Graphic of Trumps disembodied head floating against a blue background with the OAN logo and a mail-in ballot jutting out of the sides

Molly Butler / Media Matters

One America News supported the Trump insurrection by filling the airwaves with election falsehoods

OAN served as a wellspring for Trump’s post-election conspiracy theories

Ahead of the January 6 insurrection, former President Donald Trump was busy spreading an endless stream of election falsehoods. The right-wing media world, and in particular, far-right cable outlet One America News fueled Trump’s false claims and election misinformation at nearly every step.

The last set of hearings from the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection featured testimony from Attorney General Bill Barr that Trump became increasingly “detached from reality” following his election loss as he latched onto claims that were “completely bogus and silly and usually based on complete misinformation.” At the same time, the former president had publicly switched up his media diet to include more of One America News.

Media Matters compared OAN’s coverage to witness testimony regarding the litany of false election claims floating around the Trump White House in the lead-up to Joe Biden’s inauguration. We found that OAN fueled those false claims by amplifying pro-Trump conspiracy theories about the election and supplying the Trump campaign with new election falsehoods. The campaign used OAN-backed falsehoods in turn to pressure other right-wing media outlets, election officials, and Cabinet members into supporting the illegal attempt to overturn the 2020 election in Trump’s favor, culminating in the January 6 insurrection.

The former president rewarded OAN by encouraging his millions of social media followers to check out its coverage. Media Matters identified at least 72 OAN reports and clips the Donald J. Trump YouTube page uploaded ahead of Biden’s inauguration, which backed Trump’s conspiracy theories about voting machine companies, foreign countries, postal employees, and election workers all conspiring to steal his votes. 

The once-fringe network became a power player in the right-wing media echo chamber while fomenting the Trump-backed insurrection. OAN even drowned out Cabinet officials like Barr, who testified: “I did not see evidence of fraud. … And frankly a year and a half later, I haven't seen anything to change my mind on that.”

Key conspiracy theories

Jump to a section

  • Lie: Trump lost the election due to massive amounts of fraud

  • OAN ran with Trump's election lie and hasn't stopped

    OAN had already attributed a potential Biden victory to Democrats “pulling out all the stops to keep Trump from winning the election” before votes were even fully counted. After Fox News called Arizona for Biden on election night, OAN cried fraud and officially kicked off its campaign to overturn the election results, with network founder Robert Herring’s open blessing. Like his network personalities, Herring remained defiant that “One America News will not recognize Biden as the President-elect,” even if the Electoral College did. 

    OAN pushed conspiracy theories that nefarious actors injected over 400,000 fraudulent ballots into swing states and that over 1.8 million nonexistent voters – including hundreds of thousands of dead people, undocumented immigrants, and people with made-up last names — illegally voted for Biden. In response, Trump repeatedly promoted OAN reports alleging ballot fraud en masse

    OAN’s campaign to overturn 2020 has lasted nearly two years despite countless debunks, several election-related lawsuits, and numerous failed election audits. Just last month, the network promoted Trump’s latest call for a “new election” while making vague and unsubstantiated allusions to “fraudulent voting” in 2020.

  • False claim: Trump clearly won the 2020 election on November 3.

    Just hours after the polls had closed, Trump announced, “Frankly, we did win this election.”

    Video file

    Citation From the November 4, 2020, edition of OAN's Weekly Briefing

    On November 4, then-OAN host Christina Bobb declared: “Donald Trump won a second term last night.” Even though votes were still being counted, Bobb claimed, “Democrats are tossing Republican ballots, harvesting fake ballots, and delaying the results to create confusion.” Bobb doubled down three days later, telling her viewers that “Trump won decisively” and the “silent majority isn’t going to cut it anymore. Get loud. … Let the Trump campaign know that you care that they fight this fight.”

    Reality: Trump lost the 2020 election, despite a campaign of baseless claims from OAN and pro-Trump figures to the contrary. Rudy Giuliani suggested Trump “go and declare victory and say that we won it outright” as “they’re stealing it from us.” Trump ignored his other advisers, who told him that it was too early to declare victory, and he did it anyway.

  • Conspiracy theory: Democrats used “big, massive dumps” of ballots across the country to steal the election.

    In a November 29, 2020, interview on Fox news, Trump claimed: “This election was over, and then they did dumps [of fraudulent ballots]. They call them dumps, big, massive dumps in Michigan, in Pennsylvania, and all over.” He added that in “every swing state that we’re talking about, they did these massive dumps of votes and all of a sudden I went from winning by a lot to losing by a little.”

