OAN has devoted 58 hours of airtime to showing 2000 Mules since mid-October
D’Souza’s debunked movie, which the network has aired at least 40 times so far, is key to OAN’s attacks on democracy
With armed men in camouflage monitoring ballot drop boxes for “mules," One America News Network is playing its part by serving up repeat airings of the viral propaganda that helped birth this trend in the first place.
OAN previously announced that 2000 Mules, a purported election fraud documentary by Dinesh D’Souza, would be shown “all the way until Election Day.” And according to a Media Matters review, OAN has aired D’Souza’s movie at least 40 times between its October 15 network premiere and November 1 — totaling 58 hours of utterly debunked nonsense.
OAN has been obsessed with 2000 Mules since its debut this spring. After months of hype from hosts, including six interviews with D’Souza himself, OAN figures both covered and attended the preposterous movie’s premiere at Mar-a-Lago with a raft of red carpet interviews. After the premiere, multiple OAN segments absurdly wove the movie into coverage of “big developments” in actual, unrelated police investigations, as supposed proof of its legitimacy. One former OAN host hailed it as “the crime of the century and the film of the century, all in one.”
2000 Mules is a keystone in OAN’s election fraud universe, the network’s main distinguishing feature since the 2020 election. Despite lawsuits from Dominion Voting Systems and others, OAN is undeterred. Instead, the network has piled on the propaganda, directing viewers to demand election “audits,” and eventually to police the process themselves by becoming election workers.
The potential danger in masses of right-wing election workers, driven by deranged conspiracy theories, to harass voters or disqualify legitimate ballots is obvious. But weeks before election day, we have already gotten a potential preview of this in Arizona, a state OAN deluged with election fraud coverage and which is now seeing groups of armed men in tactical gear targeting ballot drop boxes and photographing voters.
Right-wing “election integrity” groups and influencers have pushed for what some call “mule parties,” groups of election conspiracy theorists staking out ballot drop boxes for any “mules” with illegal ballots. The trend has inspired six known cases of potential voter intimidation in Arizona and more complaints. (On Tuesday, a federal judge “sharply curtailed the activities of an election-monitoring group in the vicinity of ballot boxes, including taking photos or videos of voters, openly carrying firearms, posting information about voters online, or spreading falsehoods about election laws.”)
OAN is essentially encouraging the surveillance with its suggestions that the midterms could be stolen by Democrats, even promoting apps that claim to enable users to report fraud in real time.
Meanwhile, one “mule” falsely accused in D’Souza’s movie of committing “a crime” is also suing D'Souza -- and True the Vote, the conservative group that collaborated on the movie.
OAN’s attempted pivot to streaming after losing its national cable carriers earlier this year shows the network trying to break out of its tailspin by engaging the far-right online while continuing to spread false claims of election fraud. The broad prevalence of 2020 election conspiracy theories among conservatives suggests that OAN, a network defined by such misinformation, could find success with a dizzying schedule of 2000 Mules repeats ahead of the midterms.
The channel’s unparalleled dedication to D’Souza’s dangerous bullshit may be good for OAN, but it is terrible for democracy.