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Conspiracy theories spread on Facebook

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This week: The presidential election has been called, but denial continues as right-wing media figures try to gin up scandal and somehow overturn the results; conspiracy theories spread on Facebook and Fox News alike; Bannon in trouble after calling for violence; and more.

John Whitehouse

Fox News propagandists and GOP leaders are pushing the country toward the abyss

This week, as President-elect Joe Biden moved closer to victory, conservative politicians and right-wing media worked in tandem to further inflame their party’s base, standing behind President Donald Trump‘s lies that the election is being stolen from him through widespread voter fraud.

On Thursday night, Fox star Sean Hannity said “I can factually tell you tonight, it will be impossible to ever know the true, fair, accurate election results,” and later claimed that “Americans will never be able to believe in the integrity and legitimacy of these results.” In subsequent days, Fox’s prime-time hosts used their airwaves to promote a vile slurry of innuendo and conspiracy theories, and parroted viral social media lies to their audience of millions in an effort to delegitimize the election results.

Further cementing distrust in the election results, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) claimed on Fox that the election results were corrupted by fraud and that Trump was the real victor. Likewise, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, went on Fox and claimed the election had been rigged and that he was making a hefty donation to the president’s legal fund to stop it. 

Media Matters Matt Gertz explained, “Trump’s personal affinity for Fox gave the network an unrivaled influence on his administration. But even if he is defeated, Fox’s hold on his party seems unlikely to diminish. Politicians who want to gain and hold power within the GOP know that the network’s airwaves provide one of their best opportunities to accomplish that and so they’re willing to play ball with its conspiracy theories, no matter how damaging they are to the country.”

CNN lets Donald Trump lie about the election results on national television

On Thursday, as it became clearer that Joe Biden was getting closer to winning the presidential election, President Donald Trump addressed the nation. As soon as the address was announced, it was clear Trump would lie and promote misinformation; he did just that.

CNN reporters Jim Acosta and Daniel Dale pointed this out in real time. However, even as multiple other networks reportedly broke away, CNN aired Trump’s presser in full live, from 6:46 p.m. to 7:03 p.m.

As we have pointed out before, if a news network and its correspondents are comfortable describing what Trump is doing, there is no justification for airing the president without a filter.

Watch: MSNBC cut away from Trump after just 40 seconds.

As for Fox, its anchors treated the address like a completely normal event.

As votes are counted, Facebook has become a hub for election misinformation and planning protests against counting ballots

As votes were being counted to determine the result of the 2020 presidential election, misinformation spread within dozens of new public and private Facebook groups promoting baseless claims from the Trump campaign and right-wing media that Democrats are trying to “steal” the election. 

This week, Media Matters identified at least 19 public groups and 15 private groups organized around preventing what they claim is a stolen election — despite legitimate votes still being counted.

Facebook has repeatedly failed to limit the spread of voting misinformation on its platform beforeduring, and after Election Day.

Here are some of the many bogus claims of voter fraud right-wing media have pushed about the 2020 election

As votes were counted in key battleground states this week, right-wing media pushed baseless claims about voter fraud. Here are a few examples:

  • A false tweet claimed that Biden had received 100% of newly counted votes — approximately 128,000 — in Michigan. This claim was later retweeted by Trump, who wrote: “WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT?” The person who originally posted the claim, a conservative columnist, “later deleted this tweet after it was revealed that the suspicious boost was the result of a typo” in one county.
  • A viral video, which the president’s son Eric Trump also pushed, falsely claimed to show someone setting 80 Trump ballots on fire in Virginia. Election officials debunked the video, noting that the papers being burned were clearly meaningless sample ballots.
  • Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo falsely claimed “there were tons of ballots found under a rock in Arizona.” In reality, only 18 mail-in ballots were missing, and they were found still sealed and delivered in time for Election Day.
  • Right-wing media helped spread a video falsely claiming to show suspicious activity at a Detroit polling place. The video purported to show a man wheeling in a wagon full of what Trump supporters claimed to be ballots; in reality, the video showed a local television cameraperson wheeling in equipment.
  • Right-wing media tried to turn a banal incident at a Philadelphia polling station into an election scandal. Conservative propagandists scandalized an incident in which a poll watcher from Trump’s campaign was briefly turned away in Philadelphia. According to the city’s election commission and the polling place’s election judge, the incident was a mistake that was handled promptly, and the poll watcher was subsequently allowed in.
  • Right-wing disinformation about Wisconsin election results got a kickstart from a site disguised as a local news source.

Featured Media


  • Jake Tapper calls out Fox for orders to not call Joe Biden President-elect: “You can’t be taken seriously as a journalist.”
  • Angelo Carusone spoke to Oregon’s KGW about social media platforms driving real-world threats of violence and voter intimidation.
  • Ric Grenell and Matt Schlapp fled in a van when asked by Jacob Soboroff to present evidence of their claims of voter fraud.
  • Rest in peace, Alex Trebek.

This Week In Dumb


  • Rush Limbaugh floated an incredibly idiotic voter fraud conspiracy theory. In fact, his entire reaction to the election is full of conspiracy theories.
  • Lou Dobbs spread baseless conspiracy theories about voter fraud and dead people voting.
  • Far-right figures like Mark Levin and Tom Fitton and others are calling for state legislatures to overturn the election results.
  • Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones spoke at an Arizona anti-democracy event and made violent threats, including fomenting civil war. He then said that the White House encouraged him to speak there. While discussing election results, Jones suggested arresting Joe Biden.
  • Sinclair Broadcasting pushed out debunked disinformation from James O’Keefe‘s Project Veritas.
  • Newt Gingrich is blaming Trump’s loss on George Soros.
  • Laura Ingraham is still hopeful that courts will overturn Trump’s loss.
  • Steve Bannon talked about decapitating Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Chris Wray. He has faced consequences, including losing his lawyer.
  • Even though votes are still being counted, One America News claims that Trump won the election and Democrats are delaying results “to create confusion.”
  • Fox News discussion: Counting all votes is not as good as it sounds. Bret Baier: “Democrats felt that their PR message, their talking point was that you have to continue the count, you have to count ever vote.”
  • A Fox contributor suggested that Trump’s campaign exemplifies Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of race in America.
  • Tucker Carlson warns about Biden: “They want to make you drink Starbucks from now until forever!”



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