and streets of the once-quiet town “littered with burned-out tanks and corpses.” PBS and The Associated Press have identified four potential war crimes committed by the Russian military since April 3, and their collaborative War Crimes Watch Ukraine resource has verified 113 potential war crimes overall.

The Russian government has denied responsibility for these atrocities. An official Russian Telegram channel denied accusations that Russian soldiers killed Ukrainians in Bucha and claimed that “the photos and video footage from Bucha are another hoax, a staged production and provocation by the Kiev regime for the Western media.”

Far-right influencers took to podcasts, interviews, and social media to boost the Russians’ denial that the massacre was staged or faked, blaming a number of different countries and global organizations.

Conspiracy theory site Infowars has been a hotbed of conspiracy theories related to the atrocities in Bucha. On April 5, Alex Jones took to the show to promote articles on the Infowars site that “clearly show a lot of this was fake.”

The next day guest host Robert Barnes continued to spout similar claims. Barnes asserted that the Russian forces did not control Bucha while they stayed in the city and did not “cut off any civilian infrastructure.” He then repeated assertions that atrocities in the area were not reported until days after Russian forces exited, claiming that fact showed the massacre was a false flag.

On its website, Infowarstouted remarks by Tucker Carlsonforeign policy muse Douglas Macgregor. Macgregor told a YouTube podcast that he was “extremely suspicious” at the “brilliant timing” and unanimous condemnation in the media of Russia's actions in Bucha, likening the condemnation to the lies used to sell the Iraq War. In the same podcast, Macgregor later said of the Bucha massacre that “it’s hard for me to believe that this was a deliberate act done by the Russian military” and that “I looked at both sides of this and I couldn't come away with a certain conclusion one way or the other. There were things that didn't make a lot of sense.”

During the April 4 broadcast of Human Events Daily with Jack Posobiec, the Pizzagate conspiracy theorist claimed “we can’t tell what happened” in Bucha and “both sides have their grievances.” The comments were boosted by The Post Millennial, a right-wing blog. Posobiec has a history of boosting Russian-backed conspiracy theories about the war in Ukraine.

Former presidential candidate Ron Paul claimed on the April 5 edition of the Ron Paul Liberty Report that he’s “very suspicious of what we're hearing, just who has been doing what.” His co-host Daniel McAdams repeated denial narratives, saying, “We do not know what happened in this small town,” and went on to describe a timeline of events that implied Russian forces were not behind the massacre.

During a livestream on Rumble, the right-wing alternative to YouTube, militia-linked radio host Pete Santilli claimed the massacre was faked and the CIA was behind it. The episode also included a video sourced from Infowars that supposedly proved the massacre was faked.

On CrossTalk, a Christian nationalist show hosted by QAnon conspiracy theorist Lauren Witzke and Edward Szall, the co-hosts claimed Russian forces in Bucha were “helping the Ukrainians; they weren’t abusing them, they weren’t doing terrible things to them,” as evidenced by images of food packaging alongside the dead.

Witzke also claimed to have heard rumors Ukrainians are accepting help from Russian forces and said she has “nothing but respect for Putin. And you know what, it’s a daggum shame that they’re doing this crap to people, that they’re murdering people, just so they can paint him as this horrible leader, this tyrant.” The episode, which was cross-posted to the “Stew Peters Network” page on Rumble, is titled “Ukrainian War Crimes in Bucha Exposed: Zelensky’s MI6 Nazi False Flag Murdered Kids.”

The Russian-backed misinformation problem extends beyond far-right media in the English language. The Venezuelen-owened TV outlet Telesur shared a video to its 1.5 million YouTube subscribers on April 4, that called the events in Bucha a farce and included the claims the images were taken following the exit of Russian forces as proof of the falsehood.

In right-leaning private Facebook groups, users have both expressed skepticism about the atrocities in Bucha, suggesting that they have been staged by the “Kiev regime” or “a Liberal faction.” Some posts linked to Infowars and Summit News (an affiliated project of Infowars), while others linked directly to Russian statemedia sites RT and TASS. We found only one instance where Facebook flagged such posts as “False Information.”

Far-right communities on fringe social media platforms have also spread Russian denial.