    Then-OAN host Patrick Hussion blamed the January 6 insurrection on “tensions just boiling up since November 3, since that late night dump of votes, basically.” Hussion continued, “That's when things -- that was the hinge. That's where everything pivoted. And now here we are on this January 6, when we're normally watching — or not even watching this ceremonial sort of certification of the Electoral College votes.” 

    Video file

    Citation From the January 6, 2021, edition of OAN's One America News

    Reality: Trump deliberately exploited a normal election phenomenon, “the red mirage,” for his own benefit. As former Fox producer Chris Stirewalt explained, GOP candidates will generally have an early lead in states that tally mail-in votes after Election Day, as GOP voters are more likely to cast their ballot in-person; that “mirage” disappears as states count mail-in ballots. Trump attributed this normal shift to “big massive dumps” of ballots “in Michigan, in Pennsylvania, and all over” leading up to the insurrection.

  • Conspiracy theory: There was a “big vote dump in Detroit” of over 100,000 ballots for Biden.

    OAN guest and Trump campaign attorney Rudy Giuliani: “More than 100,000 ballots were dumped in the city of Detroit” by people driving “cars without license plates.” Giuliani explained to OAN correspondent Chanel Rion that “100,000 ballots” were brought “in the back door, they came in in cardboard boxes, paper bags, some of them wide open so you could actually see the ballots. They were thrown on a table. … The ballots contained only Biden’s name.”

    In his speech ahead of the January 6 insurrection, Trump said that “after officials in Detroit announced the last votes had been counted, tens of thousands of additional ballots arrived without required envelopes. Every single one was for a Democrat.”

    Reality: Former Attorney General Bill Barr bluntly told Trump that the Giuliani-endorsed allegations about a “big truck” dumping ballots in Detroit were “bullshit.” Giuliani and associates were fearmongering about a “normal process,” according to Barr’s own words: 

    I said, Mr. President, there are 630 precincts in Detroit. And unlike elsewhere in the state, they centralize the counting process. So they're not counted in each precinct, they're moved to counting stations. 

    And so a normal process would involve boxes coming in at all different hours, so there's nothing. …. I mean, there's no indication of fraud in Detroit.

  • Conspiracy theory: USPS truck driver moved an entire trailer of ballots from New York to Pennsylvania.

    Trump tweeted about an OAN report claiming postal workers had witnessed “hundreds of thousands of votes for President Trump [that] mysteriously disappeared on election night,” including a “trailer full of ballots” one USPS worker moved from New York to Pennsylvania. Correspondent Pearson Sharp reported that a postal worker “drove his truck from Bethpage, New York, all the way to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and says he was carrying some 288,000 completed mail-in ballots,” which “simply went missing after he dropped them off.” Two days earlier, Trump referenced the conspiracy theory in a post encouraging supporters to tune into OAN for live coverage of a postal worker “whistleblower” event. 

    Reality: Former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue testified that “the FBI interviewed witnesses at the front end and the back end” of a conspiracy theory involving a “truck driver who claimed to have moved an entire tractor trailer of ballots from New York to Pennsylvania.” As Donoghue told Trump, “That allegation was not supported by the evidence.” 

  • Conspiracy theory: The Department of Homeland Security had a truck full of shredded ballots from Georgia in its custody.

    Christina Bobb: “The Department of Homeland Security has been sitting on video evidence of potentially shredded ballots in Georgia and is refusing to investigate.” Bobb added that “DHS says they can’t investigate because they lack authority. The FBI needs to do it. So what’s the FBI doing? Sitting on it. The FBI is stonewalling and DHS is sitting in a corner, sucking its thumb.” One America News reports airing January 1 and January 11 bolstered Bobb’s allegations about the FBI sitting on “phony ballots” that had been “loaded into trucks and shredded,” thwarting investigations demanded by pro-Trump conspiracy theorists. 

    Trump asked acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue to have DHS investigate the claims about a “truck supposedly full of shredded ballots in Georgia that was in the custody of an ICE agent.” The conspiracy theory broadly referenced a tweet thread by former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, who was also involved in the Trump campaign’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.

    Reality: DHS could not validate Trump’s allegations, and Donoghue told Senate investigators that the claims were “all related to an old election.” Furthermore, The Associated Press had already debunked similar claims about shredded ballots in Georgia before Trump revived them in his January 3 phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The shredding actually occurred in Cobb County, not Fulton County, and election officials explained that “the shredding company was summoned to destroy non-relevant election materials, as happens after all elections.”

