A Fox & Friends segment about redistricting efforts led by former Attorney General Eric Holder falsely characterized his efforts as an attempt to rig elections. Holder is involved with several Democratic groups -- the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), the National Redistricting Foundation (NFR), and the National Redistricting Action Fund (NRAF) -- that are seeking to eliminate the impact of partisan gerrymandering on state and federal elections.
During its October 8 broadcast, Fox & Friends invited former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on air to smear Holder and his group’s efforts. Walker is the face of a group called the National Republican Redistricting Trust that has fought to preserve partisan gerrymanders that favor Republicans.
Fox & Friends co-host Pete Hegseth introduced the segment by hyping a Wall Street Journal editorial that called Holder’s initiatives a “redistricting coup” and claiming that the former attorney general is leading efforts to “turn districts blue in time for the elections,” citing a recent legal victory one of Holder’s groups had in North Carolina. Walker then provided a litany of false or misleading information about what has been going on in that state.
First, some background: North Carolina has an ugly history of Republican legislators drawing maps for elections along racial lines to diminish the power of Black voters. In 2017, the Supreme Court struck down two Republican-drawn congressional maps in the state, upholding a lower court decision that found them to be an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. However, that ruling did not solve all of the unfairness plaguing elections in North Carolina, where electoral maps were still largely drawn to advantage Republicans. Recently released documents indicate that following the 2017 Supreme Court ruling, North Carolina Republicans continued their racial gerrymandering efforts while lying to the district court overseeing the map-drawing process.
The effects of unfair district maps in North Carolina are obvious: In the 2018 federal elections, Democrats won 50% of the vote statewide but only 23% of the state’s congressional races, taking just three of North Carolina’s 13 U.S. House seats. In the state legislature, Republicans lost the statewide popular vote but still ended up controlling 29 of 50 Senate seats and 66 of 120 House seats.
In response, Holder’s National Redistricting Foundation sued in state court, challenging the state legislative maps as an unlawful partisan gerrymander. In September, NRF won its lawsuit and has followed up by filing a second lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s federal congressional maps along similar lines.
While appearing on Fox & Friends, Walker complained about the NRF lawsuits as part of a “sue until it’s blue mentality,” saying, “So even a state like North Carolina where Republicans are in charge of the Assembly and the Senate, the two houses there, they’ve gone to court.” But the whole point of those lawsuits is that the current makeup of the state legislature represents an ill-gotten advantage for Republicans precisely because they achieved their majorities using unfair district maps. Under Walker’s tortured logic, the fact that Republicans were able to achieve majorities in the state legislature by using obviously unfair maps is reason enough to keep those same partisan maps to decide future elections. (Walker has deployed similar mind-bending logic before when defending unfair election outcomes in his home state of Wisconsin.)
Then Walker got conspiratorial. He said that Holder’s team “now controls who’s on the Supreme Court in North Carolina.” Walker seemed to be referencing the fact that in North Carolina, Supreme Court positions are determined by partisan elections (which are decided by a statewide vote, and therefore can’t be gerrymandered to give candidates supported by Holder or anyone else an unfair map advantage). A wide range of interest groups can participate in these state Supreme Court races through outside spending, but again, that doesn’t give Holder’s groups any special ability to determine Supreme Court election outcomes.
Walker’s bad-faith attacks on Holder continued throughout the segment. In once instance, after Hegseth extensively quoted a statement from Holder at NRF, Walker falsely claimed, “The irony is if you look at the forming files of the IRS they actually say, not that they’re fighting for fair maps, they talk about giving Democrats an advantage in this.” In reality, NRF, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit, states on IRS forms that the organization “seeks to oppose racial and partisan gerrymandering.”
Towards the end of the segment, Hegseth made the allegation that Holder’s efforts are an attempt to rig elections, claiming that if he is successful, “Election Day becomes sort of a rigged process if the districts are determined beforehand in a partisan way.” Walker responded, “And that’s what Holder wants, he’s not talking about redistricting places like Maryland.”
Setting aside the bizarreness of Hegseth and Walker appearing to agree that partisan gerrymandering is wrong on principle -- given that it is employed far more often by Republican-controlled legislatures -- Walker was lying again. Maryland is a prominent example of an exception to the rule as a state where Democrats have engaged in gerrymandering for unfair partisan gain. But Holder has spoken out about Maryland, comparing unfairness in that state to the unfair maps in North Carolina.
On July 4, Holder published an opinion piece in The Washington Post criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling that it has no jurisdiction over legal challenges to partisan gerrymandering. In his piece, Holder said, “As Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her powerful and prescient dissent, the partisan gerrymanders in Maryland and North Carolina ‘debased and dishonored our democracy, turning upside-down the core American idea that all governmental power derives from the people.’”
Walker’s appearance on Fox & Friends is the latest example of the dishonest tactics he employs in his media tour for the National Republican Redistricting Trust. Walker’s go-to argument is that Holder’s groups favor partisan gerrymandering that benefits Democrats, while his own group just wants fair maps. But the real-world actions of the groups indicate just how brazenly dishonest Walker is. For example, in Pennsylvania, Holder backed efforts to have electoral maps drawn in an independent nonpartisan fashion. Walker’s group, however, was also involved in litigation in Pennsylvania, and attempted to preserve a partisan gerrymander that benefitted Republicans. (As governor of Wisconsin, Walker himself participated in drawing unfair maps in that state to benefit his party.)
In essence, Walker is guilty of the very partisan gerrymandering misdeeds he often accuses Holder of participating in -- but in media appearances, he flips reality and his own record to claim the opposite. The only consistency in Walker’s arguments is that he will say anything to give the Republican Party an unfair advantage.