On YouTube, The Epoch Times promoted “Stop the Steal” events and spread misinformation before and after Capitol riots
The Epoch Times, its affiliate outlet New Tang Dynasty Television (NTD), and a network of associated YouTube channels promoted various “Stop the Steal” events and right-wing election misinformation on the video sharing platform prior to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and they have downplayed the riots and obfuscated details about them since.
The Epoch Times and NTD News are owned and operated by followers of Falun Gong, a Chinese spirituality movement started in the 1990s that is banned by the Chinese government and whose anti-Communist agenda lends itself to right-wing ideology and conspiracy theories. The Epoch Times was a pro-Trump propaganda rag throughout the previous administration, and BuzzFeed reports that a new network of YouTube channels affiliated with the outlet debuted on the platform shortly after Donald Trump lost the 2020 election.
A Media Matters review of The Epoch Times’ and NTD’s content on YouTube before January 6 found a drumbeat of election misinformation and promotion of right-wing events and personalities -- including “Stop the Steal” founder Ali Alexander, former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, and others -- in order to cast doubt on the results. The Atlantic has described The Epoch Times as a “weirdly ubiquitous” presence on YouTube and said “the newspaper reconstituted itself into a vehicle for esoteric voter-fraud allegations,” using “every opportunity to call Biden’s victory into doubt.” On January 6, both outlets livestreamed from Washington, D.C., for over 11 hours, but the video was later removed from both channels.
The Epoch Times’ misinformation is a lucrative business for both the outlet and YouTube. Axios recently reported that the paper’s publisher “nearly quadrupled its revenue during the first three years” of the Trump administration. However, on January 20, The Epoch Times personality Joshua Philipp claimed the entire Epoch Times network had been demonetized on YouTube and asked watchers to offer their monetary support on another fundraising platform.
In 2019, Facebook banned The Epoch Times from advertising after an NBC News investigation exposed the outlet’s deceptive practices on the platform
Leading up to the Capitol riot, The Epoch Times and affiliate channels repeatedly promoted Ali Alexander, “Stop the Steal” events, and false claims of voter fraud.
Platforms affiliated with The Epoch Times and NTD interviewed “Stop the Steal” leader Ali Alexander multiple times between Election Day and January 6.
- On January 5, NTD News ran a previous-day interview with Alexander at Trump’s January 4 rally in Georgia on the eve of the state's Senate runoff election, during which he falsely claimed that “Iran and China totally had a role in compromising our elections.”
- The January 4 edition of NTD News featured coverage of multiple “Stop the Steal” rallies in California. One organizer told NTD, “Even if you don’t like Trump, it’s not even about Trump anymore. This is about evil versus good. This is about saving our country.” Between interviews with rallygoers, the NTD reporter claimed participants are “worried that a stolen election means the country would be heading to communism.”
- On December 30, Alexander appeared on the NTD-affiliated Focus Talk show in which he called on supporters to “do brave acts,” also promising to “prepare for a poor outcome and we will have vengeance if we have traitors.”
- On December 11, Alexander gave an interview to American Thought Leaders, a show affiliated with The Epoch Times, in which he doubled down on a tweet in which he wrote, “I’m willing to give my life for this fight.”
- NTD livestreamed multiple concurrent pro-Trump rallies on December 12 and interviewed Alexander at the Washington, D.C., “Stop the Steal” and “Jericho March” rally. This demonstration ended with the neo-fascist street gang the Proud Boys tearing down and burning a Black Lives Matter banner that was hung on a historically Black church.
Alexander has been connected with The Epoch Times since as far back as 2019, when he gave interviews to two shows at the same event: American Thought Leaders and Crossroads with Joshua Philipp.
Alexander has also praised The Epoch Times and NTD for their coverage of the “Stop the Steal” events.
- During his December 30 appearance on Focus Talk, Alexander thanked “NTD for covering the movement.”
- An Epoch Times channel on YouTube posted a clip overdubbed in Mandarin in which Alexander gave a “shout out” to The Epoch Times and NTD alongside other right-wing media outlets at the December 12 “Stop the Steal” and “Jericho March” rally. Ali’s full remarks at the event were shared on NTD’s website.
The Epoch Times and NTD heavily promoted various “Stop the Steal” and other affiliated events featuring Alexander leading up to the January 6 riots.
- On November 10, NTD posted a segment covering “Stop the Steal” rallies in Nevada, Wisconsin, Ohio, and New York.
- On November 14, NTD provided live special coverage of multiple “Stop the Steal” events happening across the country. A week later, it posted a segment from one of the rallies in which an individual claiming to be a green card-holder said he received a mail-in ballot in Nevada.
- On December 10, NTD streamed a “Stop the CCP Slave Camps” event where Alexander spoke as a representative of “Stop the Steal,” calling on his audience to “make it real, real, hard if heaven forbid Joe Biden seizes power with the deep state.”
- On December 15, The Epoch Times streamed a press conference by the “Stop The Steal Coalition” where Alexander spoke and claimed, “We intend to be a permanent institution. In 2022 we are going to primary everyone who has said anything awful about exercising our constitutional options. It is abhorrent.” The paper has since removed the livestream.
- The day before the riots, NTD and The Epoch Times both streamed a “Virginia Women for Trump” rally outside the Supreme Court where Alexander spoke alongside Infowars’ Alex Jones and Roger Stone. During his speech, Alexander led a “1776” chant after saying that “it’s our government one way or another” and that “one way or another, we outnumber them.”