Gab CEO Andrew Torbaposted to his platform a video from RT that implied the images and videos coming from Bucha were faked. The post amassed over 1,800 likes, comments, and reposts. Another post shared to Gab, known as a haven for white nationalists, on April 5 by @Corvid1984 also questioned the reality of the massacre based on the images and videos coming out of the region. The post received over 1,500 engagements.

A post on the QAnon forum claims, “The National Guard of Ukraine filmed its entering into the town north of Kiev where the alleged massacre took place. They were first in the town after the withdrawal of Russian troops. The video clearly shows no dead bodies on the streets.”

Messaging platform Telegram was also rife with the narrative that reports of potential war crimes in Bucha were Ukrainian propaganda. QAnon-affiliated Telegram channel We The Media reposted a different video originally published by Intel Slava Z, a Russian Telegram news aggregator, and claimed it shows “staged footage of the Ukrainian psyop unit from Bucha.”

On April 4, holocaust denier and leader of the fascist “America First” movement Nick Fuentes posted a link to his livestream decrying the “Fake ‘Bucha’ massacre.” During the stream, Fuentes also said the West “needs an excuse to escalate the war just as much as the Ukrainians, and how do they do that? Well they do a handshake deal, and the Ukrainians fake the massacre and the Western media eats it up, they feed that to the population.”

Printed with permission from Media Matters.

How Carlson Lied To Whitewash Oath Keepers’ Armed Conspiracy

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson has repeatedly hosted alleged Oath Keeper Thomas Caldwell, who was charged on January 13 with seditious conspiracy alongside Oath Keeper leader Stewart Rhodes and nine others in connection to the anti-government militia’s plot to violently overthrow the government on January 6, 2021. Carlson has interviewed Caldwell on both his Fox News show and his Fox Nation show. With Carlson’s help, Caldwell and his wife cast themselves as victims of overzealous prosecution for the events of January 6.

In their discussions Carlson and his guests overlooked some key details while portraying Caldwell, who was first arrested and indicted for his January 6 actions shortly after that day, merely as a “disabled veteran.

As noted in the indictment, Caldwell was stationed outside Washington, D.C., on January 5, standing ready to distribute weapons to his fellow militia members at the direction of Rhodes. He allegedly helped coordinate the Oath Keepers’ so-called “quick reaction force.” The indictment states that the militia had “amassed firearms on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., distributed them among ‘quick reaction force’ (‘QRF’) teams, and planned to use the firearms in support of their plot to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power.”

The indictment alleges, “The QRF teams were prepared to rapidly transport firearms and other weapons into Washington, D.C., in support of operations aimed at using force to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power. The QRF teams were coordinated, in part, by Thomas Caldwell and Edward Vallejo.”

Rhodes indictment 1rhodes indictment

The indictment also notes that Caldwell did march to the Capitol on January 6, which has been documented in previous media reports. Some of Caldwell’s involvement coordinating the “QRF” was released in a court filing in December and was reported on by local DC outlet WUSA.

The government’s case claims Caldwell sought boats to assist the QRF, saying he wrote in a message that they could have “heavy weapons standing by, quickly load them and ferry them across the river to our waiting arms.” It also alleges that “on January 5, 2021, Caldwell and others drove into Washington, D.C., around the Capitol, and back to their hotel in Virginia” where the Oath Keepers had stockpiled weapons. The indictment says that “Caldwell described the trip as ‘recce,’ or a reconnaissance mission.”

In his repeated interviews of Caldwell and his wife Sharon, Carlson hasn’t painted the full picture of the facts as laid out by the government or of the grave implications had the events of January 6 turned out even slightly differently.

Carlson first mentioned Caldwell in his monologue on June 15. Noting the reporting about the quick reaction force, Carlson flatly stated that because Caldwell’s two co-conspirators were not indicted at the time, they were “almost certainly working for the FBI.” The idiotic logic is breathtaking even today:

The government's indictments further indicate that Caldwell -- who by the way is a 65-year-old man -- was led to believe there would be a "quick reaction force" also participating in January 6. That quick reaction force, Caldwell was told, would be led by someone called "Person Three" -- who had a hotel room and an accomplice.
But wait. Here’s the interesting thing. "Person Two" and "Person Three" were organizers of the riot. The government knows who they are, but the government has not charged them. Why is that? You know why. They were almost certainly working for the FBI. So FBI operatives were organizing the attack on the Capitol on January 6, according to government documents. And those two are not alone.

