Fox News has cast doubt on or pushed conspiracy theories about the election results nearly 600 times
Update (1/14/21): Media Matters continued to track claims that cast doubt on or pushed conspiracy theories about the election results through November 21. In the two-week period after Fox News declared Joe Biden the president-elect, the network questioned the results of the election or pushed conspiracy theories about it at least 774 times.
In the nine days after Fox News declared Joe Biden the president-elect, the network has cast doubt on or pushed conspiracy theories about the election results at least 574 times -- 208 times on Fox’s “straight news” shows and 366 times on its opinion shows.
Previously, Media Matters reviewed similar claims on Fox’s airwaves in the four days after Biden was projected as the winner and found 255 such instances where the network cast doubt on or pushed conspiracy theories about the election result. We’ve now reviewed Fox’s coverage through November 16 and the grand total has more than doubled showing a steady drumbeat from network personalities.
As President Donald Trump and his legal team continue to spread baseless conspiracy theories about voter fraud in the 2020 election, Fox News has repeatedly aided the Trump campaign’s efforts to undermine confidence in the results of the 2020 elections, echoing debunked theories, pushing the idea that Democrats “are trying to steal this from President Trump,” and arguing that Trump is justified in pursuing these claims of a rigged election.
Media Matters reviewed Fox transcripts for individual claims from Fox personalities and their guests that cast doubt on or pushed conspiracy theories about the election results. (We defined each claim as an uninterrupted block of speech; as a result, an individual claim could both cast doubt and push conspiracy theories simultaneously.) In total, we found 407 claims that cast doubt and 292 claims that pushed conspiracy theories.
Claims that cast doubt on Biden’s victory included statements declaring that people decide elections rather than media outlets, encouraging Trump to contest the results through any available legal options despite Biden’s insurmountable leads in several states, and emphasizing Trump’s mantra of counting all “legal” votes. Claims that pushed conspiracy theories about the election results included statements suggesting that dead people voted, that any kind of voter fraud impacted the election, that Dominion voting machines deleted Trump votes, and that a deep state supercomputer known as “Hammer” with software program “Scorecard” fixed votes to swing the election for Biden.
On the “news” side, Fox aired 148 claims expressing doubt over the results and 100 claims pushing conspiracy theories, and on the opinion side, the network aired 259 claims casting doubt and 192 claims pushing conspiracy theories.
The network’s top purveyor of disinformation was Trump’s favorite morning show: Fox & Friends, including its early morning and weekend editions, aired 96 total claims. Of those, 67 cast doubt and 44 pushed conspiracy theories about the results.
Following closely behind was Fox host Sean Hannity and his prime-time show Hannity, which aired 76 total claims. Of those, 56 cast doubt and 34 pushed conspiracy theories about the results. Hannity himself was responsible for 37 of those claims. He personally cast doubt on the results 31 times and pushed conspiracy theories 12 times.
Fox continues to undermine confidence in our democratic institutions even though its own analysts called the race for Biden well over a week ago.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for any of the terms “election” or “ballot” or any variation of the term “vote” within close proximity of any of the terms “challenge,” “certified,” “counted,” “not final,” “not over,” “dead,” “stolen,” “steal,” “hammer,” or “scorecard” or any variations of any of the terms “illegal,” “legal,” or “fraud” from 11:40 a.m. EST November 7 (the time that Fox News called the race for Biden) through November 16, 2020.
We counted claims that cast doubt on the election results, such as statements advocating that all “legal” votes need to be counted, and claims that pushed conspiracy theories about the results, such as statements suggesting mass voter fraud. We defined a claim as an uninterrupted block of speech from a single speaker. Individual claims could both cast doubt and push conspiracy theories simultaneously.
We included original statements from speakers. We did not include clips or quotes of others unless we found positive affirmation from another speaker on the program either before or after the clip or quote.
We split Fox programs into “straight news” and “opinion” sides. We defined “straight news” programs as those with anchors, such as Bret Baier or Shannon Bream, while we defined “opinion” programs as those with hosts, such as Tucker Carlson or Laura Ingraham, at the helm. We used the designations from each anchor’s or host’s author page on FoxNews.com. We also considered the format of the program; we defined those using a panel format, such as Outnumbered and The Five, as “opinion.”