Charlie Kirk lies on Fox News about tweet that led to his Twitter account being locked

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.


Charlie Kirk PA Ballots

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.

Video file

Citation From the October 18, 2020, edition of Fox News' The Next Revolution

STEVE HILTON (HOST): Charlie, tell us what's been happening with you and Twitter censorship lately.

CHARLIE KIRK (TURNING POINT USA PRESIDENT): Well, I'm currently locked out of Twitter. So you mentioned tweeting something out. I can't currently do that. I'm kind of in a hostage situation right now with Twitter. I have 1.8 million followers on Twitter. Axios said we have one of the most engaged Twitter accounts on the planet and right now I do not have access to my Twitter account because I tweeted a widely reported story 19 hours ago that changed a couple hours later. And Twitter then comes to me and they say we're going to deactivate -- not deactivate, but lock out your account unless you delete this story. And it was around the Pennsylvania ballot request story.

Now mind you, Steve, things are constantly changing in the news cycle. Why should Twitter have the power to be able to silence my entire 1.8 million person audience just because a news story changes and I tweeted something that was absolutely and completely widely reported at the time. And Steve, we are seeing right now that Big Tech has become the enforcement and the communication arm of the Biden campaign and the Democrat Party. If you are a socialist or a Democrat watching this right now or an independent, it should bother you that a multitrillion-dollar conglomeration of companies have the power to be able to silence opinions they do not like. It is undemocratic, it is anti-American, and every single person that believes in a free society should be outraged and quite honestly compelled to action against what these tech companies have been able to do to our country.

HILTON: Totally agree.

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.

Then there were a number of others that ran the same false version over the course of Saturday, leading to Kirk’s tweet that evening, about 40 hours after the story broke.

The only thing that changed around that time was that people had started to notice the disinformation campaign.

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.