As HuffPo’s Ryan Reilly has pointed out, court documents show that the person staying in a hotel room with Caldwell was his wife. In truth, Carlson was just ripping off a flimsy conspiracy theory from Darren Beattie, a frequent guest of his who has attended a white nationalist conference.

Caldwell first appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight on October 4, 2021. Carlson cited American Greatness blogger Julie Kelly’s coverage of Caldwell’s plight while introducing his guest. (At American Greatness, Kelly has repeatedlywritten about Caldwell in glowing terms. Just days ago she used Caldwell’s prior indictment as evidence that the federal government was behind the attack that day)

In the interview, Caldwell told Carlson the Oath Keepers “seem to be very nice people” but “I’m not part of that organization.” Carlson closed the segment by saying, “I hope you crush these people, and we’re going to follow your case, and I hope that you both will come back. It’s shocking this could happen in our country.”

Following that interview, right-wing figures like Kelly and New York Post columnist Miranda Devine raised money for Caldwell on social media.

Caldwell and his wife appeared again with Carlson on his Fox Nation show Tucker Carlson Today in November. During the 50-minute-long interview, Carlson described the circumstances of Caldwell’s arrest as “beyond belief” and said “there was no reason” for him to be arrested in the way he described. Carlson went so far as to ask that Caldwell publicly name the U.S. attorney prosecuting his case, which Caldwell declined to do. Carlson said, “I hope that he’s punished” for his handling of the case.

Carlson omitted key details from what the FBI found at Caldwell’s home that day. A February 2021 BuzzFeed News report says agents found “receipts for the purchase of ‘a concealed firearm intentionally built to look like a cell phone,’” live ammunition, and “a notepad with the legend ‘Death List,’ and below that the name of an elections official from another state, as well as a relative of that person.”

Prosecutors at the time also shared a text message from Caldwell about the plan, noted above, to ferry guns on January 6 into Washington, D.C., with boats. The judge in his case at the time found that Caldwell must be held in custody until his trial because he “represents not just a danger to the community but to the fabric of democracy.”

On Tucker Carlson Today, the eponymous host instead focused on whether Caldwell was an official member of the Oath Keepers, saying that “it is not a crime to belong to the Oath Keepers or any other organization in this country, no matter what Joe Biden thinks of it. Is that still true? I mean, you’re allowed to belong to any volunteer organization you want, right?”

Carlson asked Caldwell if he entered the Capitol building or did anything illegal; when Caldwell answered no, Carlson immediately took him at his word, saying that he “didn't get caught up in any of the illegal activities on that day, it doesn't sound like.”

In a 50-minute interview with someone indicted for their activities on January 6, that was essentially all the time Carlson spent trying to figure out what Caldwell did that day.

Carlson then proceeded to try to get Caldwell to endorse his Ray Epps conspiracy theory:

In that clip, Carlson goes on to suggest that there’s a federal government conspiracy because Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes had not (yet) been arrested.

The appearance was amplified by Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec.

In Caldwell’s third appearance with Carlson, on January 13, 2022, following the charges for seditious conspiracy, Carlson asked him about the text message and plans to ferry weapons across the Potomac. Caldwell denied that he had made those plans, and that exchange soon devolved into Carlson mockingly asking if Caldwell owned any howitzers. Most of the interview ended up just repeating the same notes – Caldwell denying he was in the Capitol building and talking about how much being prosecuted hurts his family.

Carlson didn’t mention why people may be skeptical of Caldwell’s denial: Messages made public by the Department of Justice show that Caldwell bragged to unnamed recipients about participating in the attack and that he told people to “storm the place and hang the traitors":

“Then we heard Pence f***** us. Wr [sic] had over a million oeople [sic] here. Then the lying media said Trump supporters were breaking through barricades so I said if we’re going to get blamed, might as well do it so I grabbed up my American flag and said let’s take the damn capitol,” Caldwell allegedly said. “So people started surging forward and climbing the scaffolding outside so I said lets storm the place and hang the traitors. Everybody thought that was a good idea so we did.”
“[W]e climbed the steps after breaking 2 rows of barricades, yhen [sic] got on the parapets and the people in front of me broke through the doors and started duking it out with the pigs who broke and ran,” Caldwell allegedly continued. “Then we started stealing the cops riot shields a d [sic] throwing fire extinguishers through windows. It was a great time.”

