On March 7, Tucker Carlson hosted Michael Gableman, a special counsel hired by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature, to highlight an interim report by Gableman about the 2020 election. The segment was touted by a spokesperson for Donald Trump. But it left out some crucial details.
Here’s some of what Carlson left out.
To start with, neither Carlson nor Gableman mentioned that Gableman has called for decertifying Wisconsin’s 2020 election, even though that’s not legally possible, according to lawyers for the legislature. That’s a fairly large omission right from the jump, and it gets worse.
Neither Carlson nor Gableman disclosed that Gableman had previously appeared at a Trump rally.
Gableman’s report, his presentation to the Wisconsin assembly, and much of his segment with Carlson were based on a conspiracy theory about Facebook/Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s private donations to the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which helped over 2,500 jurisdictions across the country hold an election during the pandemic.
As NPR reported back in 2020, “The money arrived as historically underfunded election department budgets were sapped from unforeseen purchases during the primaries and were forced to spend money on election workers, postage and printing for the increasing number of voters who wanted to vote by mail.” The NPR report even broke down how some Wisconsin jurisdictions used the money.
Conspiracy theories have swirled in right-wing circles about the grants since the election, but as NPR noted, “An APM Reports analysis of voter registration and voter turnout in three of the five key swing states shows the grant funding had no clear impact on who turned out to vote.” The Associated Press also reported that three lawsuits arguing that the funding was illegal under state law were all rejected.
Sarah Mimms at BuzzFeed News dove into Gableman’s criticism of how the state handled senior citizen voting; he claimed a decision not to send voting assistants into nursing homes meant mentally unfit residents cast ballots. She noted that Gableman's team interviewed nursing home residents about how elections work “apparently as a test of their capacity to have voted,” but that a Democratic legislator at the presentation noted that only a judge can take away a person's right to vote.
Mimms also noted that Gableman’s report asked nursing home residents “whether they would support a hypothetical candidate for office who wanted to raise taxes to create government health insurance, apparently as a test of their capacity to have voted.” And she wrote that a Democrat pointed out to Gableman at the hearing that only a judge can prevent a person from voting.
The AP also noted in a fact check that the history behind the nursing home decision was far more complicated than Gableman let on:
State law does require local election clerks to send so-called special voting deputies to nursing homes to give residents an opportunity to vote. After trying to make two visits, the deputies can mail absentee ballots to the residents instead.
But early in the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Wisconsin Elections Commission made its decision, the state was under a safer-at-home order and nursing homes were severely limiting who could come into their facilities, often not even allowing immediate family members inside.
The elections commission, split evenly among Republicans and Democrats, in March 2020 voted unanimously that poll workers could not be sent into nursing homes. The commission voted 5-1 in two follow-up votes extending the order through the November 2020 election before rescinding it in March 2021. Instead of sending in voting deputies, the commission directed clerks to mail absentee ballots to nursing home residents who had requested them.
State election commissioners have defended their move, saying they were trying to ensure nursing home residents could vote by sending absentee ballots instead of voting assistants who may not have been allowed to enter.
Mimms also noted that Gableman struggled to explain why, if there was as much fraud as he suggests, Trump did so much worse than other Republicans on the ballot.
And she highlighted one detail that might explain why Gableman is interested in a media tour right now: His contract may be up.
Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, a Republican who is retiring at the end of the year, tweeted Tuesday that he will “do everything possible to stop any effort, to put politicians in charge of deciding who wins or loses elections.” Speaker Robin Vos, who hired Gableman, did not respond to a request for comment.
When Vos first started the 2020 election investigation, under intense pressure from Trump and his supporters, he insisted that its focus wasn’t on trying to undo the 2020 election, but on providing a rationale for passing election reforms through the legislature this year. Gableman’s report, however, came too late for that. As Democratic Rep. Mark Spreitzer noted during the hearing, Vos passed a few election-related bills last week — which would not survive a veto from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers — and the Assembly is unlikely to meet again this session.
Gableman told legislators Tuesday that he is planning to continue his investigation, but that the status of his contract with Vos is “complicated” and they are “going back and forth on the terms and the scope of the continued contract.” Vos did not respond to a request for comment on the contract.
“I believe that I do have a continuing contract through the rendering of services,” Gableman said. “Others take the position that my authority ran out at the end of December of ‘21."
This segment is indistinguishable from the right-wing media segments that served as a pretext for the January 6 insurrection. We’re more than a year past that awful day, and Fox News is still throwing gasoline on American democracy. It’s only going to get worse.