Fox News' Barnes latest media figure to reference discredited Minnesota car ballot story

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

On Fox News' The Beltway Boys, co-host Fred Barnes echoed the discredited rumor that ballots in the Minnesota Senate race were mishandled, stating: "We've seen, under some questionable circumstances, Franken gaining, you know, 32 ballots from the trunk of somebody's car that had been sitting there for a few days. I mean, I find that a bit suspicious." In fact, state officials have refuted rumors that the ballots were handled improperly, and a lawyer for Sen. Norm Coleman's campaign, who initially raised questions about those ballots, reportedly said afterward that he had been assured the ballots were not tampered with.

During the November 15 edition of Fox News' The Beltway Boys, while discussing the Minnesota Senate race, co-host Fred Barnes forwarded the discredited rumor that 32 ballots from Minneapolis were mishandled. Barnes said: "We've seen, under some questionable circumstances, [Democratic candidate Al] Franken gaining, you know, 32 ballots from the trunk of somebody's car that had been sitting there for a few days. I mean, I find that a bit suspicious." However, a lawyer for Sen. Norm Coleman's campaign, who initially raised questions about those ballots on November 8, reportedly said that same day that he had been assured the ballots were handled properly -- an assertion he reportedly repeated two days later. Indeed, on November 16, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) -- who initially forwarded the car ballot rumor himself -- said that "there's a news report in Minnesota that the ballot-in-the-trunk story has now been retracted, that it wasn't accurate."

Additionally, Barnes said that "what drives Republicans the most crazy is the guy in charge of the whole recount, and that's the Secretary of State Mark Ritchie [D] ... Republicans just regard it as someone who will do anything to get a Democrat elected, and that -- and that's Franken." However, Barnes did not acknowledge, as Media Matters for America has documented, that Pawlenty approved of the composition of the canvassing board Ritchie named to certify the vote and oversee the recount, or that a lawyer for Coleman's campaign reportedly said that the "state should feel good about who's on the panel."

As Media Matters noted, while Fritz Knaak, a lawyer for Coleman, reportedly said on November 8, "We were actually told [ballots] had been riding around in [Minneapolis director of elections Cynthia Reichert's] car for several days, which raised all kinds of integrity questions," The Associated Press reported that same day that Knaak "said a Minneapolis attorney reassured Coleman's campaign that no one but an elected official had access to the 32 ballots and there was no tampering." On November 10, Knaak further reportedly said of the purported incident, "It does not appear that there was any ballot-tampering, and that was our concern."

During the November 16 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Pawlenty stated:

PAWLENTY: There's a news report in Minnesota that the ballot-in-the-trunk story has now been retracted, that it wasn't accurate.

There are concerning patterns about the changes before the recount starting favoring Al Franken, and some concerns that were raised. But we have to be clear on this. As of this moment, there is no actual evidence of wrongdoing or fraud in the process. If there is, it'll get rooted out and identified aggressively.

Additionally, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on November 15:

Earlier this week, Gov. Tim Pawlenty added fuel to the debate when he raised concerns of his own about ballot security, speaking on Fox News about an allegation, now documented as inaccurate, that a Minneapolis election official drove around with 32 absentee ballots in the trunk of her car.

Ritchie declined to be critical of Pawlenty, but said he sent a note to Pawlenty thanking him for his support for the overall integrity of the state's election process and providing him with his cell phone number if the governor had any further questions.

Asked if Pawlenty wanted to modify his comments, Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said: "Based on ballot security issues reported in news accounts, the governor expressed his concerns. He's glad some of these matters have been clarified."

As Media Matters has documented, in addition to Barnes, numerous media figures and outlets have advanced the discredited rumor that the ballots were mishandled, including The Wall Street Journal, NBC correspondent Lee Cowan, MSNBC host Chris Matthews, and Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Brit Hume, and Bill O'Reilly.

From the November 15 edition of Fox News' The Beltway Boys:

JEFF BIRNBAUM (guest co-host): Down, Minnesota. The Senate race between incumbent Norm Coleman and funnyman Al Franken couldn't be closer -- enough to trigger an automatic recount. But that hasn't had -- kept either side from questioning the legitimacy of the outcome. It's really -- this is really no good for anybody, basically, this extended problem.

There are already new accusations, or renewed accusations, about Norm Coleman perhaps getting too close to a former fundraiser of his. Calls for investigations into whether money was channeled from the fundraiser's company to Norm Coleman and his wife -- charges that are -- are denied by the Colemans. But, nonetheless, this is getting very nasty, and a lot is at stake, of course, in the outcome. But if Norm -- if Coleman wins, it could really be a problem for him even if he does win.

BARNES: I'm not worried. I don't think those lawsuits are going to amount to much. But it's clear now who -- which of the parties, whether the Coleman campaign or the Franken campaign, thinks the process is working on their side. We've seen, under some questionable circumstances, Franken gaining, you know, 32 ballots from the trunk of somebody's car that had been sitting there for a few days. I mean, I find that a bit suspicious. And some other things, too, you know, where he gains. There are all these more Franken votes in certain districts, but no votes for other offices that weren't affected.

But what drives Republicans the most crazy is the guy in charge of the whole recount, and that's the Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who's an ally of ACORN, and I don't need to describe them. And Republicans just regard it as someone who will do anything to get a Democrat elected, and that -- and that's Franken. I mean, every Republican I know thinks they're going to "discover" more ballots. And, of course, they'll favor Franken.

All right. Up, Howard Dean.

From the November 16 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

CHRIS WALLACE (host): All right, I want to ask you both about specific issues involving you.

Governor Pawlenty, you've got a dead-even Senate race in Minnesota. And we'll put up the results, which are really quite extraordinary, just a couple of hundred votes out of almost two and a half million.

There have been allegations from some Republicans that Democrats are trying to steal this election for Al Franken. Do you have full confidence in the secretary of state, who is a Democrat, and also in the canvassing board, to which -- a five-member board to which you appointed two members?

PAWLENTY: Chris, in Minnesota we have a history of clear, transparent, accurate, and fair and legal elections. That's going to happen again here.

The canvassing board is five people. They are invited by the secretary of state, not appointed by me. The governor doesn't have a role. But it's four judges -- all of which have good reputations -- and the secretary of state.

The canvassing board in the state of Minnesota will render a result. This process will be fair and appropriate. I can assure you of that.

WALLACE: Do you -- because there has been some talk in some Republican circles about ballots that were found in --

PAWLENTY: Sure.

WALLACE: -- people's trunks. I mean, is -- is there any sign that there has been any fraud? And two, if there is any fraud, will that be sorted out by the canvassing board?

PAWLENTY: There's a news report in Minnesota that the ballot-in-the-trunk story has now been retracted, that it wasn't accurate.

There are concerning patterns about the changes before the recount starting favoring Al Franken, and some concerns that were raised. But we have to be clear on this. As of this moment, there is no actual evidence of wrongdoing or fraud in the process. If there is, it'll get rooted out and identified aggressively.

But at the moment, there is no actual evidence of that occurring.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
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Person
Fred Barnes
Show/Publication
The Beltway Boys
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2008 Elections
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