Despite purportedly working on the “straight news” side of Fox Business’ programming, anchor Maria Bartiromo has been steadily pushing a conspiracy theory in which public health guidance about COVID-19 is just a smoke screen for Democrats to commit voter fraud in the upcoming midterm elections. Bartiromo picked up the term “midterm variant” from Republican politicians — and she’s not alone at the network in spreading the idea, either.
This claim is also tied to the network’s long-running attempts to lie about mail-in voting, after Fox News spread the Trump administration’s discredited claims. Fox painted lurid fantasies about mail-in voting in the run-up to the 2020 election, claiming it leads to fraud, then attempted to invalidate hundreds of thousands of votes in order to support Trump’s effort to subvert the election.
Now, it seems, the network is dusting off its playbook to undermine the upcoming midterm elections. Bartiromo communicated directly with the Trump White House in its efforts to subvert the 2020 election, and she also had discussions with Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich (and now-U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker) about sending supposed election thieves to prison. (Voting technology firm Smartmatic is now suing Fox News for $2.7 billion — and has named Bartiromo as a defendant for her role in promoting the conspiracy theory which said that the company altered the 2020 election result.)
In this latest instance, it appears that Bartiromo picked up the talking point about a “midterm variant” from a different Republican politician — and she has since made it her own.
- Missouri Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Eric Schmitt appeared to introduce the idea of the “midterm variant” to Maria Baritomo when he accused President Joe Biden of attempting to seize control of election procedures: “If he can't get federal — and he can't federalize the elections, there will be a midterm variant, watch, that's coming, where he empowers administrative agencies.” In a later segment, he said, “And by the way, get ready — no, and get ready for the midterm variant. That's what's coming, right.” On both occasions, Bartiromo applauded the point, initially calling it a “great point” and later commenting, “You know, I'm laughing but it's not funny.” [Fox News, Sunday Morning Futures, 1/16/22; Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 1/28/22]
- While talking to Fox contributor Dr. Marty Makary, Bartiromo predicted, “Well, it certainly feels like it's all about power for these politicians, honestly. I'm waiting patiently for the quote, unquote, ‘midterms variant,’ OK. We're going to see the midterm variant coming up soon. They'll call it something else ahead of the midterm elections.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 4/12/22]
- After ranting about the government allegedly censoring the truth about the origins of COVID-19, Bartiromo claimed, “So, is this all by design going into the midterm elections, and I mean it about the midterm variant.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 4/29/22]
- While discussing the impact of the Roe draft leak Bartiromo said, “If this doesn't work for them, there's always the midterms variant,” adding “Maybe that keeps us all home from voting and forcing us to do mail-in.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 5/3/22]
- While discussing the GOP’s agenda after the midterm elections, Bartiromo posited that the midterms will be impacted by “the midterms variant,” saying, “How about if the Republicans take over? Because The Washington Post is reporting more COVID on the horizon in the fall. As I've been predicting, the midterms variant is on the way.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 5/9/22]
Previously, U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX) called the omicron variant the “Midterm Election Variant” in a tweet back in December 2021, reiterating his claims during an appearance on Fox News Primetime with host Pete Hegseth. “I mean, they’re looking at the poll numbers that have been plummeting like crazy over the last few months and they’re getting desperate right now,” Jackson claimed. “This unsolicited mail-in balloting worked so well for them in the last election, they need to come up with a reason to be able to do this again. They need to keep the fear level at a certain point so that they can justify this.”
The truth, however, is that it’s Fox that has to keep the “fear level” up surrounding elections. Both on the air and in the courtroom, Fox appears determined to keep lying about the 2020 election — and to keep casting doubt on all the elections to come.