Fueled by lies about voter fraud during the 2020 election, right-wing activists have begun to stake out ballot drop boxes across Arizona, which has already resulted in at least a half dozen instances of alleged voter intimidation. A Media Matters analysis found that from October 16 — when far-right media began using images of Arizona voters depositing ballots in drop boxes to push claims of fraud — through 9 a.m. ET October 26, Fox News and Fox Business did not run a single segment on the story. (The network finally covered the story later in a short segment on The Faulkner Focus, during which anchor Harris Faulkner said her audience “shouldn’t assume anything at all” about the motivations or political beliefs of the people allegedly intimidating voters.)
The efforts of one of the groups accused of violating voter intimidation laws, Clean Elections USA, has been cheered on by corners of the right. Melody Jennings, the group’s QAnon-linked founder, appeared on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast twice in recent weeks to discuss her group’s efforts to “go out in shifts and guard these boxes.” On October 16, Jennings posted a blurry image on Truth Social, claiming it showed a “mule” stuffing fake ballots into a drop box in Mesa, Arizona. The post was subsequently shared by former President Donald Trump and written up by fringe propaganda outlet the Gateway Pundit, which cited it as evidence that “ballot stuffing has already begun in Arizona.”
On October 21, ABC 15 Arizona reported that the secretary of state’s office had received a complaint about voter intimidation after two armed individuals in camouflage clothing and tactical gear had been taking pictures of voters while seemingly monitoring the same ballot drop box in Mesa referenced in Jennings' posts.
NBC News reported on October 24 that Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is also the Democratic nominee for governor, referred six cases of possible voter intimidation to both state and federal officials in the last week. According to the report, a voter reported being followed and harassed by a ballot box watcher:
In one instance, a group of about eight to 10 people began recording or taking photographs of a voter as he pulled up to a drop box in a car, the voter said. The voter, who was not identified, said he was followed by a white SUV Pathfinder and believed the group’s intention was to intimidate him and his wife as voters, according to an email copy of a report summarizing his concerns provided by Hobbs' office.
Other voters have reported that ballot box watchers accused them of “being a mule” as they dropped off their ballots — seemingly a reference to right-wing conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza’s recent film 2000 Mules, which baselessly claimed that the 2020 election was stolen by “mules” stuffing fake ballots into drop boxes. What’s more, Arizona election officials, poll workers, and local media outlets have been bombarded by death threats and other forms of harassment in the lead-up to the midterms, and the FBI and Justice Department recently warned that the state is one of the top targets for threats to election workers in 2022.
CNN and MSNBC have covered the alarming trend, even sending reporters to Phoenix to cover the story, while Fox News has been utterly silent.
When Fox News finally aired a news report about incidents of alleged voter intimidation and death threats aimed at election officials during an October 26 segment on The Faulkner Focus, anchor Harris Faulkner downplayed the apparent political affiliations of those behind the intimidation efforts, saying, “It's important for people to know that we don't know that much about these people making these threats,” adding, “This is about violence, it’s not about politics.”
Fox News' failure to report on right-wing activists allegedly intimidating voters — in part, based on lies it has promoted — is emblematic of a well-documented trend of the network downplaying or ignoring stories that implicate right-wing extremists and their plots to subvert democracy.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel and Fox Business for any of the terms “AZ,” “Arizona,” “Phoenix,” “Mesa,” “Maricopa,” “Apache,” “La Paz,” “Greenlee,” “Pinal,” “Pima,” “Mohave,” “Coconino,” “Graham,” “Cochise,” “Yavapai,” “Navajo,” “Santa Cruz,” “Gila,” or “Yuma” within close proximity of any of the terms “ballot,” “box,” “absentee,” “vigilante,” “tactical,” “armed,” “Clean Elections USA,” “fraud,” or “mule” or any variation of any of the terms “drop box,” “intimidate,” or “vote” from October 16, 2022, when the “ballot stuffing” conspiracy began to spread on social media, through 9 a.m. ET October 26, 2022.
We timed segments, which we defined as instances when alleged voter intimidation in Arizona was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of alleged voter intimidation in Arizona. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in the multitopic segments discussed the alleged voter intimidation with one another. We rounded all times to the nearest minute.
We did not include passing mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker in a multitopic segment discussed the alleged voter intimidation with one another, or teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about the alleged voter intimidation scheduled to air later in the broadcast.