Fox News has been a pernicious contributor to President Donald Trump’s continued misinformation about mail-in voting, both from its opinion hosts as well as avowed “news side” figures. And on Tuesday afternoon, as a further example of the Trump-Fox feedback loop, one of the network’s foremost news correspondents uncritically amplified another election falsehood that the president told to the press.
During Bill Hemmer Reports, Fox News chief White House correspondent John Roberts played a clip of Trump speaking to reporters earlier in the afternoon, in which the president claimed that a failure to have the votes counted and a winner declared on election night would be “totally inappropriate, and I don't believe that that's by our laws.”
As plenty of other people have pointed out, not a single state actually certifies its results on election night. The formal process “by our laws” can last nearly six weeks, varying from state to state.
Roberts did not explain any of this to viewers. Instead, he referenced the Supreme Court’s decision this week on mail-in voting in Wisconsin, which reversed a federal court’s six-day extension for ballots to be counted in that state as long as they were postmarked by Election Day. In the ruling, Trump-appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh echoed many of the president’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud by arguing that there would be “chaos and suspicions of impropriety … if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election.”
Fox News has also been promoting conspiracy theories about the presidential race in Pennsylvania, with commentators decrying a decision by the state Supreme Court to allow mail-in ballots to continue to be counted as they arrive in the mail for up to three days after Election Day. That change was made as a result of postal delays, which have continued to afflict several key swing states. Trump has also previously admitted that he opposed providing additional funding to the Postal Service because it would facilitate mail-in voting.
While there is usually no overall partisan difference in absentee voting, interest in it has risen much more among Democratic-leaning voters this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. (Polling has also indicated that Democrats are more likely to take COVID-19 seriously than are Republicans.)