In addition to Carlson, One America News Network also hosted Caldwell for a friendly interview.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

How Bannon Promoted January 6 Insurrection, Day By Day

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

In the days before the January 6 insurrection, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon bragged on his podcast about his behind-the-scenes efforts to undermine the results of the 2020 presidential election.

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Trump For House Speaker Is A Bannon Brainstorm

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Following former President Donald Trump's June 4 remark that the idea of becoming speaker of the House after the 2022 midterm election is "very interesting" to him, political media has been abuzz with speculation. The idea has been making rounds in right-wing spheres in various iterations since January, when it was first championed by former White House chief strategist, election conspiracy-theorist-in-chief, and enchanted pile of dirty laundry Steve Bannon.

On January 21, conservative influencer Rogan O'Handley, who goes by "DC Draino" online, appeared on Bannon's show War Room: Pandemic to discuss his tweet, in which he had proposed that "Trump run for Congress in Florida in '22" and become speaker of the House, after which he can "impeach Kamala" -- a remark that suggests Biden would not be president in 2023.

During the show, Bannon effusively praised O'Handley's idea. He said the possibility of Trump, the only former president to incite an insurrection, becoming speaker in 2023 means "we don't have to wait until 2024 to have a presidential election. This nationalizes the midterm elections" and "gives a unifying message" for Trump's base to rally around.

Bannon also correctly noted that Trump could be elected speaker without being a member of Congress, and he endorsed focusing on winning "the House of Representatives, [which is] what thwarted Donald J. Trump" in his last two years in office. O'Handley implored Trump to not "let them end your presidency by what they did to you, get revenge plus take back the country." (Just over a month after this appearance, O'Handley was permanently banned from Twitter for "repeated violations of its civic integrity policy.")

In February, Bannon floated the idea in remarks he gave to the Boston area West Roxbury Ward 20 Republican Committee. According to the Boston Herald, Bannon said Trump's base will "totally get rid of" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in the midterms "and the first act of President Trump as speaker will be to impeach Joe Biden for his illegitimate activities of stealing the presidency."

In April, right-wing publication the Washington Examiner ran a piece with the headline "Buzz: Trump for speaker and Pence unlikely to head Heritage." The opinion piece cited former CNN commentator Ed Martin, who said, "I'm serious. We need the Trump voters. … With the possibility of having Donald Trump as speaker, conservative voter turnout would be through the roof nationwide."

Trump's June 4 remarks to his friend and conspiracy theorist Wayne Allyn Root calling the idea "very interesting" thrust the simmering rumor back into the spotlight. On June 5, Fox contributor Jason Chaffetz noted on Fox & Friends Weekend that "you don't need to be a member of Congress to be elected the speaker of the House," saying Trump becoming the speaker "would make for great TV."

On the morning of June 7, Fox Business' Stuart Varney asked Trump about a potential run in 2022, to which Trump said it was "highly unlikely" he would seek a seat in the House of Representatives.

Still, Bannon remains bullish on the idea. The same day as Trump's comment to Varney, Bannon appeared on right-wing radio personality John Fredericks' show and said, "Donald Trump will take over, at least on an interim basis, as speaker of the House to take the gavel from Nancy Pelosi and then to gavel in the impeachment panel to impeach Joe Biden." He credited O'Handley for originating the idea and said, "I helped take it to the next level. He wanted him to run for Congress. You do not have to be a member of Congress to be speaker."

Steve Bannon Predicts Trump will Become U.S. House Speaker in

Not everyone in Trump's orbit is in line with Bannon's latest scheme. For his part, dirty trickster Roger Stone, who has despised Bannon for years, said in a video posted online on June 6, "So, sloppy Steve Bannon thinks that former President Trump should run for the House of Representatives, become speaker, and lead the impeachment of Joe Biden. Here's the problem with this plan: What happens if Trump himself is elected to Congress, but the feckless, gutless, weak-kneed Republicans fail to take a majority?"

