Right-wing media erupt in conspiracy theories after GOP losses in Arizona
As right-wing media favorites faced clear losses, conservative commentators cried fraud
This week, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs was elected governor of Arizona, defeating staunch Republican election denier Kari Lake and flipping the state for Democrats. As ballots were still being counted, right-wing media figures had already begun to spread false conspiracy theories about voter fraud and claim Hobbs and the Democrats stole the election from Lake, with prominent figures — including Steve Bannon — demanding the election not be certified or calling for a new election completely.
Since the 2020 election, right-wing media have turned Arizona, and especially Maricopa County, into a hotbed of election conspiracy theories related to voter fraud and electronic voting machines. The 2022 midterms were no different.
Right-wing media figures call for a new election, Hobbs’ victory to not be certified, or her recall
The Washington Post reported that Bannon was in touch with the Lake campaign in the days following the election and was “clear-eyed about the unfavorable numbers” for the Republican. But he is nevertheless using his War Room broadcasts to echo his pre-January 6 rhetoric and demand Arizona refuse to certify the midterm election results. Lake herself previously refused to say whether she would accept the results of her election and has yet to concede the race. Other right-wing figures discussed how to recall Hobbs and called for a “redo” of the election.
- On War Room, Steve Bannon said of the Arizona election results: “Yes, we have to stop the certification. No doubt.” Bannon’s guest Greg Phillips, election denier and True the Vote founder, claimed that he “had the great opportunity to speak with Kari last night” and “the one thing that she and I both agreed upon was that it’s time — now is the time to fight,” adding that “we will not allow” Hobbs “to certify her own stolen election.”
- Right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza said that GOP lawyers should ask a judge to “set a new date” and “redo the Arizona election.”
- Right after the race was called for Hobbs, TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk and his guests (including right-wing Arizona state senator Wendy Rogers) began discussing the process for recalling her. The next day on his show, Kirk said that “there needs to be a new Maricopa County election” because “there was legitimate voter suppression” and “the top of the Democrat ticket definitely illegally ballot harvested,” before adding, “But we're talking about things right on the edges.”
- On Bannon’s War Room broadcast, prolific election denier Mike Lindell said, “I don’t think there’s a judge in the country that can’t say we need a new election in Arizona.” Bannon and Lindell questioned, “How do they possibly try to certify this election in Arizona,” since laws “were broken.”
- On Infowars, Gateway Pundit founder Jim Hoft and host Owen Shroyer compared the midterms to 2020 and the recent Brazilian election in which right-wing leader Jair Bolsonaro was defeated, with Shroyer saying, “The one difference between Brazil and their stolen election and ours is that the military is actually on Bolsonaro’s side.” Hoft also launched a sexist attack against Hobbs, calling her “repulsive” and saying, “The lady’s got a real squeaky little girl voice. … There's nothing attractive about her.”
- In an interview with Right Side Broadcasting, former OAN host and Trump lawyer Christina Bobb said that the Lake campaign has “a good argument to say the election was so poorly run it shouldn't be certified” and that “the only way to restore confidence in the election in Arizona is to redo it.”
- Fox host Tucker Carlson hosted former Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters to discuss reports of “uncounted ballots” being “mixed up” with counted ballots, and agreed with Masters that Maricopa County should do a “fresh count” of votes.
As votes were counted, right-wing media figures complained that Hobbs didn’t recuse herself and baselessly insinuated she cheated
Right-wing media also attacked Hobbs for not recusing herself from her post as secretary of state, insinuating she used the position to cheat. Right-wing media did not seem concerned about that issue when then-Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp administered his own 2018 gubernatorial election, instead relentlessly downplaying real concerns of voter suppression in the state.
- One America News host Pearson Sharp mentioned machine tabulation issues in Maricopa County and insinuated they were Hobbs’ fault because she is “bought and paid for by George Soros”: “Oh, and by the way, the secretary of state is a hardcore radical Democrat bought and paid for by George Soros, who also just happens to be running for governor. Absolutely no conflict of interest there.”
- On Infowars, Hoft said that Hobbs “should’ve recused herself a long, long time ago, but of course she is a Soros girl, and they have to make sure everything gets corrupted rightly so they can steal all these races.”
- Fox host Pete Hegseth cast doubt on why ballots were still being counted and mentioned Hobbs “is in charge of the elections there,” and said, “We don’t know whether people are cheating or not.” Hegseth lamented the rate of ballot counting in Arizona, stating, “You want to see a threat to democracy? It’s what we’re watching in Arizona right now.”
- Carlson hosted Lake to sow doubt about why the race had not been called yet, and set her up to join him in validating online insinuations that Hobbs “knew she could sit back, hide in the basement, do nothing and win due to cheating.”
