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Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Right-wing media defend those indicted in Arizona fake electors scheme through false comparisons and debunked election-fraud claims

Right-wing media figures continue to push election lies, claiming this type of election fraud “happens every election cycle”

Multiple Arizona Republicans and members of former President Donald Trump’s inner circle were indicted for election interference during the 2020 presidential election, and right-wing media figures have responded by arguing that their scheme was lawful. 

Other right-wing figures have twisted the complicated rules of the Electoral College to make false comparisons to previous elections and pretend that the fake elector scheme was within the bounds of the system.

  • Grand jury indicts 18 Arizona republicans and Trump aides for conspiracy to submit fake electors in scheme to steal 2020 election

    • On April 24, a grand jury charged 11 Arizona Republicans and seven of Trump’s former top aides in connection with a scheme to submit fake electors in the 2020 election. The indictments allege that following his loss in the 2020 election, Trump and his team “devised a plan to recruit fake electors to replace legitimate presidential electors in key battleground states and reverse Trump's loss,” as USA Today explained it. Trump and his then-lawyer Rudy Giuliani reportedly pressured the Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives to swap in electors for Trump based on unfounded claims of voter fraud. [USA Today, 4/25/24; PBS, 4/25/24]
    • Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes announced the indictment, which alleges that the fake electors and Trump aides were trying to prevent “the lawful transfer of the presidency of the United States, keeping President Donald J. Trump in office against the will of Arizona voters, and depriving Arizona voters of their right to vote and have their votes counted." [Arizona Republic, 4/24/24]
    • Right-wing media promoted the fake electors ploy back in 2020 and have continued to target Arizona with election fraud conspiracy theories ever since, despite a lack of evidence that the election was stolen. Some media figures even responded to the indictment with unfounded claims that Mayes was not legitimately elected. [Media Matters, 4/25/24, 12/2/22, 11/17/22, 11/8/22; The Associated Press, 9/24/21, The Hill, 12/29/22]
    • Media figures have falsely compared the indictment to other historical events as justifications for the scheme, including comparing the situation to Hawaii’s legitimately disputed vote count in the 1960 presidential election. Unlike in the 1960 Hawaii scenario, Trump indisputably lost Arizona and appointed illegitimate electors after no state legislature or governor caved to his team’s pressure campaign, as there was no evidence of electoral fraud. [Media Matters, 8/4/23; Politico, 11/21/20]
    • Some right-wing media figures have also compared the fake electors scheme to the Democratic push for Republican electors to choose to be “faithless electors” and not cast their ballots for Trump. Faithless electors may face a penalty for voting against the candidate they are pledged to, but regardless they are duly chosen to represent the state. Those involved in the fake electors scheme aimed to “remove duly chosen electors by fiat and reverse the outcome in battleground states won by Biden and certified by state election officials,” according to FactCheck.org. [Fair Vote, 4/22; FactCheck.org, 6/29/22]
  • Right-wing media are falsely claiming that the fake elector scheme was lawful

    • Newsmax’s Greg Kelly excused the fake elector ploy by claiming that it is “constitutional” and it “happens every election cycle.” He added: “Calling it a fake elector scheme is actually a fake scheme.” [Newsmax, Greg Kelly Reports, 4/24/24]
    • Right-wing influencers the Hodgetwins claimed on X that “the alternate elector strategy could have worked IF Mike Pence had been a Patriot.” He continued, “But they had no intention of actually investigating the fraud, and Mike Pence is a uniparty clown, so we end up with Joe Biden and a collapsing country.” [Twitter/X, 4/24/24]
    • BlazeTV’s Steve Deace posted on X, “How do you indict a bunch of people in Arizona over something that isn't a crime?” He added: “The Constitution never demands that electors vote according to how their state popular vote does anyway. And Arizona is not a state that punitively binds its electors by statute, it simply vacates the votes of ‘faithless electors.’" [Twitter/X, 4/25/24]
    • Right-wing radio host Mark Levin claimed on X that there was “nothing illegal” about the plot. He stated, “You're allowed to have a second slate of electors and send them to the archivist who then presents them to Congress.” [Twitter/X, 4/25/24]
    • Judicial Watch founder Tom Fitton claimed that Trump and his team were “lawfully and effectively disputing Biden's controversial election victory under federal, state, and constitutional law.” He also painted the indictment as “another brazen attack on the God-given civil rights of Democratic Party/Biden political opponents.” [Twitter/X, 4/24/24]
    • One America News host Kara McKinney claimed on her show that “an Arizona grand jury is purposely conflating alternate electors with fake electors.” Right-wing author and columnist Lee Smith told McKinney that the indictments are “warning Republicans that if they stand against the fraud that we’re going to see in November, they will be arrested.” [One America News, Tipping Point with Kara McKinney, 4/25/24]
  • Some right-wing media figures are making bad-faith comparisons to past elections to downplay the indictments’ severity

