Over the past several days, as the president’s re-election chances grow ostensibly dimmer, Fox News’ most vociferously pro-Trump stars have seemingly grown desperate, floating baseless “fraud” allegations or conspiracy theories, parroting outright lies from the internet’s fever swamps, or making wildly undemocratic suggestions for Team Trump to prevent a Biden presidency.
In fact, at least one Fox News star has suggested that Republicans should actively disregard the will of voters altogether. Mark Levin, a well-known conservative talk-radio host who hosts a weekend show for Fox, suggested in an all-caps Twitter screed that GOP-controlled state legislatures should disregard the vote tallies and appoint electors who will select Trump in the end. His suggestion to outright curtail the democratic process was boosted by Donald Trump Jr.
In the days since the election, Fox News has seemed internally torn on how to handle the outcome of the 2020 election. Many of the network’s opinion stars have criticized or questioned the network’s news-side projection that Biden will win Arizona, all but dooming Trump’s path to victory. The Arizona call put a damper on the Trump campaign’s election night party at the White House—which was attended by Fox News stars like Laura Ingraham—and The New York Times reported that White House adviser Jared Kushner even called network mogul Rupert Murdoch to push for a retraction.
Fox hosts have insisted without any evidence that there were widespread election “shenanigans,” fraud, and chicanery by both Democrats and the media working to tip the election in Biden’s favor.
Top election officials in key states have investigated and refuted many of the voter-fraud claims pushed by Trump supporters, but that hasn’t stopped Fox News stars from boosting the allegations.
Weekend host and Trump pal Jeanine Pirro tweeted on Thursday that the 2020 election has been a “massive fraud” on a national scale. She called for federal law-enforcement officials at the FBI and DOJ to intervene in some way. Her tweet was flagged by the social-media platform as being potentially “misleading about an election or other civic process.”
Other Fox News stars have given oxygen to a debunked viral claim—boosted by Trump on Twitter—that Biden was mysteriously gifted in one fell swoop with more than 100,000 votes by the state of Michigan in the middle of Tuesday night.
Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo, long one of the president’s most sycophantic allies on the network, promoted an article from far-right digital outlet The Federalist touting the baseless claim about the Michigan dump of votes, which was ultimately nothing more than a typo that was quickly fixed by both the state and electoral data site Decision Desk HQ.
Nevertheless, Bartiromo’s tweet—which was flagged by Twitter as being “misleading”—was quickly amplified by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who added: “if true, this is HIGHLY disturbing.”
Apparently not satisfied with peddling just one election-related conspiracy, Bartiromo continued unabated on Thursday morning, collecting her favorite baseless theories into one big round-up tweet, which included the bonkers conspiracy theory—dubbed “Sharpie Gate”—alleging Arizona election officials deliberately invalidated ballots for the president by giving pro-Trump voters felt-tipped pens. The state debunked the theory, confirming that felt-tipped marker ink can be read by their ballot-processing equipment.
Bartiromo’s fellow Trump-boosting Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, who also serves as an informal presidential adviser, also pushed conspiracies about the Michigan ballots, sharing an article from disreputable right-wing blog The Gateway Pundit alleging widespread ballot stuffing in the state. The evidence: a cart seen inside a ballot-counting office that ultimately was just a local ABC affiliate photographer’s equipment in a hand-pulled wagon.
And during a Wednesday morning appearance on Fox Business show Varney & Co., Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce worried that Democrats were acting like Soviet dictator Josef Stalin by including these “128,000 new votes in Michigan, 100 percent of which went to Joe Biden” (again, the conspiracy theory centered around what was ultimately a typo). She went on to add that this was akin to a “soft coup” as pro-Biden forces were “falsifying votes or doing shenanigans.”
Elsewhere on Fox, Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis peddled on primetime star Tucker Carlson’s show the Michigan vote dump falsehood—even though it had been thoroughly discredited well before her appearance. Nevertheless, Carlson credulously bought Ellis’ false claim, touting it as further proof of widespread election fraud being used to steal the election for Biden.
“One hundred percent of the ballots,” Carlson said in disbelief. “One hundred percent of anything ought to make you nervous because it’s probably a crock. And that does not seem believable to me.”
“Very suspicious,” Ellis responded.
“You think?!” Carlson exclaimed.
While many of Fox’s right-wing stars have pushed lies and conspiracies, some of the network’s “straight news” reporters and anchors have taken to actively shutting down their colleagues’ more bombastic suggestions.
On Wednesday, Fox News analyst Chris Stirewalt dismissed criticism of the network’s Arizona call, saying the Trump team was simply “trying to prevent a narrative” that the president might lose the election.
And during a Thursday segment, reporter Jonathan Hunt described the Trump team’s legal challenge press conference as “bizarre,” noting that there was no evidence presented for their claims of widespread voter fraud. “Perhaps they are holding that evidence so that a judge is the first person to see it but at the moment, it’s simply a grab bag of complaints trying to see what might stick to the wall,” he said.
And in another Thursday afternoon segment, veteran Fox News anchor Chris Wallace further shot down Team Trump’s baseless allegations of widespread voter and election fraud. “There is nothing that rises to the level that it could be enough fraud to switch votes when you’re talking about thousands and thousands of votes between the two candidates,” he noted.
Still, other hosts have been more subtle in their attempts to rage against a potential Biden victory. While not making any allegations of fraud, for example, The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld laid the groundwork to question overall electoral integrity based on a fundamental misreading of how elections work.
During a Wednesday segment of the late-afternoon chat show, Gutfeld made a bizarre analogy comparing how Biden was behind in the vote on Tuesday evening and then ahead by most accounts on Wednesday morning to a poorly cooked Thanksgiving turkey that someone had tampered with in the oven.
“You spend time preparing for the meal and you put it in the oven and you set it and forget it. Six hours, seven hours, that’s what it is,” he said. “I don’t expect somebody in the middle of the night to come in and open up and screw the turkey, which is what happened last night. They screwed the turkey. It’s all this stuff goes on—you wake up and something is going on. I thought that was really strange.”
When the show returned the next day, the hosts tried to clarify that they were not suggesting there was a voter-fraud conspiracy afoot, just that they were simply asking the media to prove that there was no conspiracy afoot.
“No one is specifically on this show at least accusing anybody of committing fraud. All we’re saying is, show us there isn’t fraud,” host Jesse Watters said, demanding more transparency from the election process in Philadelphia, where the state election board has been publicly live-streaming its vote-counting process.