Update (8/13/21): On August 12, the final day of the cyber symposium, OAN aired another 8 hours and 22 minutes of the event. In total, OAN carried 30 hours and 47 minutes of the symposium live.
One America News, freshly hit with a defamation suit by Dominion Voting Systems over the network’s baseless claims about interference in the 2020 election, has carried more than 22 hours and 25 minutes of conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell’s election fraud “cyber symposium.” OAN’s live broadcast over the first two days of the event, which featured Lindell attacking the defamation suits against him and OAN, ran uninterrupted for up to seven hours at a time, commercial-free.
Lindell’s much-hyped symposium, which he and his right-wing media allies have promised for months would finally prove the deranged conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was stolen by nefarious forces including China and Dominion, has been a trainwreck. Beset with technical issues (that Lindell and other participants suggested was evidence they were under cyber attack of some sort), the event has featured a series of speakers poorly attempting to prove widespread election fraud.
Things really went off the rails Wednesday evening, first as news broke that Lindell’s effort to dismiss Dominion’s defamation suit against him was denied. Lindell responded to the news with an 11-minute rant accusing Dominion of covering up alleged crimes -- and undermining his symposium -- with defamation suits, and attacking the Trump-appointed judge who allowed the lawsuits to proceed, claiming that “obviously somebody got to him, or he’s part of this.” Lindell also made the bizarre accusation that Fox News “went to Dominion just so they could get rid of Lou Dobbs” and complained that “your First Amendment rights to free speech just got blown out of the water.”
Also on Wednesday, the conservative Washington Times reported, “The cyber expert on the ‘red team’ hired by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell now says the key data underpinning the theory that China hacked the 2020 election unveiled at the Cyber Symposium is illegitimate.” Josh Merritt, a member of Lindell’s data team, told the paper, “We were handed a turd. … And I had to take that turd and turn it into a diamond. And that’s what I think we did.”
Nonetheless, OAN has been carrying almost the entirety of Lindell’s symposium live to its viewers, treating it like a historic news event. OAN’s promotion of the conspiracy theory showcase comes amid the network’s campaign to get picked up by Comcast and Charter Communications; Comcast alone controls approximately 23% of the U.S. cable market.
On Tuesday, OAN’s coverage was not yet live to Lindell when he told Dominion to “melt down those machines and use them for prison bars” -- but once the network switched over, day one of the event featured a wide range of conspiratorial content matching Lindell’s erratic behavior:
- Tedious, granular monologues pushing election fraud lies.
- Attacks on individual reporters for critically covering Lindell or making fun of him.
- Rants obsessing over Lindell’s year-old interview with talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, tied in with grievances against mainstream media.
- Attacks on Fox News for not carrying or promoting the symposium.
- Self-victimization narratives about being unvaccinated against COVID-19, including lies that the vaccines are lethal and that asking for vaccination status is a violation of privacy laws.
- Steve Bannon’s self-centered monologue about “super hawks” trying to stop China’s plan to take over the world.
- Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who gave the MyPillow CEO a signed “MAGA” hat from former President Donald Trump (who Lindell called “our real president”) and attempted to connect the symposium’s allegations of U.S. election fraud to upcoming Brazilian elections.
- Mesa County, Colorado, clerk Tina Peters' claims of political persecution by the Colorado secretary of state. (Peters is reportedly under investigation for leaking passwords to Mesa County election computers.)
OAN’s obsession with Lindell largely precluded it from reporting on the breaking news of the day; the network covered New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announcing his resignation for about four minutes, in two brief news breaks spread over six hours, after Lindell already mentioned it on stage. OAN even delayed its own prime-time lineup by three hours.
The following day, OAN aired another nearly 12 hours of Lindell’s cyber symposium, featuring more disorganized misinformation about the 2020 election. Lindell himself made fewer on-stage appearances, but there were plenty of people available to spread the same lies in his stead. Viewers of the cyber symposium on day two were treated to:
- An off-key rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner.
- A long and technical difficulty-plagued appearance from former 8chan/8kun moderator Ron Watkins, believed by some journalists to be the anonymous central figure behind the QAnon conspiracy theory.
- Baseless complaints that technical difficulties with Watkins’ feed were evidence of the hacking of the symposium.
- Nearly illegible video of computer screens presented as supposed proof of election fraud.
- A panel featuring one of Lindell’s “experts” interrupting himself to walk off stage and answer a phone call.
- Watkins’ announcement that his lawyer said the symposium should pause its “data review” because data from Mesa County, Colorado, may have been “taken without authorization.”
Salon’s Zachary Petrizzo also reported that, although Lindell’s claims about election data are false, if he did somehow have the information he claimed to, he would have almost certainly violated federal wiretapping laws. According to Petrizzo’s reporting, “even being in possession of that data … is potentially illegal.”
Now that the final day of Lindell’s gathering is underway, OAN is, of course, dutifully carrying it live once again -- including whatever unstable rants and potentially defamatory claims the symposium may air along the way.
Newsmax -- which Dominion also hit with a defamation suit this week -- has largely not carried the event live, instead running a few intermittent segments about the proceedings featuring network correspondents. On Wednesday night, host Greg Kelly fawned over Lindell and described him as someone “committed to finding out what really happened in the 2020 election.”
*This post has been updated with additional information.