- Fox host Jesse Watters claimed that Hobbs “didn’t think she had to” debate Lake because as secretary of state she “knew the game better than anyone,” adding, “They just flooded Arizona with ballots.”
- On Newsmax, commentator Dick Morris said: “It would be horrific if this election was lost or was stolen by election officials,” adding that it would be “particularly horrific when the Democratic candidate for governor is the former secretary of state, to whatever extent anyone was a fault in 2020 in Arizona, it was Katie Hobbs.”
- Fox anchor Maria Bartiromo hosted Lake to discuss election machine tabulation issues and repeatedly asked Lake why Hobbs had not recused herself, suggesting it’s inappropriate for her to oversee an election she was running in: “Is she, at the end of the day, the one who's in charge of an election that involves her? … Why didn't she recuse herself? Why didn't she recuse herself? She's part of the election.”
As votes were counted, right-wing media figures claimed the “steal is on” and amplified conspiracies about ballot tabulation in Maricopa County
Ahead of Election Day, right-wing media figures primed their audiences to accept the midterm election results only if Republicans won. And on Election Day, they seized on innocuous voting machine issues in Arizona to fuel their baseless voter fraud claims (which local officials were quick to debunk) and falsely accused county election officials of fraud and malfeasance. Spanish-language misinformers on radio and Twitter also echoed claims about voting machines, insinuating that electoral fraud was what made a Democratic victory possible.
Arizona election officials clarified that the voting machine issues did not impact people’s ability to vote, saying, “There was no one who came today with a valid ID who was turned away from the polls. … Even when we had this [issue] and we hadn’t figured out the solution, people were still able to vote. It was just a matter of maybe not voting in the way they wanted to.”
- On election night, Carlson suggested the use of Dominion voting machines “is an actual threat to democracy,” invoking Maricopa County as an example.
- Infowars host Alex Jones suggested issues with vote tabulation machines could be “false flags.”
- The Gateway Pundit published an article with the title “BREAKING: Maricopa Drops SHOCKING Sunday Numbers — Claim Only 54% for Kari Lake FROM ELECTION DAY! And Independents Went to Hobbs! — STEAL IS ON.”
- On War Room, Bannon said: “Day by day [the election is] being stolen from Kari Lake."
- On Fox, Hegseth complained: “The fact that here we are on Monday … still counting ballots raises a lot of questions for a lot of people and rightfully so.”
- Carlson insinuated nefarious motives behind the machine issues and suggested Democrats could be intentionally cheating, asking, “Is this fraud? We're not sure. And on some level it doesn't matter what it is. What we know is that the mechanics of our elections are not working, almost exclusively in states and cities run by Democrats. Are they cheating?”
- Fox host Sean Hannity claimed that votes “magically appeared” while ballots were being counted in Arizona, saying, “What, they just magically appeared? How do we keep adding hundreds of thousands of votes to the vote count that were not counted?”
- Stop the Steal founder Ali Alexander baselessly claimed there was “systematic fraud” in Arizona and claimed, “There’s no problems in any Democrat, high-turnout zone in the country.”
- Hoft published an article claiming that Maricopa County officials are “demons” who have been “gaslighting the public as they steal a landslide election from Kari Lake.”
- Fox host Larry Kudlow introduced an interview with Lake by describing the vote counting process in Arizona as a “scam.”
- On War Room, Michael Flynn complained about the vote counting, saying, “This is banana republic stuff, this is Third World stuff.”
- Bannon welcomed Hoft on War Room, where they discussed supposed “engineered chaos” and a “manufactured plan” to turn away Republican voters from the polls on Election Day.
- Gateway Pundit reporter Jordan Conradson went on One America News to decry being denied press credentials at the Maricopa elections center to observe vote counting and said it was evidence that America is “turning into a Third World country. We're losing our First Amendment right.”
- OAN correspondent Daniel Baldwin reported that “it looks as though we're seeing a very similar playbook to that that we saw in 2020 in the Grand Canyon State.”
- James A. Nava, founder of Sniper Books, tweeted: “Voter Fraud Update in the Midterm Elections: In Maricopa County, Arizona, Democrats had just a 17% turnout on Election Day. This means that 100% of independent voters had to vote for Hobbs to win.”
- Bilingual right-wing news outlet El American tweeted that: “Arizona election officials’ use of voting machines in Maricopa County has once again cast a dark cloud over a highly contested election.”
- Freddy Silva, host of Spanish-language radio show Entre Líneas, commented on election results in Arizona, stating, “Arizona, which is where Kari Lake is and where there have been registration problems, irregularities in the voting system,” is due for “a big wake-up call for not only the officials in charge of this, of the office there in Arizona and who also control the elections, but I believe for the rest of the nation.”