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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Right-Wing Media Spurred Racist Death Threats Against Election Workers

Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, a former Georgia election worker, testified today about the harassment and threats she received after she was targeted in a right-wing media-driven conspiracy theory about Democrats stealing the 2020 presidential election in the state. Moss spoke to the January 6 congressional committee today about the racist threats against her which followed the widespread coverage.

Moss said she wanted to work in election administration because her grandmother emphasized that voting was not always a right that Black people had in the United States. Due to the threats and harassment she received, she's been forced to leave her job.

Moss also detailed a break-in at her grandmother’s house in which people “knocked on her door” and “just started pushing their way through, claiming that they were coming in to make a citizen’s arrest.” The committee also played footage from the testimony that her mother and fellow election worker, Ruby Freeman, gave prior to the hearing, in which she described how her life had been turned upside down by right-wing conspiracy theories.

Moss and Freeman were targeted following the release of footage that the Trump campaign claimed provided evidence of voter fraud. The footage provoked a false conspiracy theory that the Georgia poll workers unloaded ballots from a concealed suitcase in order to sway the election results. The conspiracy theory has been repeatedly debunked. By the beginning of January, Freeman had evacuated her home after the FBI concluded she was no longer safe in the days preceding January 6.

Moss and Freeman have sued The Gateway Pundit and One America News Network for their coverage of the footage that spurred the false conspiracy theory. OAN was later dismissed from the suit. Fox News and other right-wing outlets repeatedly covered the footage of Moss and Freeman, though the network never explicitly named the two workers.

  • On the December 3, 2020, edition of The Five, co-host Jesse Watters played the video and asked Fox News “straight news” host Martha MacCallum whether then-Attorney General Bill Barr would look into the footage.
  • Fox host Tucker Carlson also aired the footage on his December 3, 2020, show and called it “pretty unbelievable” that the video showed “poll workers pulling ballots out of suitcases.”
  • During Sean Hannity’s hour on the same night, the Fox host also aired the footage and singled out Moss by spot shadowing her and saying, “Look at her right there.” A Trump campaign representative, Jacki Pick, repeatedly referred to Moss as “the lady with the blonde braids.”
  • On the December 7, 2020, edition of his show, Hannity again played the footage and claimed Moss and other election workers pulled out suitcases “apparently filled with thousands and thousands of ballots, which were then counted by the workers that were allowed to remain in the room that pulled them out of the suitcases they conveniently had there, without partisan observers, without the media.”
  • Right-wing news site The Federalist also published an article on December 7, 2020, attempting to refute verified debunkings of the conspiracy theory. It claimed “Big Tech” did not even come “close” to debunking the election fraud theories.
  • At the end of December 2020, Fox began airing advertisements paid for by the Trump campaign that included the footage and repeated the debunked claims that the containers shown in the video were filled with somehow fraudulent Democratic ballots.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

The Clumsy Fakery Behind D’Souza’s Big Lie ‘Documentary’

Right-wing pundit, conspiracy theorist, and liar Dinesh D’Souza is releasing a new movie, 2000 Mules, based on false claims about the 2020 election. The movie was made in partnership with conservative media giant Salem Media Group and True the Vote, a Texas-based group that has been pushing conspiracy theories around election fraud and dodging claims of intimidating voters since at least 2012.

D’Souza and True the Vote have promoted the film by claiming it uncovers an army of unidentifiable operatives secretly packing ballot boxes in swing states during the 2020 election. They allege to have proved this activity through geolocation evidence that shows, as The Washington Post put it, “some people may have been near drop-box locations on a given day.” The movie also claims to show individuals dropping more than one ballot into ballot boxes, a common occurrence in 2020 as collecting and submitting multiple people’s ballots was legal in some form in all the states discussed in 2000 Mules.

The claims made in the trailer have been debunked by experts. The Washington Post explained how the geolocation data used by True the Vote has no way to be verified as geofencing data typically only pinpoint a person within approximately 30 feet. The Post article went on to suggest the group likely cherry-picked data based on its predetermined theory.