In addition to their promotion of “Stop the Steal” events and Alexander, The Epoch Times and NTD have featured a menagerie of right-wing personalities, including pro-Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood and businessman Mike Lindell, to push misinformation about the election. This pattern extended after YouTube announced its new guidelines on December 9, a day after the “safe harbor” date, vowing to “start removing any piece of content uploaded today (or anytime after) that misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.”
- On January 2, The Epoch Times and NTD posted a video of three purported “experts” testifying to Georgia’s Senate Judiciary Subcommittee about supposed “evidence” of fraud in the state. These “experts” represented the so-called “Data Integrity Group” led by Fox host Sean Hannity’s radio producer Lynda McLaughlin. Neither The Epoch Times nor NTD acknowledged this, identifying her only as having a background in “politics and media.”
- During a livestream on January 4, The Epoch Times personality Joshua Philipp falsely claimed Trump “has a very strong chance of” reversing the election results, repeated Wood’s outrageous claims about Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, and said Democrats “understand fraud took place” during the election “but they support that fraud.”
- The Epoch Times’ American Thought Leaders show on January 5 featured interviews with McLaughlin and other representatives of the Data Integrity Group to push spurious claims of fraud in Pennsylvania during the 2020 election.
- One video posted to the NTD channel on December 26 featured many of the lies propped up by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his ilk about discarded ballots, fraud, and discrimination against Republican poll workers.
- Mike Lindell gave an interview to Crossroads with Joshua Philipp on December 23 in which he pushed debunked voter fraud conspiracies and said the stakes of the election are “basically biblical.”
- Philipp interviewed Wood on December 21. Wood said Trump voters are “angry and they’re getting angrier.” He also said, “I’m not calling for a physical armed revolution, but I believe the people will do what is necessary to make sure that this country stays free.”
- Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis appeared on The Epoch Times’ American Thought Leaders on December 16. During her appearance, she claimed, “There is still plenty of time for the state legislatures to do their constitutionally mandated job by making sure that the delegates that they send and they certify are the correct slate.” She then promoted competing slates of electors as a means to undo Joe Biden’s victory.
- On December 13, American Thought Leaders hosted an in-depth interview with Sidney Powell, during which she claimed Dominion Voting Systems (which has since sued Powell for defamation for $1.3 billion) is “owned, run, and were organized and created by Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez with his dirty money.”
- The Epoch Times livestreamed Giuliani testifying in Michigan about purported election fraud on December 2. The video was later taken down.
- On December 1, the Epoch Times-affiliated show Deep Dive with Tiffany Meier parroted Powell’s defamatory allegations against the software company Smartmatic.
In October, NTD and The Epoch Times repeatedly promoted bogus claims about Hunter Biden and the Biden family which were part of a failed smear attempt tied to Giuliani and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
The Epoch Times, NTD, and affiliated channels continue to spread misinformation and pro-Trump conspiracy theories on YouTube.
The Epoch Times and NTD have repeatedly blamed anti-fascists and Black Lives Matter for the events of January 6, even though there’s no evidence to support this. They’ve also excused and downplayed the violence, including in an op-ed on the Epoch Times website titled “Was the False Flag Raised in Washington?”
- On the January 16 edition of American Thought Leaders titled “A New Leninism Is Gripping America,” writer James Lindsay told host Jan Jekielek that “this is not an insurrection” because rioters were “doing, you know, kind of streaming Instagram-type things.”
- During a January 14 live Q&A, Joshua Philipp blamed the “far left” for “infiltrating this protest” by incorrectly tying antifa and Black Lives Matter to the actions of John Sullivan, who was charged with rioting at the Capitol.
- On January 11, host Roman Balmakov suggested the second impeachment of Trump may have been a psy-op by Democrats to distract from voter fraud.
- During a January 11 episode of The Epoch Times’ Crossroads with Joshua Philipp, journalist Michael Yon, an ally of Steve Bannon, blamed anti-fascists and “agent provocateurs” for the destruction and bloodshed at the Capitol on January 6, claiming that “there was antifa written all over this” and that “you could see out there, there were quite a few [antifa] cells.”
- On the January 7 edition of NTD News, a package report falsely claimed that video footage of the insurrection shows “Trump supporters trying to stop the people smashing windows of the Capitol building and calling them antifa.”
- On January 7, Joshua Philipp streamed a “Live Q&A” during which he claimed some of the rioters were “antifa-looking people” and defended the participants, saying they were “very friendly. They were very peaceful.”
The Epoch Times has employed unusual tactics to evade rule enforcement from YouTube. For example, during one broadcast, host Gina Shakespeare muted the word “fraud” while reporting on YouTube’s December guidelines on election misinformation. In another example, Roman Balmakov referred viewers to a “timeline” of events leading up to the riot at the Capitol, but said that “because of the possibility of censorship” on YouTube “I’m not about to go through it. But the link will be in the description box below this video for you to check it out for yourself and I would highly, highly recommend that you do because it will give you the full picture.”
Even though they have repeatedly violated YouTube’s policy, as we’ve documented here, and even though other media coverage has similarly exposed them, The Epoch Times, NTD, and their affiliate channels remain on the platform. (A handful of videos reviewed by Media Matters were removed during the course investigation for this article.)