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  • Fox & Friends ignored report that Republican fraud has spurred a new election in North Carolina 

    Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham also failed to cover the election fraud story

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On February 21, following allegations of Republican election fraud, the North Carolina State Board of Elections ordered a new congressional election in the state's 9th District. The decision is highly unusual: It will be the first congressional election to be redone in over 40 years. But Fox & Friends failed to mention the story even once after the news broke, as did Fox’s Hannity, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and The Ingraham Angle.

    Fox’s decision to ignore the story on its major shows is particularly noteworthy given the network’s obsession with the idea of voter fraud.

    Over the past week, North Carolina investigators have argued to the elections board that a Republican operative named Leslie McCrae Dowless, who worked for Republican candidate Mark Harris, directed an intricate scheme to tamper with absentee ballots. Harris appeared to win the November election by fewer than a thousand votes -- but even he was forced to call for a new election after listening to state investigators’ case.

    The board’s decision to order a new election was a dramatic end to a congressional race that has remained uncalled for more than three months, but Media Matters found that Fox’s prime-time and morning shows didn’t even mention the story. In fact, Fox & Friends’ only mentions of North Carolina came in a short segment about someone vandalizing a statue and an update on Nike stock after a basketball player’s Nike shoe gave out in Wednesday’s University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill versus Duke game.

    Fox’s decision not to discuss the story on its major programs is especially notable given the network’s obsession with baselessly fearmongering about voter fraud. For years, Fox guests and hosts have pushed dubious or baseless allegations of fraud, some of which are rooted in obvious racism, and many of which are used to argue for voter suppression tactics. The vast majority of Fox’s accusations fall flat, largely because in-person voter impersonation fraud -- the type that right-wing pundits most commonly wring their hands about -- is virtually nonexistent, and other types of election fraud are exceedingly rare. But the network tends to quietly move on once the claims fall apart.

    Fox’s interest in election integrity seems to cover only instances of alleged voter fraud by Democrats and not cases of proven election fraud by partisan operatives working on behalf of Republicans. The network’s indifference is noteworthy, but it’s unsurprising given the close relationship between Fox News and the Republican Party.

  • This misleading Fox segment prompted Trump's inaccurate voter fraud tweet

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    President Donald Trump tweeted false information about voter fraud after watching a misleading Fox & Friends segment about a Texas Department of State report that allegedly showed non-U.S. citizens registered to vote. However, as The Texas Tribune explained, the report does not actually shed much light on how much illegal voting may or may not have occurred. 

    On January 27, Fox & Friends Weekend ran a segment about the Texas report, which co-host Katie Pavlich misleadingly described as evidence of “95,000 non-U.S. citizens who are registered to vote in Texas.” Pavlich suggested that the report was proof against the arguments that “noncitizens aren’t voting in our elections, [and] people who say that there’s voter fraud are conspiracy theorists.” Her guest, discredited fabulist J. Christian Adams, claimed the Texas report shows “the real foreign influence in our elections” and said that other states, including Pennsylvania, are “hiding the same information” about “aliens getting on the rolls.” 

    The segment prompted President Trump to tweet that the Texas voter numbers are “just the tip of the iceberg,” claiming that we need “strong voter ID” laws because “voter fraud is rampant.”

    Prior to the Fox & Friends segment that prompted the president’s tweet, The Texas Tribune examined the Texas secretary of state’s report and found that it contains 95,000 names “who the state says counties should consider checking to see whether they are … legally eligible to vote,” and that of the 95,000, “about 58,000 individuals cast a ballot in one or more elections from 1996 to 2018.” The office advised counties that the names on the list “should be considered ‘WEAK’ matches, using all capital letters for emphasis.”

    However, as Chris Davis, the head of the Texas Association of Elections Administrators, said, “People get naturalized. It’s entirely too early to say that” this report is proof of voter fraud. As the Tribune noted, “It’s possible that individuals flagged by the state … could have become naturalized citizens since they obtained their driver's license or ID card,” and “It’s unclear exactly how many of those individuals are not actually U.S. citizens and whether that number will be available in the future.” From the January 25 article: 

    The Texas secretary of state's office announced Friday it would send local election officials a list of 95,000 registered voters who the state says counties should consider checking to see whether they are U.S. citizens and, therefore, legally eligible to vote.

