As former President Donald Trump restarts his political rallies, driven by the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him, the avowedly pro-Trump One America News looms large in the background. The Trumpist network hosts openly voice their hopes that the ongoing so-called “audit” of the Maricopa County, Arizona, election results -- driven by an unsecure, QAnon-riddled hot mess of conspiracy theories -- will prove fraud and throw the certified 2020 election results into chaos, ultimately removing Joe Biden from the presidency -- and maybe flipping the U.S. Senate to Republicans as well.
Trump’s remaining political staff reportedly jokes that his “most senior adviser” is OAN “reporter” Christina Bobb, with whom he regularly discusses the ongoing Arizona process. Bobb also hosts a weekend show Weekly Briefing and, in a breach of the most basic journalistic ethics, is also a major fundraiser for the audit, soliciting donations on the air. Her show has routinely aired on-site in Arizona since the audit process began.
Trump isn’t the only one watching OAN’s promotion of this “disinformation blueprint.” A tour of what OAN host Natalie Harp declared “America’s audit” has become a pilgrimage for GOP legislators and candidates for office from states all across the country, and many have appeared on OAN during their visit. In fact, Bobb has claimed that officials from “about a dozen” states are interested in conducting their own so-called audits of the 2020 election, and she has interviewed multiple officials or candidates from at least Pennsylvania, Nevada, Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota, Georgia, and Wisconsin. At least one of these legislators who spoke with Bobb and OAN refused interviews with credible outlets.
Bobb’s guests typically make their own allegations of fraud, express support for an “audit” of their own state, and encourage other Republicans to travel to Arizona’s “audit.” For example, at Bobb’s questioning, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Janel Brandtjen -- who reportedly traveled to Arizona with another state legislator at the expense of Bobb’s fundraising -- pressed for an audit in her state because of suppositions she had about “this guy from New York,” a consultant who worked a polling site in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (An OAN chyron during the interview alleged the consultant was “sent” by New York, but he was hired by the city of Green Bay from a vote-by-mail nonprofit.)
Bobb’s GOP guests use the media frenzy around the Arizona “audit” to push their own antidemocratic legislative goals. Nevada GOP chair Michael McDonald used his June 6 interview with Bobb to allege that “we’re very much at the tip of the spear” of fraud in Nevada, saying that “we intend to do an audit” and pass voter ID laws. McDonald also credited Bobb and OAN for spreading the word about Arizona. Pennsylvania Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a recurring OAN guest who bussed people to the capital on the day of the insurrection and compared his false crusade to stopping 9/11, connected his push for a Pennsylvania “audit” to his attempt to undo universal mail-in voting “because it’s been compromised,” among his state GOP colleagues’ other efforts to restrict voting access.
Bobb’s Weekly Briefing shoulders much of the weight for Republicans wanting to be seen disputing the election on OAN. However, the rest of the network is just as enthusiastic about the process. While talking to Bobb on June 10, Natalie Harp apparently argued that the For The People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act were federal power grabs in response to state audits; in response, Bobb suggested that all ballots should be made public after the election, allowing anyone to “audit” any election anytime. OAN’s news hours cover new or rehashed conspiracy theories that purportedly suggest fraud and play up alleged drama between the Biden administration and various states seeking to launch an audit, labeling audit seekers “outspoken advocate[s] for election integrity.” The prime-time show Tipping Point has hosted GOP candidates seeking to boost their profiles, such as a primary challenger to Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who refused Trump’s earlier pressure to deny the results (though Kemp did sign a post-election law restricting voting access).
OAN has reported that the Arizona audit is not seeking to overturn the 2020 election, but Bobb and her colleagues regularly reveal their hopes to see the election overturned. Harp told Bobb on June 10 that “we all know what the results [of the audit] probably are going to be,” and Bobb replied that once the “audit” is complete, the “people of Arizona are going to have to reach out” to the state legislature and say “withdraw the electors, unless Joe Biden clearly won, which, that seems unlikely.” (According to current law, it is impossible for Arizona to withdraw its certified electors.)
Bobb repeated this argument in another interview with prime-time host Dan Ball, where she also speculated that the “audit’ would have to match a “key number” of 2.1 million votes, otherwise any missing ballots could be an indication of fraud, opening a door for criminal investigations and the decertification of Biden’s victory.
Beyond the presidential election, Bobb seems to believe Democrats also stole multiple U.S. Senate elections. She has suggested that Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) were fraudulently elected, salivating for the day when the mainstream media will “have quite a difficult time explaining to their viewers why the United States Senate is suddenly a Republican majority” after the “obvious” fraud that “the American people know” happened is uncovered. “This audit is moving forward, and it will reveal the truth,” Bobb ominously promised about the Arizona audit.
Bobb was perhaps most explicit about her hopes for the audit process not on OAN, but in a May 21 interview on Pennsylvania Sen. Mastriano’s radio show, Colonel on the Call. Bobb acknowledged that there’s “no constitutional mechanism” for reversing a U.S. presidential election and, at the time of the interview, no proof of fraud had yet been found. But she also continued to say that “if enough states do audits, and there’s enough information out there to show that Joe Biden is not our lawfully elected president,” and perhaps “an adversary actually had a hand in putting him in office, are we required to leave him there for four years?” In Bobb’s imagination, the “mechanism” to undo such a stolen election would simply be “the will of the people” calling on voters to contact their legislators and demand Biden’s removal. “We’ll figure it out,” Bobb said of her hopeful hypothetical, “but the right answer cannot be that we are required to leave somebody in office.”
OAN’s rash promotion of 2020 election “audits” serves to make Americans distrustful of the electoral process, boost the Trumpian GOP base by pushing politics further out of reality, and strengthen the previous president’s vice grip on conservative politics. So deluded is OAN’s coverage that Bobb said Democrats’ vaguely confident pre-election statements about “a peaceful transition of power” were an open declaration of election theft. Bobb reported that the entire world is “watching the Arizona audit with bated breath, hoping the United States can still be that reckless patriot that we are, who don’t kowtow to political establishments,” whatever that means.
Some states, such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, have already moved toward replicating the nonsense Arizona process to some degree. Georgia, which has already completed two audits and found no fraud is also moving ahead with another audit in Fulton County. Beyond the audit frenzy OAN encourages, many more states have passed voter restrictions inspired by the same fetid stew of 2020 election conspiracy theories. With Bobb and OAN at Trump’s ear, and the former president’s continued domination of conservative politics, a deluded loser’s obsession with rewriting his defeat threatens to corrupt the democratic process for everyone.