Heading into Election Day in Georgia’s runoff for U.S. Senate, several Fox News personalities finally hit upon a key realization: The years they spent railing against mail-in and early voting may have been a huge mistake, as Democratic voters in the state have now built up a significant turnout advantage in early voting.
Fox has invested heavily in promoting Republican nominee Herschel Walker's bid to unseat incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), but all the friendly prime-time interviews propping up Walker's candidacy will amount to nothing without actual votes.
In 2020, right-wing media engaged in a propaganda campaign against mail-in voting, lodging a panoply of false claims that the process was illegitimate. Testimony to the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection also revealed that then-President Donald Trump rejected entreaties by his own campaign to promote mail-in voting by his supporters, which may have been connected to his later attempts to throw out mail-in ballots and falsely declare himself the winner after he had in fact lost the election. (The Supreme Court later unanimously rejected a Republican-led lawsuit that attempted to throw out all mail-in votes in the swing state of Pennsylvania.)
In 2021, following Trump’s defeat, Fox News embraced the latest wave of Republican efforts at the state level to restrict voting, including in Georgia, rather than encouraging Republican supporters to vote through any opportunity available to them. Indeed, Georgia is one of the states where Republicans first enacted no-excuse mail voting, only for the state party to turn against it in the wake of both Trump’s propaganda campaign and Democratic mobilization to make use of it in 2020.
Now in 2022, Fox personalities are beginning to realize the folly of what they and others in right-wing media have done. After being told time and again from their trusted media sources that early and mail-in voting was a vehicle for fraud and abuse, Republican voters are crowding themselves into long lines on Election Day in the false belief that these same-day votes are somehow more valid, while Democrats worked hard to turn out their own voters for weeks.
Fox hosts who trashed early voting must teach their viewers to “trust” it now
On Monday morning’s edition of Fox & Friends, during a discussion on potential voter turnout and motivations in Georgia, co-host Pete Hegseth brought up the fact that Republicans have fallen behind Democrats in early voting. “I’m interested to see whether — the extent to which Republicans have learned lessons of the past, and decided to really push early voting,” he said.
“They should,” co-host Steve Doocy chimed in.
“They have to,” Hegseth continued. “A lesson of the last couple cycles is Democrats — largely using COVID emergency measures — know how to bank votes, legally. They go at low-propensity voters, time and time again. And then we — Republicans count on Election Day to turn people out, which has a lot more variables for failure.”
Hegseth himself previously used his perch at Fox News to participate in the Trump campaign’s efforts to discredit mail-in voting during the 2020 campaign, and then the attempt after the election to throw out all mail-in ballots after the fact.
When the subject of early voting came up on the Monday edition of Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, Republican strategist Michael Lee argued bluntly, “Republicans simply can't win elections with eight hours of game day turnout, when the Democrats have been working on a month-long get-out-the-vote early vote.” After attacking early voting for so long, Lee said, Republicans are “going to need a big change going forward if they expect to be competitive in any close race.”
Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo later returned to the subject, telling Lee that he had made a “good point,” and further divulging, “That's what Kevin McCarthy said to me yesterday.” Bartiromo continued, “Republicans need to find a way to trust the mail-in ballots and mail-in voting, so that it can start before game day, if you will.”
Bartiromo was previously one of the more prominent voices at Fox preaching against mail-in voting. In an interview with Trump before the 2020 election, for example, Bartiromo described the expected wave of mail-in Democratic votes as “all ballot lies,” asking Trump how he would fight them. She continued to push false stories about mail-in ballot fraud, with guests such as Trump and Newt Gingrich. This year, she also claimed that Democrats and public health officials would invent a “midterm variant” of COVID-19 in order to take over election administration and justify additional mail-in voting.
And in yet another example, on Monday’s edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, network correspondent Charles Watson concluded one report by pointing out that get-out-the-vote efforts for both Democratic and Republican campaigns in Georgia could be complicated by the ongoing rain.
Co-anchor Bill Hemmer then spoke with Brian Robinson, former spokesperson for former Georgia Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who said that Warnock “would have a very big lead” based only on votes cast through last Friday, and that Democrats had “a huge turnout operation” for early voting that Republicans lacked. “The Democrats had a bit of an advantage, because some big Democratic counties were open Thanksgiving week, and most Republican counties weren’t.” He then added that Watson was “right in the last segment — the rain could put a damper on it. That is a bit of a concern for the Walker campaign.”