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Fox News Meets Trump Voter Fraud Claims With Skepticism

Fox News Meets Trump Voter Fraud Claims With Skepticism

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Nearly a decade ago, Donald J. Trump had a regular Monday slot on the Fox News morning show “Fox & Friends,” and it has been a reliably friendly venue for him throughout his presidency. But more recently, the show has been cool to his unsubstantiated claims of widespread vote fraud.

On Thursday’s episode, the co-host Steve Doocy challenged Pam Bondi, a former attorney general of Florida and a Trump supporter, over her comment about “fake ballots that are coming in late.”

“Pam, did you just say fake ballots?” Mr. Doocy asked.

“There could be. That’s the problem,” Ms. Bondi replied.

“Have you heard stories of ballots that are fake?” Mr. Doocy pushed back. “And if so, just tell us what you know.”

Ms. Bondi did not cite specific examples, instead saying, “We know that ballots have been dumped.”

The night before on Fox News, the star opinion hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity spoke ominously about the vote results — but stopped short of endorsing President Trump’s dismissal of the election as “a fraud on the American public.”

Mr. Hannity expressed his doubts about the vote in a series of questions: “Do you trust what happened in this election? Do you believe these election results are accurate? Do you believe this was a free and fair election? I have a lot of questions.”

ImagePam Bondi, right, a Trump campaign adviser, was challenged on “Fox & Friends” by Steve Doocy, far left, over her comment about “fake ballots that are coming in late.”
Credit…Fox News

Laura Ingraham, who was in the White House’s East Room early on Wednesday when the president called the election “an embarrassment to our country,” spoke more pointedly on her 10 p.m. show that day. She claimed that Democrats were trying to “destroy the integrity of our election process with this mail-in, day-of registration efforts, counting after the election is over, dumping batches of votes a day, two days, maybe even three days after an election.”

Ms. Ingraham added, at one point, “If they won fair and square, they won fair and square, and that’s fine.”

Wednesday’s episode of “The Ingraham Angle” also included an interview with former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was bare knuckled.

“I think as they watch Joe Biden’s Democratic Party steal the election in Philadelphia, steal the election in Atlanta, steal the election in Milwaukee, I think the more information that comes out, the greater the rage is going to be,” he said.

Mr. Hannity, Mr. Carlson and Ms. Ingraham hosted their shows after a day of skeptical coverage on Fox News.

When Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and the president’s son Eric Trump were laying out a case for election fraud during a news conference carried live by the network, the anchor Neil Cavuto cut in, declaring that Fox News had called Michigan for Joseph R. Biden Jr. Later in the broadcast, Mr. Cavuto said those who doubted the election’s integrity “would have to prove that illegality.”

The Fox News politics editor, Chris Stirewalt, echoed that sentiment, saying of the Trump campaign’s legal challenges: “Lawsuits, schmawsuits — we haven’t seen any evidence yet that there’s anything wrong.”

Efforts to challenge claims of fake ballots and widespread illegal voting came up in several Fox News segments, where anchors like Chris Wallace and Bret Baier and their guests called repeatedly for evidence of wrongdoing instead of uncorroborated accusations.

Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, said on Fox News: “Even if you are able to prove a number of instances of really heinous fraud, but it turns out that you can prove that happened a hundred times and the margin of victory in the election is 20,000 votes, you have some very unfortunate situations — but it doesn’t affect the outcome of the election.”

Outside of Fox News, anchors were blunt in their dismissals of the president’s claims. On Thursday morning, CNN’s Alisyn Camerota read a thread of Twitter posts in which Mr. Trump said that “we hereby claim the State of Michigan if, in fact, there was a large number of secretly dumped ballots as has been widely reported!”

“Fact-check,” Ms. Camerota said. “There is no evidence of any secretly dumped ballots there or elsewhere.”

On Wednesday night on CNN, the White House correspondent Jim Acosta said some Republicans were criticizing Mr. Trump’s legal attacks “as an ambulance-chasing routine.” Earlier, Michael Smerconish, a radio host and CNN contributor, said, “You can’t just make baseless allegations, and you also can’t talk about ballots that really haven’t even been counted yet as being fundamentally unfair.”

On MSNBC, a network popular with liberal viewers, the host Nicolle Wallace said on Wednesday that the channel was not “going to amplify” the president’s tweets claiming fraud by showing them on television.

“Donald Trump is also tweeting misinformation about alleged fraud — lies so flagrant that they’re almost difficult to find amid the warnings and flags the social media companies have placed on and around them,” Ms. Wallace said.

The MSNBC anchor Brian Williams said, “There is no evidence that these are anything but legally cast votes in states that allow them to be legally cast.”

Not all news coverage sought to debunk the false claims of voter fraud. After Election Day, the conservative cable network One America News posted two videos, together viewed more than 500,000 times, that pre-emptively declared victory for Mr. Trump and made unsubstantiated accusations that Democrats were throwing out Republican ballots.

YouTube removed ads from both videos and tagged them with a warning note. The videos were left up, said Ivy Choi, a YouTube spokeswoman, because although they contain “demonstrably false” information, they do not violate the platform’s guidelines, which prohibit content that misleads or discourages viewers about voting.

Source: | This article originally belongs to Nytimes.com

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