A fact check by the Associated Press also showed that True the Vote’s research was based on “faulty assumptions, anonymous accounts and improper analysis of cellphone location data, which is not precise enough to confirm that somebody deposited a ballot into a drop box, according to experts.” And beyond the questionable data in this instance, multiple reviews conducted in the past two years have found no evidence of widespread voter fraud occurring during the 2020 election.

High-profile right-wing influencers and politicians have latched onto this farcical theory and have heavily promoted 2000 Mules through social media channels and on radio shows and podcasts. Former President Donald Trump released the movie’s trailer at his April 23 rally in Ohio and issued a statement praising D’Souza’s work and claiming the movie “proves the 2020 Election was Rigged and Stolen.”

Dinesh D’Souza is known for his books and movies, primarily based on conspiracy theories and falsehoods. He pleaded guilty to violating campaign laws in 2014 and was pardoned by Trump in 2018. He has previously released five right-wing conspiracy-based movies. The latest, Trump Card, was released in 2020 and included “racist dog whistles, low-production-value historical re-enactments, and interviews with a dizzying, dubious array of subjects,” according to the AV Club.

True the Vote was founded in 2009 by Catherine Engelbrecht, who won the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2011 for her work with the group. More recently, True the Vote was sued by a high-profile donor, who had donated $2.5 million to the group’s election fraud investigation, saying the group did not spend the money as it said it would. Engelbrecht and Gregg Phillips, who has falsely claimed to have evidence of voter fraud in the 2016 election, have taken credit for the research behind the film and have presented their “findings” at a hearing by Wisconsin’s Campaigns and Elections Committee and in other public interviews.

D’Souza secured some right-wing pundits like former Trump adviser and current Newsmax host Sebastian Gorka, right-wing commentator Charlie Kirk, and talk show host Dennis Prager to appear in 2000 Mules. All three of them have shows hosted by Salem Media Group.

Here are some examples of right-wing media figures – including some of those who appear in the trailer – who have promoted the movie through their own channels:

  • Charlie Kirk partnered with D’Souza to provide exclusive showings and had D’Souza on The Charlie Kirk Show to promote the movie.
  • Sebastian Gorka aired the trailer during his show, The Gorka Reality Check, on Newsmax.
  • Conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, who also appears in 2000 Mules and also has a show hosted by Salem Media Group, tweeted his support for D’Souza’s project by sharing WND’s article on the movie titled “Miranda Devine: 'The most compelling evidence' of 2020 vote fraud.”
  • Miranda Devine wrote a column in the New York Post covering the movie and appeared on Fox News’ Fox & Friends where she pushed the false “mules” conspiracy theory and pointed to D’Souza’s movie as evidence.
  • Right-wing site Breitbart published an article covering the release of the movie’s trailer. The piece was titled “Trump Reveals Trailer of Explosive ‘2000 Mules’ Ballot Harvesting Documentary at Ohio Rally.”
  • The Gateway Pundit published an article promoting the release of the movie titled “Dinesh D’Souza Releases Movie Poster for ‘2000 Mules’ on 2020 Election Fraud — Premiere Dates Announced — May 2 thru May 7.” The site later suggested the leak of the draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was timed to suppress D'Souza's film.
  • Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield called D’Souza’s trailer a “bombshell” during the January 31 edition of his show Stinchfield.
  • OAN has heavily promoted the film, and one host even claims to be traveling to Mar-a-Lago for its premiere.
  • Buck Sexton invited D’Souza to promote the film on his show Hold the Line.
  • QAnon-affiliated Matrixxx Groove Show had D’Souza on as a guest to promote the movie.
  • Overstock.com founder Patrick Byrne, who has heavy ties to QAnon shows and influencers, has promoted the film on his Telegram channel.

On April 30, D’Souza shared a video to his YouTube channel outlining the many ways people can watch 2000 Mules, including in over 300 theaters across the U.S. and a virtual premiere following which the movie will be hosted on a Rumble-owned site. D’Souza went on to claim:

We're releasing this movie in a very novel way because we're in an age of censorship and so the normal places that I put movies, which is you find them in Apple iTunes and Amazon Prime -- no, this movie is not going to be available in those ways.