    • Conservative pundit Bill Mitchell compared the fake electors scheme to Democrats’ allegations that there may have been Russian interference in the 2020 election. He wrote, “During Trump's entire term. the Democrats called him an illegitimate president and that he only won through Russian collusion, all of which was false. No one was indicted for this.” [Twitter/X, 4/24/24]
    • Right-wing media figure Benny Johnson compared the fake electors to celebrities who called for Republican electors in the 2020 election to not vote for Trump. He wrote, “Looking forward to the Attorney General of Arizona indicting half of Hollywood. ‘It’s ok when we do it…’ Scum” [Twitter/X, 4/24/24]
    • Far-right troll Jack Posobiec similarly posted a video of NBC reporting on faithless electors and the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and claimed, “This is what @tylerbowyer was just indicted for.” [Twitter/X, 4/25/24
    • Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk played a clip of CNN host Van Jones explaining how a governor or state legislature may intervene in the certification of their state’s presidential election results, and then claimed that “they were war-gaming now what they have indicted the great patriots of Arizona for.” [Real America’s Voice, The Charlie Kirk Show, 4/24/24]
    • Kirk also made a false comparison to Hawaii’s 1960 election outcome on X, stating, “It's a Democrat precedent. … Democrats and their media flacks are attempting to criminalize a concept they themselves invented and have utilized with impunity.” He also claimed, “There is no such thing as a ‘fake elector.’ There are ALTERNATE electors. There are COMPETING SLATES of electors.” [Twitter/X, 4/25/24; Media Matters, 8/4/23]
    • Former Tucker Carlson Tonight writer Blake Neff also made the comparison to the 1960 Hawaii election and claimed it set precedent that “all the Republican alternate electors were looking towards when they did this.” He then claimed that the indictments resemble what would happen “in crappy African countries.” [Rumble, Thoughtcrime, 4/25/24]
    • Former Fox News producer Kyle Becker posted on X, “Historical fun fact: Hawaii Democrats in 1960 submitted an alternate set of electors for JFK even though the Republican, Richard M. Nixon, had been declared the winner and the Governor had certified the Republican slate of electors.” He then pointed out, “No one was ever charged or prosecuted.” [Twitter/X, 4/25/24]
  • Other right-wing influencers are rehashing Arizona election conspiracy theories

    • Article III Project’s Will Chamberlain parroted a debunked claim about voter tabulation issues on X. He posted, “On the actual planet earth, Maricopa had a ton of voting machine malfunctioning on Election Day which in fact suppressed the votes of Arizonans.” [Twitter/X, 4/24/24
    • Right-wing media figures The Hodgetwins made a baseless claim about election fraud in Arizona, claiming that the state “was stolen from Trump and now the people behind the steal are indicting their political opponents.” [Twitter/X, 4/24/24]
    • Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon resorted to claiming that Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes was not legitimately elected, inviting her former opponent Abraham Hamadeh on his show and referring to Hamadeh as the “legitimate attorney general of the state of Arizona.” Hamadeh responded, “This is clearly a fake, illegitimate attorney general.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 4/24/24]
    • Conservative judicial activist Mike Davis posted on X that “Democrat Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, who unquestionably stole her 2022 election by disenfranchising voters on Election Day, just indicted President Trump's White House chief of staff, several attorneys, and many others for lawfully challenging the 2020 presidential election.” He also wrote that “There must be severe legal, political, and financial consequences. [Twitter/X, 4/24/24
    • Richard Grenell claimed on X that Mayes is “a total fraud.” He claimed that she “literally went to court to stop 9000 ballots from being counted because they were in mostly Republican areas and she was only winning by 280 votes.” [Twitter/X, 4/24/24]