Right-wing media are claiming allegations that the Trump administration is undermining the Postal Service in an attempt to suppress mail-in voting are merely a conspiracy theory. In fact, President Donald Trump’s administration has been enacting measures to undermine the Postal Service since the swearing-in of Trump megadonor Louis DeJoy as postmaster general.
Although the administration claims to be temporarily rolling back supposed cost-cutting measures that caused mail delays in June and July, a lot of permanent damage has already been done by DeJoy’s policies: Some mail sorting machines have been disassembled and disposed of without replacement plans, and mailboxes have been removed. Many are worried about the potential impacts of these changes on voting by mail, especially after the president recently admitted on Fox Business that he didn’t want to fund the Postal Service because that would mean increases in mail-in ballots. Leading elected Democrats and other policy experts have expressed concern on Twitter, including former President Barack Obama, who tweeted that the people relying on the Postal Service “can't be collateral damage for an administration more concerned with suppressing the vote than suppressing a virus.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) recently brought the House back from recess to pass an emergency funding bill for the Postal Service, which would provide $25 billion “and block operational changes that Democrats fear could hobble mail-in voting in this November's election.”
Right-wing media, in turn, have tried to reframe the uproar over the safety of both the Postal Service and the election as a conspiracy theory created by Democrats to undermine Trump’s reelection chances.
In many instances, conservative media figures tried to deflect blame or treat the idea of such measures having an impact on the election as ridiculous, pointing to previous issues with the Postal Service. Fox News hosts and contributors drew parallels to the previous right-wing narrative that concerns about the Trump 2016 campaign's connections to Russia were a conspiracy theory -- connections the network has continued to ignore despite ample evidence that has been released to the public.
- On August 17, Fox host Laura Ingraham claimed that Democrats were using their convention to spread conspiracy theories about the Postal Service, telling Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that “first it was Russia, then it was Ukraine, and now it’s the post office -- a new hoax for every time and every moment.”
- On August 17, Fox host Tucker Carlson claimed Democrats were “making up bizarre stories about how Donald Trump steals mailboxes.” Carlson then made the leap to suggest that stories about the Postal Service removing mailboxes were part of a scheme laying the groundwork for a military overthrow of the president.
- On the August 24 edition of his radio show, Fox News host Sean Hannity brought up the “new conspiracy theory” about the Trump administration’s sabotage of the Postal Service, calling it “a lie” and claiming that Democrats “are setting up the next ‘Russia! Russia!’” He also spread misinformation on the prevalence of voter fraud, citing 1,088 instances of “proven voter fraud,” a number that comes from a debunked Heritage Foundation study
- On the August 24 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, guest host Ken Matthews called concerns about the Postal Service a “fantasy” and tried to blame Obama for the agency’s problems. Matthews then blamed the postal workers union for the outrage around DeJoy’s policies.
- On the August 24 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox contributor Jason Chaffetz called the Democratic funding bill “a ruse” and “a misdirection.” Chaffetz also spread the false claim that mail-in ballots were at a high risk for fraud and said, “That's the danger to America. That's what we should be focused on. Not this conspiracy theory that the Democrats keep throwing at us.”
- On August 23, Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Will Cain claimed, “The story of the United States Postal Service is taking on a lot of the trappings of the Russian collusion story that drove our news cycle for years… Is it a hoax?”
- Fox contributor Mollie Hemingway has appeared on the network twice to claim that Democrats are pushing a conspiracy theory about the Postal Service. On August 21, she said, “Even by the standards of Democratic conspiracy theories that have been peddled by the media, this one is remarkably stupid.”
- A few days earlier, Hemingway accused Trump’s critics of “tyrannizing the American people” by bringing up issues with the Postal Service, repeatedly calling it a “conspiracy theory” and drawing parallels with “previous conspiracy theories with Russia.”
- Breitbart ran the headline: “Democrats go postal with busted mailbox conspiracy theory.”
- The Federalist claimed a new poll showed that mail-in voting and the “conspiracy” about the Postal Service was undermining public’s confidence in the elections -- ignoring the role right-wing media have played to lower voter confidence by fearmongering about voting by mail.
- Real Clear Politics’ Ned Ryun claimed Democrats have “gone from Russian collusion to Ukrainian Quid Pro Quo to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) hoax. … If we had a real media interested in truth and accountability, these hoaxes and conspiracy theories would be laughed out of the building by serious, thoughtful people - but they aren't.”
In their efforts to convince their audience that Democrats’ allegations are some sort of a conspiracy theory, right-wing media are trying to make a legitimate concern about the Trump administration’s meddling with the Postal Service look like a trivial farce.