    In an advisory released Friday afternoon, the office said it was flagging individuals who had provided the Texas Department of Public Safety with some form of documentation — including a work visa or a green card — that showed they were not a citizen when they were obtaining a driver’s license or an ID card. Among the individuals flagged, about 58,000 individuals cast a ballot in one or more elections from 1996 to 2018, the secretary of state's office said.

    It’s unclear exactly how many of those individuals are not actually U.S. citizens and whether that number will be available in the future. In its notice to counties, the secretary of state's office said the names should be considered "WEAK" matches, using all capital letters for emphasis.

    ...

    It's possible that individuals flagged by the state — who provided DPS with documentation that indicated they were authorized to be in the country — could have become naturalized citizens since they obtained their driver's license or ID card. A spokesman for the secretary of state said officials are "very confident" that the data received from DPS is "current."

    But without additional verification, you can't say these individuals all engaged in illegal voting, said Chris Davis, the head of the Texas Association of Elections Administrators.

    "People get naturalized," Davis said. "It's entirely too early to say that."

    But Beth Stevens, voting rights legal director for the Texas Civil Rights Project, said the announcement echoed efforts around the country to remove eligible voters from the rolls.

    "The secretary’s actions threaten to result in tens of thousands of eligible voters being removed from the rolls, including those with the least resources to comply with the demand to show papers," Stevens said.

    Rampant voter fraud has been a right-wing media meme for many years, and there has never been any evidence. Fox News particularly obsesses over the voter fraud conspiracy theory, yet the network has virtually ignored actual fraud in the electoral process. 

  • In some of Fox’s only coverage of apparent GOP election fraud in North Carolina, host attacks California election laws 

    There are credible reports that a partisan actor in North Carolina was collecting and destroying voters' ballots  

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News' Shannon Bream attempted on Tuesday night to compare a Republican operative’s apparent plot to steal a North Carolina congressional seat with the legitimate collection of ballots in California elections. From the December 4 edition of Fox News at Night with Shannon Bream:

    See transcript below

    In California, it is legal for voters unable to return their mail ballots to designate someone to collect their ballots and deliver them to polling places. It is not legal anywhere, however, to collect and then potentially destroy, or finish filling out and cast, another person's ballot. This is what is being alleged in North Carolina, where reports show that a partisan operative potentially on the payroll of multiple Republican campaigns directed people to collect and possibly destroy or fill out voters’ ballots. Republican Mark Harris won the election by less than 1,000 votes, and it's well within reason that election fraud may have changed the result.

    Fox has been notably close-lipped about election fraud in North Carolina, despite its usual interest in fearmongering about (virtually nonexistent) "voter fraud." When it has covered this possible crime, the network’s approach is apparently to mislead its audience and downplay the seriousness of the allegations.  

    SHANNON BREAM (HOST): OK, check this out. North Carolina state law prohibits anyone other than a voter, close family member, or their legal guardian from taking in and dropping off absentee ballots. But, a California law allows anyone, including political operatives, to collect and return ballots in the Golden State. The practice is called ballot harvesting. Now, it's causing tremors in a North Carolina district where Democrats are accusing Republicans of illegal ballot harvesting. Because it's different there in North Carolina, they're calling it voter fraud. So it's also sparking questions about how Democrats swept areas like Orange County, California. Lot to unpack there. Fox News politics editor Chris Stirewalt joins us now to help separate some fact from fiction.

    CHRIS STIREWALT (FOX NEWS POLITICS EDITOR): And we should put out the allegations in North Carolina aren't just illegal because of state law -- it's different. We have voters -- so, what California allows is, in this ballot harvesting --

    BREAM: You want to give your ballot to somebody you trust.

    STIREWALT: Or also if I go to, let's say, a community center or a senior center or someplace and I say, OK, I am here. I'm a Democrat. You want to vote this way? I can help you, and then I can take them, and take them in. It's not -- it doesn't feel squeaky clean and super democratic, but that's what that is. What happens here are people say, I didn't request an absentee ballot. Somebody requested one in my name. It came to my address, and either they said fill this out or they just took it. They just took it and filled it out themselves and sent it in. This is real fraud.