Fox Promotes Disgraced Trump CDC Appointee Who Minimized Covid Crisis

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

In the last few months, Fox News' Laura Ingraham has repeatedly hosted Paul Alexander, former science adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services under President Donald Trump and key aide to Trump loyalist and former HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo. While working for Caputo at HHS, Alexander sought to politicize public health guidance from inside the government bureaucracy, seeking to alter reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which reflected poorly on the Trump administration.

Politicoreported in September 2020 that Alexander "was effective at delaying the famed Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports and watering down guidance" from the CDC. (The reports are a key CDC communications product that provides updates on the state of the pandemic, among other things.) In one email reported by Politico, Alexander wrote, "Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk….so we use them to develop herd…we want them infected." This strategy is deadly flawed, to say the least.

The erroneous political hackery of Alexander makes him the ideal guest for Ingraham, Fox's worst COVID-19 misinformer. In fact, Alexander has pushed misinformation during every one of his seven appearances on The Ingraham Angle:

  • On February 23, Alexander claimed Dr. Anthony Fauci "has shifted from becoming a scientists physician and more towards a political physician."
  • On February 25, Alexander claimed that the COVID-19 vaccine is "not entirely effective" and will not prevent "moderate to severe illness or even death." He also suggested that wearing a mask is "actually harmful."
  • During the March 5 edition of The Ingraham Angle, Alexander said that mask mandates are "very ineffective."
  • On March 12, Alexander claimed that kids "don't spread" COVID-19 to parents and teachers.
  • During the April 1 edition of The Ingraham Angle, Alexander purported that vaccinating children is "incredibly dangerous."
  • On April 22, Alexander said the CDC's guidance on mask-wearing "is about driving fear and obedience" and again claimed that masks are "ineffective."
  • On May 4, Alexander appeared on The Ingraham Angle to cast doubt on the efficacy of the vaccine, describing it as "experimental" and "highly untested as to safety."

As far as medical expertise goes, Alexander and Ingraham are a perfect match: According to The Washington Post, Alexander, who is not a physician, was "an unpaid, part-time health professor" at a Canadian university prior to joining HHS, while Ingraham has a history of pushing misinformation about all aspects of the pandemic -- attacking masks, vaccines, and social distancing, pushing unproven therapeutics, undermining public health experts,platforming quacks, and promoting a so-called "herd immunity" strategy that would lead to millions of unnecessary deaths.

It's nearly impossible to picture someone with Alexander's disgraceful background of lying to the public about the pandemic appearing anywhere else on cable news, but that hasn't stopped Ingraham from inviting him seven times to spread COVID misinformation on Fox prime time.

Research contributions from Katherine Abughazaleh

Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch Defends White Nationalist Tucker Carlson

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch is defending Tucker Carlson's April 8 segment promoting the white supremacist "replacement" conspiracy theory after the Anti-Defamation League's chief executive, Jonathan Greenblatt, called for Carlson to be fired.

Over the weekend, Greenblatt appeared on CNN to explain how the Murdochs, Fox's board, and its advertisers enable Carlson to push white nationalist conspiracy theories on Fox News' prime time.

According to CNN, Murdoch "dismissed the Anti-Defamation League's demand that the company fire host Tucker Carlson, telling the organization in a letter that his company saw no problem with comments Carlson made about the racist 'great replacement' theory."

"Fox Corporation shares your values and abhors anti-semitism, white supremacy and racism of any kind," Murdoch wrote ADL chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt on Sunday. "In fact, I remember fondly the ADL honoring my father with your International Leadership Award, and we continue to support your mission.
"Concerning the segment of 'Tucker Carlson Tonight' on April 8th, however, we respectfully disagree," Murdoch continued in the letter, which the ADL provided CNN. "A full review of the guest interview indicates that Mr. Carlson decried and rejected replacement theory. As Mr. Carlson himself stated during the guest interview: 'White replacement theory? No, no, this is a voting rights question.'"

Murdoch is joined in defending Carlson by the Fox host's fan base -- a chorus of enthusiastic young white supremacists online.

Giuliani Still Promoting Disinformation On YouTube — Despite Suspension

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Months after social media giant YouTube promised to crack down on misinformation, former President Donald Trump's lawyer and election conspiracy theorist Rudy Giuliani is still pushing conspiracy theories on the platform.

