PHOENIX—The head of Arizona Republicans’ controversial “audit” of 2020 presidential ballots was revealed Saturday as the anonymous star of a new movie claiming the election was stolen, raising questions about how credible any upcoming report from the supposed audit could be.
The revelation of Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan’s involvement in the conspiracy theory movie The Deep Rig came at the film’s premiere in a church on the outskirts of Phoenix, as Arizona Republicans gathered to celebrate the count’s end.
The Deep Rig, which is based on a book by former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, features an array of discredited voter-fraud hunters presenting a hodgepodge of theories claiming that Joe Biden stole the election from Donald Trump. But while Deep Rig’s claims may be on the fringe, its premiere drew support from top Arizona Republican officials, with GOP state Sen. Sonny Borrelli and Reps. Mark Finchem and Walt Blackman in the audience.
As the head of Cyber Ninjas, Logan was in charge of the audit of 2.3 million ballots ordered by the Republican-controlled state Senate. For much of The Deep Rig, Logan’s identity is obscured through blurring and a voice modulator, identified only as “Anon” as he argues that the CIA was behind “disinformation” around the election.
Towards the end of the film, however, Logan’s identity is revealed. The crowd of a couple hundred people at the premiere at Phoenix’s Dream City Church exploded in applause when Logan was revealed as the conspiratorial “Anon.”
While the Deep Rig audience was thrilled to see Logan in the film, his participation had long been suspected by reporters tracking the audit. In a trailer for the film released in early June, Logan’s voice wasn’t changed, meaning that “Anon” was quickly identified as Logan himself.
The Cyber Ninjas audit has been criticized by both elections experts and the Justice Department, with observers noting audit procedures often changed or were nonsensical. After the premiere, auditor Bob Hughes told the audience that the audit included procedures to find bamboo fibers, which would have supposedly revealed the ballots were manufactured in Asia.
Along with Logan, The Deep Rig featured amateur election-fraud sleuths pushing baseless claims. Another segment of the film centered on activist Joe Oltmann, who claimed to have infiltrated a local “antifa” conference call ahead of the election and discovered them talking about a man named “Eric” rigging the election.
In the aftermath of the vote, Oltmann’s claims were embraced by right-wing media as supposed evidence that Dominion Voting Systems employee Eric Coomer stole the election. That false allegation has proven to be totally baseless, however, with right-wing outlet Newsmax retracting its claims against Coomer in May.
The Deep Rig was directed by Roger R. Richards, whose UFO conspiracy theory movie Above Majestic posited aliens were involved in the 9/11 attacks. While mainstream reporters often struggled to report from the stadium where the audit was being conducted, the footage from Deep Rig’s suggests its team had close-up access to the inspections, filming ballots from the counting floor.
Conspiracy theorists were given prominent roles at the film’s premiere. In the lobby, a group of right-wing activists manned a booth with brochures claiming that the United States is in fact a bankrupt corporation ruled by London, urging attendees to declare their “real” American citizenship.
The event was hosted by Ann Vandersteel, a prominent QAnon booster. QAnon references also appeared in the film, with former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn wearing bracelets bearing the QAnon slogan ‘Where we go one, we go all’ during his interview in the movie.
But not everyone who believed in the voter fraud conspiracies outlined in the film was universally welcome at the premiere. A brief speech at the event from QAnon conspiracy theorist Austin Steinbart, who has claimed to be Q himself and is known as “Baby Q” to his supporters, set off a minor controversy.
Steinbart, who helped find the church as the location for the premiere, is set to appear in an upcoming film from Richards about QAnon. Steinbart addressed the audience before the film was shown to promote his series of QAnon-themed meet-up groups, but didn’t mention QAnon, telling The Daily Beast later that a member of Byrne’s camp asked him not to bring up the conspiracy theory.
Steinbart, who is controversial even among other QAnon believers, has been derided as a would-be cult leader or fame-seeker by more prominent QAnon promoters. Steinbart also has a checkered legal history, after being pleading guilty to a felony in April. Steinbart’s legal travails with federal prosecutors included being busted with a synthetic penis, in an apparent attempt to evade drug tests for marijuana while out on bail.
Steinbart’s speech, in which he was introduced as an “AZ Deep Rig Field Operative,” infuriated leaders of other QAnon factions watching the event on a $45-per-person livestream. Commenters across QAnon social media groups claimed Byrne and his film had been discredited by Steinbart’s involvement with the event.
As the premiere went on, Byrne’s group attempted to distance themselves from Steinbart in a post on social media app Telegram.
“As live events go with so many moving parts, we did notice that Austin Steinbart was somehow put into the lineup last minute by an unknown party,” the post read. “To be clear, Patrick Byrne, General Flynn, and The America Project have no affiliation with Austin Steinbart, and he certainly has no part in The Deep Rig movie.”
Despite the QAnon fracas, The Deep Rig appeared to be a hit with much of the audience, many of whom had their own conspiracy theories to promote. Local Republican activist Sandy Barrett told The Daily Beast about her belief in a conspiracy theory, popular among Arizona Republicans, that a chicken coop fire at a farm owned by the family of a local Republican politician opposed to the audit was actually an attempt to dispose of pro-Trump ballots.
“I think Trump ballots went up!” Barett said.
The premiere doubled as a party for Republicans activists in the state who had pushed lawmakers to organize the audit. While any report from Cyber Ninjas is likely to be hotly disputed, Republicans have seized on a report as the first step in overturning Arizona’s 2020 results, or even somehow putting Trump back in the White House.
Shelby Busch, a conservative activist who was one of the audit’s most vocal backers, urged audience-members to keep an election-fraud journal to share with their descendants.
“Your great-grandkids are going to talk about this day, and they're going to be able to say, ‘My grandma and my grandpa, guess what?’” Busch said. “‘They wrote history.’”