Following the January 6 insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol, Media Matters analyzed the social media presence of conservative activist group Judicial Watch and its president, Tom Fitton, who has spread baseless conspiracy theories about “voter fraud,” called to overturn the 2020 election result, and exploited social media to push debunked claims about “dirty voting rolls.”
Across multiple popular social media platforms, Fitton pushed conspiracy theories relating to Smartmatic or Dominion Voting Systems in repeated attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. Similar conspiracy theories relating to Smartmatic or Dominion Voting Systems have proliferated throughout the right-wing media landscape, and conspiracy theorists have been met with lawsuits. We’ve compiled these examples from Fitton below, including links to the various platforms where we found them:
Tom Fitton: “What happened in that one county in Michigan, in my view, is enough to raise questions” about Dominion, and “just what happened in that one place is enough for everywhere else that used this system to audit what went on.”
TODD STARNES (HOST): Tom, I’m curious. What are you guys finding out about this Dominion Voting System, these machines?
TOM FITTON (GUEST): You know, all we know is that what we read in the newspaper, and what I’m hearing from Sidney, who I trust. I mean, what I — you know, yeah, look — I’m kind of a simple guy. What do we know out there, and is what we know out there enough to raise questions? And what happened in that one county in Michigan, in my view, is enough to raise questions. Where you had a combination of human operator and computer error, in the sense that the software wasn’t uploaded properly to mix and to match the current election ballot, and resulted in a flip of votes.
Well, you know, I’ve read carefully the explanations about what went on and I encourage you to, Todd — to too, Todd. And I — you know, frankly, it’s not terribly persuasive that the problem was small or limited to that one jurisdiction. So I think just what happened in that one place is enough for everywhere else that used this system to audit what went on. [The Todd Starnes Show, YouTube, 11/23/20, Media Matters]
Fitton: “What is beyond all reasonable doubt is that Hugo Chavez used the computer system set up by Smartmatic, an election system, to steal an election many years ago. … Is that type of system widely being used in the United States, where it is easy to change the outcome of an election? … Some people say there’s evidence that actually happened. I haven’t seen it yet. But I’m open to it.”
TOM FITTON (HOST): So, going back to the elections, we’re all supposed to believe in the security of these voter machines, right? Well, wrong. We have a number of issues out there as it relates to voter machines.
The first one obviously, it’s — I go back to this Chavez controversy with Smartmatic and Dominion. What is beyond, almost, reason — what is beyond all reasonable doubt is that Hugo Chavez used the computer system set up by Smartmatic, an election system, to steal an election many years ago.
And the question is are those computer systems, election computer systems, that were used so easily to steal an election in Venezuela, is that type of system widely being used in the United States, where it is easy to change the outcome of an election? Where — I think it's fair to ask that question.
Some people say there’s evidence that actually happened. I haven’t seen it yet. But I’m open to it, because it happened once in Venezuela and I’m worried it could happen again here. Why am I worried? Because I listen to the left, I guess, right? Because the left is concerned about the security of these election systems — at least they were, up until it became politically inconvenient in the 2020 election cycle. [Judicial Watch, YouTube, 12/4/20; Facebook, 12/4/20, 12/6/20; Twitter, 12/4/20; Stitcher, 12/4/20 (unavailable); Periscope; [Media Matters]
Fitton allowed former national security adviser Michael Flynn to promote the conspiracy theory that “Dominion used this software Smartmatic” and “we have Internet Protocol addresses that go to China, that go to Serbia, that go to Spain, that go to Germany, that go to Russia, that go to Iran. … This is clear evidence.”
MICHAEL FLYNN (GUEST): On this Dominion, ESNS, which is the other system — electronic voting systems — and another company called Hart, and they — they used this version of a — of a Smartmatic — Dominion used this software Smartmatic. So, all that said, our electronic voting systems, by law, are not supposed to be connected to the internet. So, they’re not supposed to be connected to the internet. You're not supposed to do software updates prior to an election, during the election, or after the election unless it’s recertified, meaning the entire thing has to be shut down, recertified, and in — and in fact, by — if I have my dates, my numbers correct, or my — my days correct — it's 90 days prior. If you're going to make a software change, you have to do it 90 days prior to an election.