A Media Matters review of Giuliani's YouTube channel found a mountain of election-related conspiracy theories and misinformation that has largely remained intact, despite the platform's stated policy that it will remove content which undermines the election results. And after taking a roughly one-month hiatus from the platform, from January 6 to February 3, Giuliani is back on YouTube, this time promoting racist conspiracy theories.

Giuliani's channel, which hosts his Common Sense podcast and boasts over half a million subscribers, has continued to publish videos which violate YouTube's policies. In January, he was suspended from YouTube's Partner Program, which allows creators to split revenue earned by YouTube through advertisements that run before his videos. (He still apparently has the opportunity to appeal this suspension. Around this same time, Giuliani also tweeted that three of his videos were removed from his channel. His videos regularly rake in hundreds of thousands of views, and some of his videos which spread election conspiracy theories have more than a million views each.

The disgraced former New York City mayor has recently come under more fire for his role in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. That day, at the "Save America" rally preceding the riots, he called on Trump supporters to engage in "trial by combat." Since then, Giuliani has been the target of threehigh-profilelawsuits related to his role spreading misinformation. The lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems heavily cites Giuliani's YouTube channel as the main platform for Giuliani's alleged defamation.

At least some of Giuliani's videos on YouTube remain monetized, meaning YouTube is directly making money from his lies. It is unclear whether Giuliani himself is taking home any of that revenue, as media outlets have reported he was suspended from the YouTube Partner Program. But he nevertheless still financially benefited, as there were direct advertisements on his show for companies selling earbuds, gold, and cigars.

Despite YouTube's stated policies, multiple Giuliani videos spreading conspiracy theories remain up. In these videos, Giuliani lies about Dominion Voting Systems, tells viewers former Vice President Mike Pence would overturn the election, and commands viewers to "stand up" against imaginary election fraud.

Since his return to posting videos on the platform, Giuliani has pivoted in his content to promoting racist conspiracy theories about China deliberately releasing the coronavirus to spite Trump and false claims about undocumented immigrants voting in the 2020 election.

Giuliani's False Election Fraud Claims Still On YouTube

In the post-election period before the "safe harbor" date when the Electoral College results were finalized, Giuliani used his YouTube channel to promote false claims that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election through "fraud" and pushed his viewers to "take a stand."

  • While the votes were still being counted, Giuliani asserted on November 6, "Pennsylvania is Trump's. If for any reason that vote total changes, it has to be a fraud."
  • On December 4, Giuliani told viewers, "It's time for patriots to stand up." He asked them, "How do you want to live your life? You want to live it as a patriotic American or do you want to live it as a sniveling little coward?" He ended his podcast by saying, "Biden deliberately stole this election and actually lost it to Donald Trump by a fairly wide margin."
  • On November 20, Giuliani warned viewers that Dominion Voting Systems is a "Venezuelan company built to cheat." He was echoing widely mocked conspiracy theories put forth by Trump attorney Sidney Powell at a press conference the day before in which Giuliani infamously spoke with hair dye leaking down his temple. In the podcast, Giuliani added, "We've got to make a stand here. ... I don't care how much they intimidate us. I don't care how much they threaten us," because Democrats are "trying to take away from us rights that were given to us by God."

YouTube's Stance Against Election Misinformation Didn't Affect Giuliani

On November 9, the day after the Electoral College confirmed Biden's victory in the presidential election, YouTube introduced a new policy titled "Supporting the 2020 U.S. election." The policy promised to remove "any piece of content uploaded today (or anytime after) that misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election."

This policy apparently did not apply to Giuliani, who continued using the platform to espouse lies until his suspension following the January 6 insurrection. While YouTube eventually removedthree of Giuliani's podcasts following the coup, the platform left up videos of Giuliani claiming widespread voter fraud was achieved through a covert Democratic Party conspiracy to steal the election from Trump.