  • Conspiracy theory: Native Americans “were paid to vote” as part of efforts to steal the election for Biden.

    OAN promoted Trump adviser Peter Navarro’s claim that “bribery, like what happened in Nevada on the Indian reservations,” contributed to “tens of thousands” of votes for Biden. The OAN reporter concluded that “the expert’s voter fraud reports the immaculate deception adds to a growing stack of data which suggests the 2020 election has been stolen.” 

    Trump told officials that “Indians are getting paid to vote.” Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue testified that the former president “meant people on Native American reservations. He said there's lots of fraud going on here.” Trump also tweeted out similar allegations to his supporters.

    Reality: Donoghue “told him flat out that much of the information he's getting is false and or just not supported by the evidence.” In December 2020, a Nevada judge threw out a lawsuit making similar allegations after finding “‘no credible or reliable evidence that the election was affected by fraud.' The plaintiffs didn’t prove that the Nevada Native Vote Project ‘gave or offered to give any person anything of value for the purpose of manipulating or altering the outcome of the election,’ or prove that the project acted on behalf of the Biden campaign.”

  • Conspiracy theory: Thousands of dead people voted in the 2020 election.

    Video file

    Citation From the November 11, 2020, edition of OAN's In Focus with Stephanie Hamill

    OAN routinely promoted conspiracy theories about “people miraculously rising from the dead like tales of the crypt to be able to register to vote and then cast their votes,” as Trump adviser Kimberly Guilfoyle told In Focus’ November 11 audience. On December 14, correspondent John Hines reported on legislation to purge voter rolls, citing “a lot of instances where dead people apparently appear to have cast votes.” Two weeks later, OAN aired claims that “some 17,000 dead people voted in Philadelphia.”

    Trump latched onto claims about thousands of dead people casting votes in the 2020 election, claiming in a video on December 2, 2020: “Dead people — and we have many examples — filled out ballots, made applications and then voted.”

    Reality: Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) noted, “Even Mr. Trump's campaign lawyers knew that the dead voter claims weren't valid.” Lawyer Eric Herschmann testified, “They never proved the allegations that they were making and they were trying to develop.”

  • False claim: Undocumented immigrants voted en masse in the 2020 election.

    On OAN, Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn brought up “allegations of widespread fraud,” like “illegal aliens voting in Arizona.” Then-host Christina Bobb nodded along as her guest listed off more groups that allegedly cast fraudulent votes, including “people who don't live in Arizona [and] people who may have been dead voting in Arizona.” 

    Trump reportedly asked White House political director Bill Stepien to investigate the claims of “thousands of illegal citizens, people not eligible to vote, who kind of cast their ballots in Arizona” and told his January 6 audience that “over 36,000 ballots were cast by noncitizens.” Similarly, Rudy Giuliani asked Arizona GOP House Speaker Rusty Bowers to investigate his unverifiable claim that “200,000 illegal immigrants” cast ballots in their election.

    Reality: In his recorded testimony, Stepien recalled Trump lawyer Alex Cannon investigated and found no evidence to support the “wild claim.” Stepien explained, “The reality of that was it was not illegal citizens voting in the election; they were overseas voters. So obviously people who were eligible to vote.”

  • Conspiracy theory: Over 200,000 illegitimate votes were cast in Pennsylvania.

    A week before the Capitol insurrection, OAN promoted bogus claims that 200,000 to 250,000 “likely fake votes” were “cast for Joe Biden.” As OAN reported, Trump tweeted about the claims on December 28. The next day, OAN aired a report alleging at least 250,000 unique voters “appear to be fake,” citing conspiracy theorist Bobby Piton’s “analysis of PA voter rolls,” which alleged Biden’s vote count couldn’t be accurate because it’s “statistically improbable” more than “520,000 Pennsylvania voters had unique last names." On December 30, Pennsylvania state senator and current GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano promoted the report on Real America. In an OAN appearance as “Trump campaign’s head legal counsel” airing January 6, 2021, Rudy Giuliani claimed: “They found 220,000 unexplained ballots. There are more ballots than people who voted.” Giuliani concluded, “If they just allowed a vote based on the evidence that's been produced to the Pennsylvania legislature, I'm confident that, first of all, it would be decertified.”

    In his speech before the January 6 insurrection, Trump similarly claimed, “There were over 205,000 more ballots counted in Pennsylvania.” 