TOM FITTON (HOST): So, no patches in the middle of the night.
FLYNN: Right, no patches in the middle of the night, no patches the day before, no patches after. OK?
FITTON: All right.
FLYNN: So, and then the other thing about the internet, it’s not supposed to be connected to the internet. So, we have — we have factual evidence — factual evidence — that, because — and through — through forensic analysis — of these electronic machines having IP addresses. Right? An IP address is an internet protocol. It’s essentially an electronic handshake between me and Tom Fitton. And that electronic handshake is between one machine to another machine. In some cases, that other machine is a “server,” right, is a “server” that everybody right now is familiar with. So, we have Internet Protocol addresses that go to China, that go to Serbia, that go to Spain, that go to Germany, that go to Russia, that go to Iran. I mean these are — these are clear — this is clear evidence. [YouTube, 12/30/20; Facebook, 12/30/20, 1/5/20; Instagram, 12/30/20, 1/4/20; Twitter, 12/30/20, 1/5/20; Periscope; Media Matters]
Fitton: “Smartmatic has admitted they left [Venezuela] because of the abuse of their system,” but “we’re not even allowed to ask the question. … Are those systems susceptible to manipulation the way they were in Venezuela?”
TOM FITTON (HOST): Witnesses about what happened in Venezuela aside, we’ve had report after report, until it became inconvenient to remember those reports —
MICHAEL FLYNN (GUEST): Right.
FITTON: — that Chavez stole the election using electronic computer system. Smartmatic has admitted they left the country because of the abuse of their system. So, it isn’t — so, it’s not unfair to ask —
FITTON: — It seems to me, to ask — we’re not even allowed to ask the question. Well, can the systems that Smartmatic used, that are — and they don’t have to be one-to-one systems, but they’re all basically the same approach. I mean, they all have their own little patent related to the programming, but it’s all — you know, you can only count votes so many ways. Could those — are those systems susceptible to manipulation the way they were in Venezuela? And we’re not even allowed to ask the question. [YouTube, 12/30/20; Facebook, 12/30/20, 1/4/20, 1/5/20; [Instagram, 12/30/20]; Twitter, 12/30/20, 1/5/20; Periscope; Media Matters]
Fitton: “Biden knows he doesn’t have a legitimate claim on the presidency,” and “you have computer systems that can be breached and are breached,” therefore “undermining the administration of the elections and therefore negating them, the results.”
MICHAEL FLYNN (GUEST): You can’t deny where you have — I think we’re upwards of 50,000 — I think it’s even more than that now — I use 50,000; that’s probably two weeks old — of American citizens who have come forward under penalty of perjury and signed affidavits to say, “I saw this. I witnessed that.”
And these are powerful testimony to a fraudulent election. And so, for the media, and for the — for those at the Democratic Party who are saying, “Ah, nothing to see here, let’s just keep moving. I’m going to appoint somebody else to be secretary of this, or secretary of that, and shut up and go home — take your ball and go home,” now, let me just —
TOM FITTON (HOST): My perception is Biden knows he doesn’t have a legitimate claim on the presidency. And I think his appointments, his attitude, his behavior suggests someone who knows they’ve been caught with their hand in the cookie jar.
And I — and it's not to say that Biden stole it personally. The left and its allies broke the rules to get him in power. That was what happened.
And I think on the election, my view on the election security stuff is what we’re going to find is what you said — that they broke the rules. So, they broke the rules in a way that compromised the results — didn’t mean that the results were compromised. It made it impossible to reassure your — to reassure any normal person that they were legit.
So, when you break the rules, when you have computer systems that can be breached and are breached, and when you are changing the systems in the middle of the elections, you're breaking the law, and you're undermining the administration of the elections and therefore negating them, the results. That’s what they’re worried about.
They don’t — even if it’s just bureaucratic bungling, they didn’t want to — you know, they were going to do their patches and they didn’t think about the implications of it, they recognize that it bursts the narrative that the election was administered fairly. [YouTube, 12/30/20; Instagram, 12/30/20; Facebook, 12/30/20, 1/4/21, 1/5/21; Twitter, 12/30/20, 1/5/21; Media Matters]