Fox News downplays allegation that Sen. Lindsey Graham pressured Georgia secretary of state to toss legal mail-in ballots

Fox has spent weeks pushing false claims of voter and election fraud

On Monday evening, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in an interview that he had recently come under pressure from fellow Republicans regarding his state’s election results -- particularly from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who Raffensperger said attempted to pressure him into tossing legal mail-in ballots. Despite endlessly promoting baseless allegations of voter fraud, Fox News shows are downplaying this clear example of election interference, mentioning it only briefly or focusing on Graham's denial of the story in coverage between Monday evening and 1 p.m. on November 18.

In an interview with The Washington Post published Monday, Raffensperger said that he spoke with Graham on November 13 about Georgia’s election, which has been called for Democratic President-elect Joe Biden by multiple outlets. The Post reported that Graham asked “about the state’s signature-matching law and whether political bias could have prompted poll workers to accept ballots with nonmatching signatures, according to Raffensperger. Graham also asked whether Raffensperger had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of nonmatching signatures.” Raffensperger said he was “stunned” by the suggestion and even though he doesn’t have the power to do what Graham had seemingly asked, “it sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road.” For his part, Graham admitted that they spoke but said that Raffensperger’s account of what happened was “ridiculous.” A witness to the call, Georgia election official Gabe Sterling, confirmed Raffensperger’s interpretation of the conversation. 

After the story broke on Monday evening, none of Fox News’ evening or prime-time shows covered the report. The following day, Fox correspondents Griff Jenkins and John Roberts briefly mentioned it -- emphasizing that Graham has denied the story -- amid a handful of broad election-related reports during Fox & Friends First, Fox & Friends, and Special Report with Bret Baier. During these programs, no anchors, hosts, or guests commented on or discussed the story. During the Tuesday edition of America’s Newsroom, co-anchors Sandra Smith and Trace Gallagher discussed the story briefly before interviewing Raffensperger and asking him to respond to Graham’s full statement denying what happened. 

That evening, Fox host Sean Hannity hosted Graham to strongly push back against Raffensperger’s claims. Later in the program, Hannity asked viewers if they can trust Raffensperger to “run a fair and free recount” and even implied that he could cheat during the upcoming Georgia runoff elections in January to decide “the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.”

Video file

Citation From the November 17, 2020, edition of Fox News' Hannity

Many Fox News hosts, anchors, and guests have devoted coverage in the aftermath of the election to breathlessly backing up President Donald Trump’s baseless allegations of widespread voter and election fraud in an attempt to delegitimize Biden’s win. Yet when presented with the credible claim from a high-ranking Republican state official that Graham is attempting to illegally intervene in the vote count of Georgia, Fox News shows have downplayed or even ignored the topic.


Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for Fox News Channel for any of the terms “Lindsey” or “Graham” within close proximity to any of the terms “throw out,” “throw away,” “invalidate,” “exclude,” “ballot,” “illegal,” or “Raffensperger” or any variations of any of the terms “vote” or “disqualify” from November 16 through 1 p.m. EST November 18, 2020.