  • On December 18, Giuliani falselyasserted that Dominion Voting Systems "has had a long history of involvement with other companies, in particular with a company known as Smartmatic." Giuliani also claimed that Smartmatic's "original investors" were "two Venezuelans who were close to Hugo Chavez."
  • On the same podcast, Giuliani claimed that initialcounting errors by Dominion Voting Systems machines in Antrim County, Michigan, "virtually means there was no election."
  • On December 30, Giuliani falsely claimed, "The Democrats stole the election in Georgia. … We allowed them to take from us a good deal of our freedom of speech. We allowed them to take a lot of our freedom of religion, freedom of movement. Well, I'll be darned if we're going to let them take our free, fair, and transparent vote from us."
  • On his January 1 podcast, Guliani said that Democrats "were intent on winning that election no matter what they had to do, including steal votes," and that they did so by "demoniz[ing] medicines like hydroxychloroquine."

When Giuliani was suspended in early January, YouTube removed two videos from his channel that had been posted in early January and contained multiple violations of YouTube's new policy.

  • On January 5, Giuliani told listeners that not only could then-Vice President Mike Pence decide the 2020 election on January 6, "a day that will live on in history," but also there was a "really good chance" the election results "will end up in the Supreme Court."
  • During his since-removed January 8 podcast, Giuliani cited a claim by white nationalist "groyper" Nick Fuentes that the attempted coup on January 6 was a "leftist, deep-state globalist operation." Giuliani added, "I guess I could summarize Nick Fuentes in my own words: It was clearly a frame-up."
  • On that same podcast, Giuliani referred to the January 6 rally prior to the riots as "very, very uplifting" and a "rally of love," defending the inflammatory rhetoric of the speeches by asserting, "They didn't create any anger or excessive anything. There was no violence at the speeches. None. No hint of it. No taste of it. No feeling of it."

Giuliani Continues To Promote Bigotry On YouTube

Since Giuliani started posting on YouTube again in early February, he's continued to promote bigotry and misinformation. In his most recent uploads, Giuliani's use of hateful rhetoric and conspiracy theories related to China are especially concerning given the recent rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. The former mayor also insinuated that a recent executive order by the Biden administration undoing a Trump-era policy of not counting undocumented immigrants in the census was actually part of a conspiracy to increase Democratic votes — a bogus claim that clearly violates YouTube's stated election misinformation policy.

  • On his February 10 podcast, Giuliani claimed that the Biden administration "seems to be more favorable to China than the U.S.," saying, "I knew America wasn't going to be first. Biden told us that. I didn't realize that China was going to become first."
  • Giuliani spent his February 10 podcast repeatedly calling the coronavirus "the CCP virus" (short for "Chinese Communist Party virus") and the "Wuhan virus," complaining about how Trump was "attacked as a xenophobe or racist" for using identical language.
  • Giuliani spread a racist conspiracy theory that Democrats are "including illegals in the census" to increase Democratic representation in Congress — all a way of "moving them along the road to voting, to voting openly." Giuliani added, "Look, they vote anyway."

Giuliani's continued presence on YouTube despite repeated violations of the platform's policy raises the question: Why is Rudy Giuliani's YouTube channel still up? Furthermore, why did YouTube remove only two Giuliani videos after the January 6 insurrection, yet leave up many of his other videos promoting the exact same lies? And why give this "human hand grenade" a platform of a half-million subscribers anyway?

With Blood On His Hands, Bannon Loses YouTube Account

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

One of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon's mantras is "action, action, action" -- a call to his followers to be engaged and ready for political fights. On January 8, YouTube finally acted, removing Bannon's War Room account, after months of Bannon calling for revolution and violence.

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The Year Of Rudy Giuliani, Human Hand Grenade

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

In 1998, The New York Timesdescribed Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York City at the time, as a "human hand grenade" because of his aggressive grip over the city government. Former national security adviser John Bolton used the same description during President Donald Trump's impeachment. Today, I would like to add my name to this list, one that may extend beyond those enumerated here.

The year 2020 was a disaster for Giuliani. He repeatedly used the media, to varying degrees of success, to expose his own close contacts with foreign agents of disinformation and to create and spread baseless conspiracy theories. He also pushed coronavirus misinformation so outrageous that Twitter actually took it down, single-handedly shut down Arizona's and Michigan's legislatures, and tried and failed to start a coup. This is the part where I should mention his dripping hair dye, but I also want to remind you that he farted into a microphone at a meeting of Michigan Republicans seeking to overturn the election.

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Bannon Suggests Deadly Violence To Stop Biden Inauguration

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

On Veterans Day, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon referred to a 19th century poem to surreptitiously call for Americans to fight and die for a second Trump term.