    Reality: Former Attorney General Bill Barr investigated the allegations and found “there was no discrepancy at all.” Rather, Trump allies had mistakenly “compared the number of applications for the Republican primary and he compared it to the number of absentee votes cast in the general election," which Barr described as comparing “apples and oranges.”

  • Conspiracy theory: Video from Georgia’s State Farm Arena shows clear evidence of voter fraud.

    OAN correspondent Pearson Sharp: Surveillance video from a Georgia election site “reveals what appears to be a clear-cut case of voting fraud,” allegedly showing poll workers “pulling out hidden boxes stuffed with ballots.” Sharp and his colleagues latched onto conspiracy theories about two Fulton County election workers after Rudy Giuliani entered a video from State Farm Arena into evidence during a December 3 hearing in Georgia, which OAN carried live. Trump encouraged his supporters to check out OAN’s live coverage and shared Sharp’s report about the State Farm Arena video. 

    Testifying before the January 6 select committee, former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue said Trump “wanted to talk a great deal about Georgia, the State Farm Arena video which he believed for various reasons was as he said it — fraud staring you right in the face.”

    Reality: Barr, Donoghue, Georgia District Attorney BJay Pak, and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger agreed the State Farm Arena allegations were not credible. As Georgia election system implementation manager Gabriel Sterling explained to the January 6 committee, the video actually showed workers “engaging in normal ballot processing.” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) noted, “No matter how many times Senior Department of Justice officials, including his own Attorney General, told the President that these allegations were not true, President Trump kept promoting these lies and putting pressure on state officials to accept them.” The former president even referenced the conspiracy theory in his speech before the Capitol insurrection. 

    (The two election workers at the center of the video eventually sued One America News owners Robert and Charles Herring, correspondent Chanel Rion, and frequent guest Rudy Giuliani for “partisan character assassination.” The lawsuit was settled on April 21, 2022, for an undisclosed amount.)

  • Conspiracy theory: Fulton County election workers dumped hundreds of thousands of ballots into Georgia’s election

    Appearing as Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani told OAN, “There could have been 200,000 phony ballots put in during the day. Then they got everybody out.” In a December 4 appearance on In Focus, Giuliani accused Fulton County election workers of entering illegal votes, in addition to “136,000 mail-in votes, for which there is no evidence they were ever received.” Giuliani stressed, “You can see it closed down. And all of a sudden, the lady who originally brought the ballots in at 8:30 in the morning and put them under this table with a black cloth on it — which looks like a hearse by the way — she and this other guy start pulling out reams and reams of ballets and furiously handing them to the countess and pointing at them, like, get that counted quickly. … That would give you, bare minimum, 30,000 illegal votes.”

    In his speech before the January 6 insurrection, Trump claimed that Fulton County election officials had “illegally scanned” some “tens of thousands of votes,” coinciding “with a mysterious vote dump of up to 100,000 votes for Joe Biden, almost none for Trump.”

    Reality: There was no evidence that there were “hundreds of thousands of illegal ballots” in Georgia. Trump referenced the debunked claim during his call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, saying: “We have anywhere from 250 (thousand) to 300,000 ballots were dropped mysteriously into the rolls, much of that had to do with Fulton County, which hasn’t been checked.” As Raffensperger told the committee, “The numbers are the numbers, and the numbers don’t lie” — Biden won.

  • Lie: voting machines were manipulated to steal the election from Trump

  • OAN spread “idiotic claims” about software glitches and communist dictators flipping Trump votes

    Much like OAN, Trump was obsessed with what former Attorney General Bill Barr called “idiotic claims” about Dominion and Smartmatic voting machines stealing the 2020 election thanks to Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and other members of what Barr called “Team Crazy.” 

    At the time, OAN was passing off members of “Team Crazy” as reliable sources of election information with legitimate claims about fraud. Trump and his team embraced this coverage, even amplifying OAN correspondent Chanel Rion’s November 21 special about Dominion’s “antifa engineers” stealing the election. In the fall of 2021, Smartmatic and Dominion respectively sued the network for choosing to "spread disinformation” and “create and cultivate an alternate reality where ... Dominion engaged in a colossal fraud to steal the presidency from Donald Trump by rigging the vote.”

  • Conspiracy theory: Voting machine software flipped Trump votes to Biden.

    In a December 16, 2020, tweet, Trump quoted an OAN chyron alleging “Dominion Machines shifted 2-3% of Trump votes to Biden” and tagged the network. The former president’s tweet showed that OAN was garnering his favor by pushing conspiracy theories claiming he won the election. 

