Right-wing media, Facebook spread false and debunked report of “dirty voting rolls” in Iowa

And not even Republican officials can stop it anymore

Some right-wing figures have been fearmongering about alleged “voter fraud”  in Iowa on the day of the Democratic caucuses, leading Iowa's Republican secretary of state to dispel these falsehoods on multiple platforms.

Tom Fitton, head of the right-wing legal political organization Judicial Watch and a frequent guest on Fox News, tweeted on Sunday the supposed scandal that multiple Iowa counties have more registered voters than the eligible population.

Judicial Watch’s ongoing conspiracy theory has been picked up by others, including Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk, who called for a national voter ID law, and Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft. Fox host Sean Hannity’s website also published a piece on the false claim. The article on Hannity’s website was also reprinted by some iHeartRadio station sites that carry his radio show.

Sheera Frenkel of The New York Times also reported on a viral video about the false claim, noting that it “has been widely discredited by fact checkers” but was still up on Facebook:

And that video appears to still be going strong.

The Republican secretary of state in Iowa, Paul Pate, had to step in Monday as he responded to Fitton’s tweets, saying, “This is a false claim”:

Pate also responded to a commenter to explain: “Iowa has #VoterID. I drafted the bill.”

But it didn’t do much good. Fitton replied to Pate, first to insist that his own data and calculations were accurate and then to add that “voter id law in Iowa is a check on dirty voting rolls” — seemingly still accusing Pate of maintaining these “dirty” voter registration numbers.

Pate also appeared via phone on Fox Business to address the problem of misinformation.

“We did have a little incident with Judicial Watch, who are putting out information today that is not accurate,” Pate said, explaining, “Too much misinformation can disenfranchise voters, and that's the last thing we want.”

Video file

Citation From the February 3, 2020, edition of Fox Business’ Cavuto: Coast to Coast

Neil Cavuto asked specifically: “Well, what is getting out from Judicial Watch that you're trying to clarify?”

“Well, they pulled some numbers out of the air that they're trying to indicate that we have more registered voters than we have eligible voters in certain counties, and that's absolutely not correct,” Pate said. “We work very hard to make sure those numbers are accurate, and our county auditors in our office update those on a regular basis. So, they're just, in my opinion, trying to make it look like we've got ghosts as potential voters in our state. And that's just simply not true.”

Cavuto then changed the subject to other aspects of the Iowa caucuses — rather than digging down on the fact that fellow hosts and frequent guests at Fox News are avidly spreading falsehoods.

Pate also released a statement declaring: “My office has told this organization, and others who have made similar claims, that their data regarding Iowa is deeply flawed and their false claims erode voter confidence in elections. They should stop this misinformation campaign immediately and quit trying to disenfranchise Iowa voters.”

So now that a Republican elected official went on Fox to say that the voter registration system is in fact all clean and proper, can we bank this for the next round of right-wing “voter fraud” fear-mongering?

Not really. After all of this whole ordeal, Sean Hannity is still tweeting this thing around:

Update (8 p.m. EST): Media Matters' Alex Kaplan notes that a story from The Epoch Times pushing the lie has gotten a massive amount of engagement on Facebook:

According to data from the CrowdTangle web extension, the story currently has over 106,000 engagements on Facebook.

Natalie Martinez is a former Media Matters staffer.