Donald Trump on Fox News during the 2016 GOP primary race

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Trump used right-wing media to push election fraud lies long before 2020

Amid reports that Trump’s previous baseless claims of fraud will be used as evidence against him, we found at least two dozen instances in which he used conservative media to push such unsubstantiated claims, dating as far back as 2011

Special counsel Jack Smith will reportedly introduce evidence in Donald Trump’s election subversion trial demonstrating the former president’s history of making baseless claims about election fraud — even prior to the 2020 presidential election that he lost and attempted to overturn. Media Matters has found at least 24 instances in which Trump used right-wing media — particularly Fox News — to push claims that elections in 2018, 2016, 2012, and even 2008 were “rigged” or had been impacted by a “scam” or “voter fraud.”

  • Trump repeatedly used right-wing media to make baseless claims of election fraud prior to 2020, going as far back as 2011

    • Shortly after the 2018 midterm elections, Trump baselessly claimed in a Daily Caller interview that “Republicans don’t win” in states like California because of “illegals voting” and “illegal votes.” Trump continued: “And I've seen it, I've had friends talk about it when people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again.” Trump also claimed that he lost in New Hampshire because of a “tremendous number of buses coming up” from out of state, concluding: “Recall the election. Recall the election. I mean, there, you should be able to recall the election.” [Daily Caller, 11/14/18]
    • In a June 2017 Fox & Friends interview, Trump referred to presidential primary elections as “the rigged system.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/25/17, via]
    • In an October 2016 Breitbart News Daily interview, Trump said “the fact that” then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was “even allowed to run” demonstrates “the system being rigged.” Trump also baselessly claimed there was “voter fraud” going on. [Breitbart, Breitbart News Daily, 10/28/16, via]
    • During a late October interview on a right-wing Catholic network, Trump again said that “our system is rigged,” suggesting voting fraud was occurring in major cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago, and St. Louis. [Eternal Word Television Network, The World Over, 10/27/16, via]
    • Trump repeatedly claimed that the 2016 presidential election was “rigged” in an October 2016 O’Reilly Factor appearance. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 10/27/16]
    • In October 2016, Trump told Hannity of the election, “Sean, I've been saying for a long time it's a rigged system.” [Fox News, Hannity, 10/21/16]
    • Following two October 2016 Fox & Friends segments on claims of voter fraud, Trump tweeted, “Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day.” On October 17, 2016, Fox & Friends opened its show with co-host Steve Doocy claiming that “dead people” were voting for then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. In a separate segment minutes before Trump’s tweet, co-host Ainsley Earhardt said, “A lot of people are saying that this election is rigged, one of them is Rudy Giuliani.” [Media Matters, 10/17/16]
    • In an earlier October 2016 appearance on The O’Reilly Factor, Trump argued that “the press” is “part of the rigged system” and “total fix job” of the presidential election. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 10/11/16]
    • In September 2016, Trump complained on Fox’s MediaBuzz that the presidential debates were “a rigged system.” [Fox News, MediaBuzz, 9/18/16]
    • During an August 2016 On the Record interview, Trump said his presidential run was “not a fair situation, it’s a rigged situation. And in a certain way it’s rigged by the media.” Trump also suggested that a lack of strict voter ID laws meant “anybody can just go in and walk in and vote.” [Fox News, On the Record, 8/10/16, via]
    • On The O’Reilly Factor in August 2016, Trump said, “People are going to walk in, they are going to vote 10 times maybe.” Trump also complained about voter ID requirements being struck down, insinuating that the decisions will lead to fraud: “I'm saying what do you mean you don't have to have voter ID to now go in and vote? And it's a little bit scary.” During the appearance, he also suggested that 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney lost due to fraud. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 8/2/16]
    • During an August 2016 Hannity interview, Trump claimed that the primary elections were “rigged” and predicted the general election would also be rigged. [Fox News, Hannity, 8/1/16]
    • In mid-July 2016, when asked what he would say to Black Americans who “believe that the system is biased against them,” Trump told Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, “Well, I’ve been saying even against me the system is rigged. When I ran … for president … I could see what was going on with the system, and the system is rigged.” [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 7/12/16]
    • In a June 2016 Hannity appearance, Trump claimed that both parties’ primary elections were “rigged.” [Fox News, Hannity, 6/8/16]
    • Trump also said the primary elections were “a total rigged deal” and “a rigged system” in a late May 2016 Hannity interview. [Fox News, Hannity, 5/31/16]
    • Trump again claimed, repeatedly, that the primary elections were “a rigged system” in a mid-May 2016 Hannity appearance. [Fox News, Hannity, 5/18/16]
    • In another mid-May Hannity appearance, Trump said the election was “rigged” because Jeff Bezos owned The Washington Post and it was putting out “really bad stories” about him. [Fox News, Hannity, 5/12/16]
    • In a May interview with Steve Bannon, Trump called the presidential primary races “a crooked system” and “a rigged deal.” [Breitbart, Breitbart News Daily, 5/6/16, via]
    • On Hannity in April 2016, Trump again said of the GOP presidential primary, specifically in Louisiana: “This whole thing is a scam. It's a scam. It's absolutely a rigged system. And it's done so the bosses can pick people.” [Fox News, Hannity, 4/25/16]
    • Trump again attacked the GOP primary process in April 2016 on Hannity, saying: “The whole system is rigged. It's a phony, crooked system where people are allowed to buy delegates, they're allowed to buy hotel rooms for them and take them out to dinner and do whatever they have to do to get their vote. That's not democracy.” [Fox News, Hannity, 4/21/16]
    • Asked by Fox’s Sean Hannity why he thought the Colorado GOP primary “was rigged,” Trump said, “They changed the whole thing in Colorado,” and “It’s a fix.” [Fox News, Hannity, 4/13/16]
    • CNN reported that on Election Day in 2012, Trump used a Fox News Digital story to begin a tweetstorm that culminated in him declaring, “This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!” [CNN, 10/20/16]
    • In October 2012, Trump used the birther conspiracy theory on Fox’s On the Record to suggest that Barack Obama wasn’t legitimately the president. [Fox News, On the Record, 10/24/12]
    • In March 2011, Trump pushed the birther conspiracy theory on The O’Reilly Factor to delegitimize Obama’s election, suggesting his birth announcement in newspapers was fraudulent and adding: “If he wasn't born in this country, it's one of the great scams of all time.” [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 3/30/11]