For years, Bannon has cloaked his extremist positions with obscure and pretentious references. In this case, his co-host Jack Maxey read an excerpt from Lays of Ancient Rome, a poem by 19th century British imperialist Thomas Babington Macaulay. The excerpt read by Maxey on the show describes the inevitability of death and the glory of dying for your country. Bannon connected the quote to the current crisis in the United States election, using the reference as a call to violence to President Donald Trump's supporters in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.

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Bannon And His Billionaire Sponsor Are Allegedly Terrorizing Chinese Dissidents

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

A new investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reveals a global network of harassment promulgated by various online media properties backed by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and his billionaire benefactor Miles Guo.

The New York Times and other outlets have reported previously on the extensive connections between Bannon and Guo, who regularly appears on Bannon's podcast War Room: Pandemic. Notably, Bannon was recently arrested by federal agents aboard Guo's yacht, and he's been charged by the Southern District of New York for defrauding donors to a private charity purportedly building a wall along the southern border.

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Extremist Michigan Sheriff Defends Alleged Kidnap Plotters

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Barry County, Michigan, Sheriff Dar Leaf defended the actions of men accused of an alleged terrorist kidnapping plot against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in an interview that went viral on Twitter with Fox 17's Aaron Parseghian.

Leaf acknowledged he knows two of the men, Michael and William Null, residents of Barry County, who are facing charges due to their alleged involvement. Leaf described the men as "nice and respectful" and downplayed the kidnapping charges, saying that it's possible the men were justified in their actions: "A lot of people are angry with the governor and they want her arrested, so are they trying to arrest or was it a kidnap attempt, because you can still in Michigan … make a felony arrest."

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Bannon Launches ’National Tour’ To Promote Election Conspiracy Theories

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has kicked off a national speaking tour about the upcoming election titled "The Plot to Steal 2020." It's a thinly veiled attempt to spread conspiracy theories and discredit any efforts to ensure that citizens can vote safely.

Bannon, who recently pleaded not guilty to federal fraud charges, has stated that the tour will take place in select swing states and via digital streaming platforms. In his most recent appearance, he outlined three main prongs of his conspiracy theory: Democrats will use "lawfare," social media, and street protests to supposedly steal the election from Donald Trump. His vague and incoherent conspiracy theories have also featured heavily in recent episodes of his podcast, War Room: Pandemic. Here's a selection from the September 21 episode:

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HHS Flack Caputo’s Podcast Praised White Nationalists, Spread Conspiracy Theories

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

In a podcast unearthed by Media Matters, Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Michael Caputo spread baseless conspiracy theories about the coronavirus, praised white supremacist Milo Yiannopoulos, and said Democrats are "counting" on COVID-19 fatalities in order to win the election against President Donald Trump.

On his now-defunct showStill Standing with Michael Caputo, the current HHS spokesperson pushed the debunked conspiracy theory that the coronavirus was invented "in a bioweapons facility in Wuhan," used racist terms to refer to the virus, and said Democrats are calculating how long they can "actually keep the coronavirus concern ball in the air" in order to win the election. He also praised various white supremacist and "alt-right" personalities, including neo-Nazi Milo Yiannopoulos and Pizzagate conspiracy theorists and "alt-right" Twitter personalities Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec. On his podcast, Caputo also pushed anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about billionaire progressive donor George Soros paying anti-Trump protesters and other conspiracy theories about Democrats, the media, and the Mueller investigation.

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Trump’s New 'Coronavirus Adviser’ Was Almost Always Dead Wrong

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

President Donald Trump announced this week that Dr. Scott Atlas, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, will serve as a new "adviser" to the president on COVID-19. Atlas, whose background is in diagnostic radiology, is not an expert in infectious disease but rather a pundit and frequent Fox guest who has been repeatedly wrong about the pandemic.

Atlas, who has appeared 20 times on Fox News since the end of April, predicted in March that there would only be 10,000 deaths from COVID in America, said in April that the pandemic "appears to be entering the containment phase," and claimed in May that "the curves have been flattened." More recently, he has taken to making unproven claims downplaying the risk of COVID-19 in considering whether to reopen schools for in-person learning.

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