On KQED's Forum, Angelo Carusone points out that misleading election stories will be used to justify new laws suppressing votes

On KQED's Forum, Angelo Carusone discusses right-wing media pushing election conspiracy theories, 9/15/21

Audio file

Citation From the September 15, 2021, edition of KQED's Forum

MINA KIM (HOST): Well, let me bring Angelo Carusone into the conversation, president and CEO of Media Matters. Angelo, thanks so much for being with us.


KIM: I know that Media Matters has been tracking a few stories of alleged voter fraud in California. And one of the stories that you tracked involved an early voting location in Woodland Hills. Can you talk about this quickly?

CARUSONE: Sure. I mean basically, the issue is there was an initial local news report that pointed out that some individuals were showing up to polling locations and were being told that they had already voted. And it didn't really get into all the details. But that was basically the initial report. And what the right wing took away from that and radically exploited was that so — that tons of people who were being falsely denied the ability to vote. And so we reached out, it was a really easy thing to clarify. We reached out to election officials and what they told us was that, yeah, a couple of the machines that they had, had some kind of technical glitch on them and they were able to fix them pretty quickly. And not a single person that was told that they had already voted incorrectly was denied the ability to vote. They were all issued provisional ballots and they swapped out the machines. And so that was an example where the kind of normal things that can make it happen and the systems that we have in place to check these things were actually an example of the system working – were actually exploited by the right-wing media.

KIM: So how did this story gain so much traction in right-wing media?

CARUSONE: I mean, a big piece of it is that the right-wing media has been saying this narrative that only election fraud, at least for up until this point, can account for the results of California. And so what they did is they back-filled that narrative with examples. And so when that story broke over the weekend, it started to be repeated by right-wing officials online. And before you know it, it's on Breitbart, it's on talk radio, it's getting pickup on One America News and all of the traditional right-wing echo chamber. And that's how a story, an anecdote, a small example that has been radically taken, you know, out of time and place actually ends up helping reinforce the broader false narrative that the election is being stolen.

KIM: Sonja Diaz was talking about her concerns around this being the Republican playbook in the California Republican Party, playing into it as well. I'm just curious, based on your analysis of media, what you think.

CARUSONE: I think that it is definitely not just limited to California and that, broadly speaking, the narrative leading up to the election, regardless of how long they continue to push it afterwards, all of these little anecdotes like that one that I just pointed out still have legs. And they're going to continue to be pointed to as causation for why there needs to be harsher, stronger voter protection laws, which are actually just suppressive efforts, you know, disguised to respond to a problem that doesn't seem to exist. You know, that story was an example of the system and the checks working, and yet that will be exploited to help make it harder for people to vote and more largely to continue to attack and undermine the idea about democracy as a whole. And I think that's, to me, the real takeaway.