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

‘Libs Of TikTok’ Used Twitter To Target Over 200 Teachers And Schools

The Twitter account “Libs of TikTok” has dictated right-wing media’s anti-LGBTQ talking points in recent months, especially on Fox News. The account run by Chaya Raichik frequently targets LGBTQ content creators by misgendering individuals and inciting harassment, both of which seemingly violate Twitter’s policies against hateful conduct and abusive behavior. Amid rising social media attacks and legislation against the LGBTQ community, Libs of TikTok has celebrated schools shutting down their Twitter accounts after repeated harassment and praised right-wing politicians for criticizing education around gender identity and sexuality.

A Media Matters review of Raichik’s Twitter account found that Libs of TikTok has tagged or named at least 222 schools, education organizations, or school system employees in 2022, often directing users to harass an individual school district or teacher. In the last week alone, the account has targeted a school district, a middle school, and four teachers for teaching students about identity, sexuality, or other so-called “propaganda.”

Texas’ Austin Independent School District has been targeted in at least 18 tweets by the Libs of TikTok account. The tweets questioned the district's Pride celebrations and tagged individual employees.

On March 22, Libs of TikTok shared a letter from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to the Austin district that claimed celebrating Pride events with students was a “week-long indoctrination” and against Texas state law. Raichik wrote, “Omg. I’ve been tweeting about this district for 2 days. This makes me so happy.”

Just this week, Libs of TikTok posted another attack against the district, sharing a fake Facebook post that falsely claimed the district was giving elementary students homework on furries. This misinformation resulted in the district's Twitter account receiving replies accusing the schools of “grooming” students and claiming parents were pulling their children out for “crossing the line.”

Raichik’s targeting of Salem Keizer Public Schools in Oregon is another case study in this smear feedback loop. The schools were tagged in at least 12 tweets from Libs of TikTok between February 28 and April 5. Raichik attacked the school district over teaching a book that mentions instances of racism in U.S. history, announcing new policies that support trans students using chosen pronouns and bathrooms, and issuing pronoun pins to students and faculty.

Libs of TikTok then claimed Salem Keizer Public Schools was in “disarray” from the social media attention following the tweets. An April 4 tweet from the Salem Keizer account, which typically receives just a handful of interactions on its tweets, received hundreds of replies — many filled with anti-LGBTQ attacks and smears. Raichik mockingly called on her followers to continue harassing the district’s Twitter account, writing, “It would be really bad if everyone kept tagging them.”

In another instance of Libs of TikTok using Twitter’s platform for targeted harassment, Raichik shared a video in a thread of tweets on April 10 from a trans teacher on Instagram explaining how he teaches his students about identity. Raichik tagged the teacher’s employer and included the teacher’s Instagram username in her tweets. Users replying to Libs of TikTok argued that the teacher should not be allowed to work with children and declared that he is “another groomer that needs to be arrested and jailed for abusing and trying to indoctrinate kids into the sickness.”

The school blocked Libs of TikTok, deleted related tweets, and made its Twitter account private, likely due to the harassment received from Libs of TikTok supporters. Raichik celebrated, tweeting on April 11, “They aren’t coping well with all the attention.” The teacher’s Instagram account was made private as well.

Raichik also targeted a Florida teacher who said she'd rather lose her job than out any of her LGBTQ students to their parents. Libs of TikTok shared the video on March 29, which was then amplified by the website of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s The National Desk on March 30. The National Desk named the teacher’s employer, which said it was investigating the video. An article from right-wing outlet TheBlaze claimed the teacher had made her TikTok account private, “but Libs of TikTok saved a copy and posted it to Twitter.” (The account is now active with the video in question removed.)

Raichik’s Libs of TikTok account, which now boasts over 1 million followers, has already been suspended from Twitter twice in recent weeks for violating the platform’s rules against hateful conduct — and she has told Fox News, “I'm never gonna stop.” With previously banned accounts celebrating their opportunity to possibly return to the platform following Elon Musk’s recently announced deal to take ownership, Twitter should act now to prevent Libs of TikTok from continuing to drive harassment against LGBTQ teachers, allies, and educational institutions.

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.