One America News Network has long been a major source of 2020 election denialism and a major promoter of far-right efforts to stop the next so-called steal. The network has previously attempted to marshal viewers into becoming election workers or even volunteering for the “audit” of Arizona’s 2020 results – recently, OAN has been telling viewers to report suspected fraud from their phones as soon as they think they see it.
Failed California secessionist Jeff Brain is the founder and CEO of CloutHub, yet another conservative alternative to major social media platforms. Brain used CloutHub to help organize rideshares -- “Patriot Caravans for 45” -- on January 6. The January 6 organizing website “Wild Protest” featured a link to Brain’s rideshares, labeled “Clouthub Caravan Group.”
In 2021, Brain held a joint event with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he told the audience, “We need to be on platforms where we can actually engage, organize, mobilize and advocate for the issues that are important to us.”
“We’re here to empower you, particularly this group,” Brain told his CPAC audience. “After what happened recently, you should be engaged on CloutHub.”
Now, Brain is using OAN to promote CloutHub as a tool to directly intervene in elections, by reporting supposed voter fraud to the authorities.
On July 20, Brain told OAN anchor Natasha Sweatte that after watching Dinesh D’Souza’s 2000 Mules, he built “tools inside of CloutHub that allow a voter, if they see something suspicious” at a voting location to fill out a “real-time form” including “witnesses, suspect descriptions, [and] pictures” that can purportedly be “filed in court within minutes."
The reporting tool “creates a PDF legal declaration that goes to attorneys that can then file it in the appropriate state where that report was issued," Brain said. According to the tool itself, the attorneys in question appear to be related to The America Project, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit co-founded in part by former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, both extreme election conspiracy theorists.
After the Arizona and Michigan primary elections on August 2, Brain returned to Sweatte with “quite a few reports” of alleged suspicious activity that he had received through CloutHub. Brain’s supposed evidence included “people reporting the use of felt pens and Sharpies” to fill out their ballots, with user-submitted photos of the markers, in what amounted to a rehash of the long-debunked “Sharpiegate” from 2020 – indeed, other far-right figures are actually calling it “Sharpiegate 2.0.”
Brain claimed that Sharpies cause problems for ballots because “it bleeds through,” even though in 2020, election officials in both Arizona and Michigan confirmed that not only are permanent markers like Sharpies acceptable to use on paper ballots, in some locations they may even be preferred. Contrary to Brain’s claims, ink that “bleeds through” is not a problem for counting votes in either state.
Given the pathetic nature of Brain’s big election fraud reveal, which was mostly a retread of a years-old conspiracy theory, one could be forgiven for thinking that this was just an attempt to promote his seemingly unpopular website -- which he did, of course, in both of his OAN appearances.
But the greater concern is OAN’s attempts to get viewers to take action against the next Democratic plot to steal an election – and since no such plot exists, this demented line of thinking will imperil legal votes nationwide. Even without a major carrier, OAN remains committed not only to spreading lies about 2020, but to using those lies to attack current and future elections.