Desperate for election fraud claims in California recall, Fox News grasps at misleading story of “300 ballots”

Both in 2020 and this year, Fox has twisted isolated stories about general mail theft into election fraud conspiracy theories

With California set to complete its gubernatorial recall election this week and a victory for the Democratic incumbent appearing to be on track, Fox News is continuing to push weeks-old stories — and willfully ignoring the obvious and reasonable explanations — in order to claim there was fraud in the process, even before all the votes have been cast.

Polls have increasingly suggested that Gov. Gavin Newsom is likely to win the recall on Tuesday — and as the momentum for that possible outcome has increased, so too have right-wing accusations of voter fraud, no matter how thin or easy to disprove.

In just the past two days, one story has been repeated over and over on Fox News: The claim that 300 mail-in ballots were found stolen, thus casting doubt on the entire process. The story, which previously got some play three weeks ago on both Tucker Carlson Tonight and Fox Business’ The Evening Edit, is based on willfully ignoring all the signs that the alleged theft, which also involved thousands of other pieces of stolen mail, including items such as driver’s licenses and credit cards, was more likely to have been related to general mail theft by identity thieves, rather than a person specifically looking for ballots.

“There’s nothing to indicate this was anything specifically to impact the election,” a spokesman for the Los Angeles County clerk’s office said. “It seems like this person was likely trying to steal mail.” (Unfortunately, that explanation was only included way down in the 14th paragraph of a local news article, which had also led with the sensationalized headline “300-plus stolen ballots for governor’s recall race found by California police, authorities say.”)

But on Sunday’s edition of Fox & Friends Weekend, frequent Fox guest Leo Terrell claimed that there had been “no investigation” of this story — despite the obvious fact that the suspect was found by police — and the story was used as a basis for both Terrell and co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy to question the recall’s outcome.

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Citation From the September 12, 2021 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend

LEO TERRELL (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Let me add one other point. A month ago, 300 recall ballots was in a car in a city in Southern California, we don’t know how they got there, there’s been no investigation, the identity of that person has not been disclosed. So I’m questioning the election integrity, upcoming election next Tuesday.

RACHEL CAMPOS-DUFFY (CO-HOST): And definitely in light of what happened, and what you described, I do remember that incident coming out and not hearing much about it after. It does call into question that.

Terrell appeared again later on Fox’s The Big Sunday Show, claiming that “no one knows where those ballots are,” even though the local news reports on the story made clear that the stolen mail had already been found and that affected residents could obtain new ballots. He also demanded, “That person should be charged before the end of this show,” later adding, “This is outrageous.” Terrell is a lawyer by profession, so he ought to know that the wheels of justice do not move as quickly as on TV shows — and that by all available reporting, the suspect in the mail theft case is clearly known to the authorities and had already been arrested as part of the investigation.

Campos-Duffy again raised the story on Monday morning as a guest host on the weekday edition of Fox & Friends, suggesting that the polls showing Newsom on track to win were also “maybe” not accurate.

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Citation From the September 13, 2021, edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends

RACHEL CAMPOS-DUFFY (CO-HOST): I’m worried a little bit about fraud. I mean, don’t forget that there was a meth addict who was found in a car, with stolen mail — 300 ballots in his trunk.

STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Did we ever hear anything else after that?

CAMPOS-DUFFY: Nothing. I was just going to say, never heard anything else after that. So that’s a concern out there. But also, you know, I do think maybe these polls are not accurate.

In a similar vein, a local story from New Jersey last year about a mail carrier who had allegedly thrown away an entire bag of mail — which happened to contain some ballots, it having been an election season — was twisted by then-President Donald Trump to falsely allege that mail-in voting was inherently corrupt and being misused by Democrats.

At the time, Fox News anchor Trace Gallagher painted a lurid picture on the air, imagining that gangs of criminals would “lie in wait” near U.S. Postal Service boxes in order to steal ballots, despite all reporting on the subject indicating that such criminals are looking to steal money rather than trying to tamper with a relatively minuscule portion of ballots. Now, Fox figures are using another case of mail theft to push the same debunked narratives and misinformation to their right-wing audience about supposed election fraud once again.