Fox host Jesse Watters is spreading misinformation about the sham Arizona election audit that concluded at the end of September, pushing the debunked claim that it found tens of thousands of “questionable ballots.” Now, Watters’ segment has spread online, with right-wing blogs posting the clip as a way of validating their false election fraud claims.
On his October 2 show, Watters claimed, “An audit in Maricopa County, done by an outside firm, found 57,000 questionable ballots -- just in that one county. The media wasn't interested in this.” This claim comes from a draft of the report by the discredited cybersecurity company Cyber Ninjas, the outside firm Watters referred to which conducted the audit, that marked 57,734 votes as “Ballots Impacted.” But as the report notes, “In many cases there could be legitimate and legal votes within the Ballots Impact amount.”
In fact, The Associated Press found that “the three largest components of the total — all of the purported ballot issues billed as being either ‘critical’ or ‘high’ severity — are flawed.” Many of these supposedly “impacted” ballots had reasonable explanations, as the AP reported:
One of the “critical” figures included in the total is 23,344 mail-in ballots cast by people who allegedly moved before ballots were sent out. But that number is based on a commercial database unrelated to elections, and it doesn’t mean something improper happened. Election officials explained many voters move to temporary locations while still legally voting at their registered address.
Another claim rolled into the total is that 9,041 voters were recorded as receiving one mail-in ballot, but returning two. However, Maricopa County said on Twitter that this occurs when a voter returns a ballot with a signature discrepancy — such as a blank or mismatched signature — and election officials contact the voter to resolve the issue. A second record is then created in the system. In those cases, of course, only one ballot is counted per voter.
The draft report also included the flawed claim that there were 10,342 voters who voted in multiple counties.
Watters also claimed that “Arizona officials wouldn't fully cooperate, and some evidence was removed and destroyed.” In reality, Maricopa County’s Republican election officials have testified that the 2020 election was “free, fair and accurate,” and claims that election data was “purged” are untrue. Furthermore, the Cyber Ninjas report Watters cited once again confirmed that Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in Maricopa County.
Cyber Ninjas and its founder are no strangers to conspiracy theories, as their audit efforts in Arizona had many links to supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory. The ongoing GOP-led efforts to push audits in Arizona and other states have become rife with conspiracy theories like the one Watters repeated on his program.