Yesterday, I wrote about some conservative media personalities who were using a ProPublica story about duplicate mail-in ballot applications to claim that there were duplicate ballots. Notable right-wing media outlets like The Blaze and The Gateway Pundit, along with Fox & Friends' Facebook page, conflated applications with ballots to make it seem like there were nearly 400,000 duplicate ballots already in Pennsylvania.
The tweet from Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk had the most shares of all, at least 14,600 retweets at the time we published -- and certainly more after.
By Sunday afternoon, Kirk was locked out of Twitter.
And having been told that he violated the rules of a private company and would have to correct himself before he could use its tool again, he did what most normal, everyday Americans would do in that situation: He had the congressman for Florida’s 1st District tweet about it, and then he went on national television to complain about being silenced.
Kirk’s excuse for his false tweet is both hilarious and an obvious lie: By saying to Hilton that the story is about mail-in ballot applications and not ballots, Kirk is already conceding that his tweet was incorrect.
And yet, despite admitting that he was wrong, Kirk refuses to delete the tweet.
More interesting, though, is that Kirk is just obviously lying about the story having “changed.” Kirk never explains that at all; he merely says, hilariously, that “things are constantly changing in the news cycle” as if the rest of us don’t know that.
And Kirk’s timeline just doesn’t make sense. To the contrary, the ProPublica piece that set this all off was published on October 16 at 5:30 a.m. EDT, a full day and a half before Kirk tweeted. You can see reprints of the same article from that day. Election expert Rick Hasen blogged about it that day. It was shared on social media, including by the Biden campaign in Pennsylvania.
Plenty of stories emerge with factually murky scenarios before becoming clear. This isn’t one of them. People and news outlets talking about the story Friday were very clear that this was about ballot applications/requests, and not ballots.
The conflation of ballot applications with ballots happened later, and only in the fever swamps. For instance, the Fox & Friends Facebook post which conflated them was sharing the Fox News article about the ProPublica story. It just took until Fox & Friends posted on Facebook on Friday evening for this particular misinformation to emerge.
Now, look, it’s obvious that the right-wing megadonors funding Kirk know how this schtick works. It’s also clear that Fox News personalities like Steve Hilton are perfectly happy to help Kirk tell his sob story, truth be damned. And of course, Fox & Friends played Kirk’s sob story this morning without any acknowledgement of how the show’s brand helped kickstart this lie.
But as Kirk’s record of disinformation gets longer and longer and his organizations are repeatedly caught breaking the rules, one has to wonder how long these tech companies will let themselves get played by someone whose immediate reaction to being corrected is to strap on a metaphorical diaper and cry until he gets attention.