    Reality: In recorded testimony for the committee, former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann dismissed these claims as “completely nuts.” The DOJ and DHS had investigated the claims and found no evidence to support them, yet Trump ran with the OAN-endorsed allegation that voting machine software could take a certain number of votes for one candidate and flip them to another.

  • Conspiracy theory: Normal software glitches actually showed voting machines flipping votes.

    Then-OAN host Christina Bobb: “The Dominion software program has been supposedly glitching in all the swing states. Yet the glitch has only changed Trump votes to Biden votes in every state.” In the November 11, 2020, segment, Bobb maintained that in Arizona, “Democrats have slowly been distorting the numbers to turn the state blue.” Her guest, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), stressed that these “are not glitches. This is an intentional program aspect, and you’re going to find it all the way through this.” 

    In an interview on November 29, 2020, Trump told Fox’s Maria Bartiromo: “We had glitches where they moved thousands of votes from my account to Biden’s account. … So, they’re not glitches. They’re theft.” 

    Reality: Former Attorney General Bill Barr told The Associated Press there was no evidence of electoral fraud after Trump made a bizarre claim on Fox News about software glitches that were “not really glitches.” In his follow-up meeting with Trump, Barr “reiterated that they've wasted a whole month on these claims — on the Dominion voting machines and they were idiotic claims.” However, Trump continued promoting the conspiracy theory on Twitter.

  • False claim: There was a “68% error rate” in Michigan voting machines.

    OAN correspondent Chanel Rion: “Dominion Voting Systems has a lot to answer for with the latest forensics audit in Michigan finding a whopping 68% error rate in the machines.” Rion claimed on December 15, 2020, that Dominion executives were attempting “to stonewall baffling issues found in the use of their systems" with “trickster tech-speak, namely QR codes.” 

    That same day on Twitter, Trump claimed there was a “68% error rate in Michigan Voting Machines.” “Should be, by law, a tiny percentage of one percent,” he added. “Stay tuned!”

    Reality: The analysis suggesting a “68% error rate” wasn’t accurate. Former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue quickly debunked the report’s flawed analysis in a December 15, 2020, meeting: “There was one error, one ballot. And I did a quick calculation and came up with .0063 percent error rate, which is well within tolerance.” Despite this, Trump continued to circulate the allegations on Twitter and reference them in later meetings.

  • Conspiracy theory: Foreign entities interfered in the 2020 election via voting machines.

    In a video on December 2, 2020, Trump said, “When you look at who’s running the company, who’s in charge, who owns it — which we don’t know — where are the votes counted — which we think are counted in foreign countries, not in the United States — Dominion is a disaster.”

    Video file

    Citation From the December 21, 2020, edition of OAN's One America News  

    On December 15, 2020, OAN hosted election conspiracy theorist Clay Clark, who laid out a four-step process starting with election software “originally coded out by communist Venezuelans,” before shipping votes to Frankfurt, Germany, and ending with Barcelona, Spain, where “the votes were tabulated somehow, and there was a little feature on the software that allows people to switch votes.” OAN also mentioned Clark was “in contact with Lin Wood,” a pro-Trump lawyer who hosted numerous conspiracy theorists on his South Carolina plantation properties after the election.

    Reality: An AP fact check at the time noted, “Servers that run Dominion software are in local election offices, not in foreign countries. Claims that the company has foreign servers or ties to Germany or Venezuela are false.” As White House lawyer Eric Herschmann testified, Trump allies and campaign lawyers used a hodgepodge of “completely nuts” conspiracy theories about foreign countries interfering in U.S. elections as part of their effort to overturn Biden’s victory.

  • Conspiracy theory: Venezuelan communists used Dominion machines to interfere with the U.S. election.

    One America News legitimized Sidney Powell’s baseless conspiracy theory linking Smartmatic and Dominion voting software “fraud” to “communist money” and “Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.” One report highlighted Powell’s claim that “the massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba, and likely China interfered with our elections here in the United States.” Other segments claimed the software was “first developed and used by Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez to ensure he never lost an election” because “a core design in Smartmatic software … allows it to hide any manipulations to votes during an audit.”

    On Twitter, Trump also highlighted Powell’s false claim that the election was stolen using “Dominion machines engineered by China, Venezuela, Cuba.”

    Reality: Former Attorney General Bill Barr called this conspiracy theory “complete nonsense.” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) said, “President Trump's own campaign advisers, his Department of Justice, and his cybersecurity experts all told him the same thing.” Trump disregarded them and allowed Powell and others to promote their bogus claims in a December 18 meeting in the Oval Office.