    BREAM: Yeah and so the race is so close, within 900 votes. You know, House Democrats are saying we're not going to seat this person, the Republican who is claiming victory, until we iron this out.

    STIREWALT: It is not just House Democrats. It is a bipartisan state election commission in North Carolina.

    BREAM: We need answers.

    STIREWALT: There is some seriously rotten business that's going on here. And what compounds it, this was a hot primary. A longtime Republican incumbent, [Rep. Robert] Pittenger.

    BREAM: Right.

    STIREWALT: This is the 9th District, north of Charlotte, that stretches out to the west. So Pittenger gets knocked off in a primary, narrowly. Now, did the same firm that Mark Harris, the guy who knocked off Pittenger, that he employed in that election, did they do the same thing in that county? And then we start looking back at elections and the same consultant doing the same stuff and we say, what the heck is going on here? They may have to re-vote.

    BREAM: And if they do, people are saying this is going to turn into a totally different race. It's going to be nationalized, all kinds of outside money is going to pour in. And the people who show up for re-votes on something like this, they're not your average midterm voters, I mean, it's going to be a different kind of election.

    STIREWALT: If they find fraud, I would also point out, it'll be a different kind of election because the Republican nominee will have been associated.

    BREAM: He'd have problems, if he knew about it.

    STIREWALT: Even if he didn't know about it, if his campaign did it, it will stink.

  • This North Carolina TV station has been expertly covering local election fraud

    Charlotte’s WSOC has offered comprehensive coverage throughout the saga 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, allegations of election fraud have been deemed serious enough that a bipartisan election board has refused to certify the unofficial Republican win, with state officials investigating reports that hundreds of absentee ballots from voters in Bladen and Robeson counties “were illegally cast or destroyed.” Despite the seriousness of the accusations, Fox News -- which usually trips over itself to focus on “voter fraud” -- has virtually ignored the story. Meanwhile, Charlotte television station WSOC, led by political reporter Joe Bruno, has skillfully taken the lead on covering the evolving story.

    WSOC began reporting on the story as soon as the bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement first refused to certify the election results on November 27, reporting that the board was investigating “possible fraud or corruption.”

    The following day, Bruno, who has also been dutifully chronicling the story on Twitter, tweeted that the crux of the board’s investigation had to do with “irregularities involving absentee ballots.” In a segment later that night, WSOC’s Liz Foster reported on both this development and a response to the board’s decision from Republican Mark Harris, whom the unofficial count showed defeating Democrat Dan McCready by less than 1,000 votes.

    On November 29, Bruno was the first to report on the the content of six sworn affidavits regarding the investigation that were submitted to the election board. On WSOC, Bruno explained that the documents suggest a man named Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. may have hired up to 80 people to illegally collect and even fill out voters’ absentee ballots, potentially while working for the Harris campaign.

    On November 30, Bruno conducted several on-the-ground interviews with the people who gave the affidavits. WSOC aired highlights of the interviews, which included a man saying a woman in a Mark Harris T-shirt came to his house to collect mail-in ballots.

    Bruno reported that Dowless, the man at the center of the scandal, has done get-out-the-vote work for other candidates and has previously served jail time for perjury and fraud. Bruno also noted that in the primary election, Republican candidate Harris received a surprising 96 percent of Bladen County absentee mail-in votes, and in 2016, Republican candidate Todd Johnson, who finished third in the primary race, received 98 percent of Bladen County absentee mail-in votes while Dowless was doing get-out-the-vote work for him.

    On December 3, Bruno was the first to speak to an absentee ballot witness who said Dowless hired her to collect ballots and deliver them to him. The woman told Bruno that she doesn’t know with certainty whether the votes were counted. She claimed that Dowless was working for Harris and the Republican candidate for sheriff, Jim McVicker.

    WSOC’s reporting suggests that a partisan operative potentially on the payroll of multiple Republican campaigns directed people to collect and possibly destroy or fill out voters’ ballots, which is deeply concerning. And in a race as close as this, it’s possible that election fraud could have changed the result. As multiple national sources have relied on Bruno and WSOC in their own reporting, the station’s comprehensive coverage is another reminder of the importance of investing in local news and on-the-ground reporters.