Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly promoted debunked conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems as part of his broader campaign to undermine the credibility of the 2020 presidential election.
Dominion, a company which provides voting machines and software, became the target of right-wing harassment following baseless conspiracy theories amplified by conservative media that suggested the company had helped to “rig” the election in favor of President Joe Biden. This past month, Dominion filed defamation lawsuits against two of the most vocal proponents of these conspiracy theories — pro-Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani — and the company has indicated that additional lawsuits may be forthcoming. In December, the company also sent a letter to Limbaugh and a number of other right-wing media personalities about potential lawsuits.
Limbaugh repeatedly promoted Powell’s false accusations against the company in November and continued to spread false information about Dominion in the following months. The host, who has received the Medal of Freedom from former President Donald Trump in 2020, remains one of the most influential voices in right-wing media and has an estimated weekly audience of more than 15 million listeners.
In addition to suggesting that Dominion’s systems were designed to manufacture Democratic victories, Limbaugh has also falsely claimed that Dominion is “owned and operated” by former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and that Dominion executives were seen “fleeing the jurisdiction” following the election.
Limbaugh’s baseless allegations against Dominion are part of an ongoing effort to discredit Biden’s victory
- On November 17, Limbaugh falsely alleged that Dominion had been started by Hugo Chavez: “Do you know that the software used to count the votes is from Venezuela? That is a company started by Hugo Chavez, who was in the business of rigging elections for himself and his party. Dominion software. Sidney Powell has the goods on this bunch.”
- During the same show, Limbaugh promoted a media appearance by Powell in which she pushed conspiracy theories about Dominion. Limbaugh then explained, “She mentioned Smartmatic and Dominion. Dominion is the software company out of Venezuela. Smartmatic is a piece of software that does all the conniving. And they’re both manufactured -- it’s the same outfit, and they both have the same purpose: it’s to rig elections, and they are used in conjunction with one another.” Dominion has stated that Smartmatic is a competitor and that Dominion does not use Smartmatic’s software or machines.
- On November 19, Limbaugh carried portions of a press conference in which Powell and Giuliani made a number of false claims related to the election. Limbaugh praised Powell’s performance in particular, arguing that she “just dropped bombs all over the place. For instance, Trump votes were so overwhelming, the number of people who had voted for Trump, that the rigged system -- this Dominion system with the Smartmatic software -- melted down. It couldn’t handle, it couldn’t cheat fast enough.”
- Later during the show, Limbaugh again claimed, “The Democrats and the people running the cheating software, the Dominion software with Smartmatic, I think they didn’t expect Trump to do as well as he was and they had to stop counting.” Limbaugh suggested again that Chavez and also Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro are involved in operating Dominion: “They had their Dominion software machines from Venezuela, from a company owned and operated by Hugo Chavez, R.I.P., and then you have Maduro, now his inheritor.”
- The same day, Limbaugh falsely claimed that Dominion executives were “fleeing the jurisdiction” following the election: “Why are their offices being abandoned? Why are people grabbing things from the offices and throwing them in the back of cars and splitting in the parking lot, leaving the city?”
- On November 20, Limbaugh introduced Dominion as “the company out of Venezuela” and again falsely claimed the company is partnered with Smartmatic. Limbaugh also again baselessly claimed that “Dominion is fleeing the jurisdiction” and its “employees are packing up and leaving for parts unknown,” suggesting that Dominion employees were attempting to evade questions about the company’s role in the election.
- During the same show, Limbaugh played another Powell interview and agreed with her suggestion that the federal government should be involved in investigations into Dominion. Limbaugh asked, “Where is the federal government ensuring that its own institutions are protected and have integrity? Where is the FBI and the DOJ investigating Dominion?”
- On December 7, Limbaugh promoted a debunked claim on social media that a test conducted on Dominion software in Ware County, Georgia, revealed that the software was artificially increasing the number of reported Biden votes. Limbaugh read from a piece which claimed, “A shocking Twitter thread appeared today that presented an exceptionally disturbing piece of evidence showing the extreme likelihood of massive voter fraud through Dominion Voting Systems.”
- Two days later, Limbaugh claimed, “I think what really happened is that they had no idea just how big a victory Trump was going to secure here. … Then they had to do some real dancing to get these Dominion machines to spit out the number of votes that they needed for Biden in order to stop what was happening for Trump.”
- On January 8, a caller to Limbaugh’s show complained that Dominion executives had not been subpoenaed to come before Congress. In response, Limbaugh noted that Dominion sued Powell for defamation and told the caller, “Dominion, you’ve got to look at who they’ve got on their side out there, Bob. They’ve got the entire Democrat Party. They’ve got the Georgia governor and lieutenant governor -- or secretary of state. They’ve got Venezuela. They’ve got the ghost of Hugo Chavez. And you want Lindsey Graham to subpoena them?” Limbaugh suggested that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) would be intimidated by Powell’s lawsuit, arguing, “Lindsey Graham can look at what they are doing. Lindsey Graham doesn’t have a billion dollars either.”