Fox Business host Stuart Varney promoted the baseless conspiracy theory that Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta tacitly endorsed mass voter fraud based on a misreading of the contents of stolen emails released by WikiLeaks. Varney’s story comes straight from the discredited right-wing blog The Gateway Pundit, and it marks the second time in as many weeks that the Fox host has fallen for such an obviously fabricated story on air.
In an attempt to deflect criticism of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s suggestion during the third presidential debate that he might not accept the results of the general election, Varney falsely accused Podesta of arguing in an email that “if you’ve got a [driver’s] license, you should vote … whether you’re a legal citizen or not.” Varney and guest Andrew Napolitano went on to suggest that the availability of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants in California and some other states would create an environment ripe for mass voter fraud:
STUART VARNEY (HOST): Now listen to this. Maybe Trump's got a point. A WikiLeaks email from Clinton campaign manager [John] Podesta shows that if you’ve got a license, you should vote. That’s what Podesta thinks, whether you're a legal citizen or not. Here is exactly what he wrote: “On the picture ID, the one thing I have thought of in that space is that if you show up on Election Day with a driver's license with a picture, attest that you are a citizen, you have a right to vote in Federal elections.” … You’ve got to stand up and attest that you're citizen when you're not so you’ve got to lie. He’s encouraging this.
Once again, Varney is pushing a conspiracy theory from hapless right-wing blogger Jim Hoft based on an intentionally misleading interpretation of emails released by WikiLeaks.
On October 19, Hoft published a blog claiming “Podesta Says It’s OK for Illegals to Vote With Driver’s License…” in which he highlighted the exact quote cited by Varney and singled out California and other states for providing driver’s licenses to “illegal aliens.” The entire October 20 segment on Varney & Co. is based on this single blog, and Varney’s argument during the segment is pulled directly from Hoft.
Varney could have followed the link back to the original WikiLeaks source and viewed a days-long email exchange from January 28, 2015, through February 4, 2015, between individuals who would soon join Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign. At no point during the email exchange, which has not been authenticated, does any participant so much as mention the word “immigrant,” much less undocumented ones. The email in question is about how responsive voters are to easing voter registration restrictions -- such as by adopting a policy of automatic voter registration when you receive a driver’s license or other state ID -- and the author simply concludes -- correctly -- that “you have a right to vote in Federal elections” if you “show up on Election Day with a drivers license ... [and] attest that you are a citizen”:
It would still be a felony for a noncitizen to vote in a federal election, regardless of whether that person has a valid driver’s license. Trump supporters have been trying and failing to turn voter fraud into a core issue of the campaign, but the problem simply does not exist at any meaningful level. Fox News even admitted as much earlier the same day with an on-screen chyron reading “Experts Say Voter Fraud Is Rare.”
Varney’s face plant on the voter fraud issue marks the second time in as many weeks that he has fallen for an laughable Gateway Pundit conspiracy on air. Last week, the Fox Business host bizarrely claimed that an unsolicited racist email sent to -- not from -- John Podesta somehow proved that Hillary Clinton was a racist.
Varney should be more careful when regurgitating talking points pulled from fringe blogs like The Gateway Pundit, particularly when their conclusions are based on documents that the U.S. intelligence community stated on October 7 were stolen via Russian state-sponsored hacking in an effort to “interfere with the U.S. election process.”