Right-wing media is subverting American democracy with continued election lies
A new poll shows a huge majority of Fox News and other right-wing media viewers believe the election lies they are constantly being told
An alarming new poll finds that among Americans who trust Fox News or other far-right media sources such as One America News, 76% falsely believe the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump — a number far out of kilter from the American mainstream.
Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent reported on the poll from the Public Religion Research Institute, which found that only 29% of Americans believe that the election was stolen, compared to 69% who correctly answered that it was not. Furthermore, 56% of respondents said Trump deserved “a lot” of the blame for the January 6 insurrection, when a mob of his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s victory.
Sargent further asked the pollster to break out the numbers according to media consumption habits. In addition to the finding that 76% of right-wing media consumers believed the election was stolen, only 12% of those respondents gave Trump a lot of the blame for the January 6 riot.
“When future historians seek to explain the United States’ perilous slide toward authoritarianism in the 21st century, they will grapple with the role played in all these events by Fox News and the right-wing media,” Sargent wrote. “Simply put, those actors are helping Donald Trump and his movement threaten democracy, in a way that will likely continue getting worse.”
As Media Matters has previously documented, right-wing media outlets played a key role in Trump’s efforts to subvert the election results, frequently telling their viewers that Trump had won the election or pushing other lies in an effort to discredit Biden’s clear victory. And in the months after the insurrection, these same right-wing outlets worked to rewrite the history of that event and cover up the criminal acts that took place.
More recently, right-wing media outlets have continued to peddle lies about the election.
Fox News is now facing multibillion-dollar lawsuits against the network from two prominent voting machine companies for the network’s role in helping to spread Trump’s claims that they had artificially changed votes. Meanwhile, the network has legitimized the election lies in subtler ways, with hosts either refusing to disavow them or trying to paper over what the network had done.
- Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo referred to the January 6 riot as a “peaceful protest.” (Months earlier, Bartiromo had also given Trump a platform to continue to lie about the election.)
- Fox News host Pete Hegseth refused to answer a guest asking him to say that Trump had lost the election, saying: “I’m not — don't really feel any obligation to answer anything for you.”
- In an interview with Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), Fox News anchor Bret Baier attempted to whitewash the network’s role — and his own — in having helped to spread Trump’s election lies in late 2020.
- Baier also helped to cover up the motives of a man who caused a bomb scare in Washington, D.C., and spouted right-wing conspiracy theories including about the election. Baier told viewers that the suspect’s “motive remains unknown” — even after the suspect had livestreamed his false claims and social media videos showed the suspect having taken part in a “Stop the Steal” march.
- When Trump appeared for a phone interview in August, the network initially edited out his election lies from the version that was posted online. Then, following condemnation from Trump’s spokesperson, the network posted a second version with the lie put back in.
One of the worst offenders has been the far-right channel One America News. In addition to the role it played in propagandizing for Trump’s election lies in late 2020, on January 6 itself the network’s White House correspondent argued that the “protesters” shutting down Congress provided justification for then-Vice President Mike Pence to stop the count of the Electoral College votes.
In the weeks and months that followed that attack, the network’s hosts have argued that it’s “possible” Biden “wasn't actually elected by the people,” continued to push claims that computer systems changed votes, claimed that the country does not have a legitimate executive branch, and said that “there were a lot of dead people that voted in the last election.”
And just in recent months:
- The network aired over 30 hours of MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s “cyber symposium,” which sought to offer proof that the election was stolen.
- The network later hosted Lindell for an interview in which he promised a second symposium and speculated that Trump could be reinstated into office “this fall — I hope in September.”
- Even after being sued by a prominent election systems company, the network has continued to promote lies that Trump really won the election.
- OAN host Natalie Harp has rbegun promoting right-wing claims of “unknown” votes that were lost and never counted, even though she has also previously claimed there were tens of thousands of extra votes in Arizona.
- The network’s hosts and commentators have openly fundraised for the Arizona Senate’s “forensic audit” of the ballots in the state’s largest county, aiming to spread these audits throughout the country.
- OAN commentator Pearson Sharp has speculated that the audits would lead to the mass executions of election officials.
Newsmax also told its viewers to be “suspicious” about the election results and spread claims about voting machines changing the results. (The network is now also being sued.) The network also promoted various methods of overturning the Electoral College results, or even sending the military into the states, and repeatedly pushed the idea that Trump might still prevail. And on January 6, the network’s hosts also suggested that “leftist groups” and philanthropist George Soros were really behind the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
In recent months:
- The channel ran ads for Lindell’s “cyber symposium” over 170 times in a single week and, in a further publicity stunt, sent a correspondent to picket Fox News for having refused to run the ad.
- Newsmax host Greg Kelly has said: “I still have concerns about the election of 2020, and it's okay to have concerns, all right?” Kelly also praised Lindell for being “committed to finding out what really happened in the 2020 election.” (What really happened: Joe Biden won.)
- Just this week, Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield claimed that “President Trump would still be in office” were it not for a “mail-in ballots scheme” by Democrats.