Analysis | A perfect example of how obviously unproven fraud claims are sanitized (2024)

For the past four years, conservative journalist Mollie Hemingway has been laser-focused on combating what she sees as the mainstream media’s overreach on the story of Russian interference in the 2016 election. She’s been an instrumental part of elevating the counternarrative favored by former president Donald Trump, the idea that the investigation centered on Russia’s activity and possible overlap with Trump’s 2016 campaign was a partisan attempt to undermine Trump. This narrative relies heavily on cherry-picking what one chooses to elevate, ignoring the various obvious reasons that intelligence agents had to be concerned about the Trump campaign’s activity and, instead, to view as essential ancillary comments and actions. But by doing so Hemingway has earned a Fox News contributor role and repeated plaudits from Trump himself.

In announcing a new book in an article on the right-wing website for which she works, Hemingway centered it on her opposition to the Russia probe. That investigation included “baseless claims of hacked voting totals, illegal voter suppression, and extensive media manipulation,” Hemingway wrote — something that even special counsel Robert S. Mueller III didn’t find to be the case. (Her embrace of Mueller as dispositive is unusual.)

Her new book — which will be the “2020 election book the media don’t want you to read,” according to her article’s headline — apparently centers on the same sorts of claims, but in reverse. Republican complaints that mail-in ballots were rife with fraud before the election were pooh-poohed, Hemingway laments. That occurred even as the media “moved from extreme partisan bias to unabashed propaganda in defense of their preferred political party” in raising questions about an odd New York Post story centered on President Biden’s son Hunter that triggered concerns about a new Russian effort to inject stolen material into the campaign discussion.


Of course, the mail-in voting concerns were dismissed in large part because they often made unproven claims about the security of the ballots and because Trump was actively trying to undercut confidence in the election results as it seemed likely he would lose. Hemingway has long straddled the establishment and fringe parts of the political right, and her description of her new book includes a heavy focus on the line of argument that the establishment has embraced as a way to both coddle the fringe and avoid claiming that rampant fraud occurred, which it didn’t: that states expanded voting in ways that Republicans disliked.

Hemingway appeared on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show on Wednesday night to discuss the book.

Republicans, she said, were “absolutely right to be concerned” about voting because there was a “coordinated effort to change the way we vote in the middle of the game.” This, she revealed conspiratorially, was done “through the covid crisis” — referring to the coronavirus pandemic.


Well, yeah. Hundreds of thousands of people had died, and people were wary of congregating indoors to vote. So states expanded mail-in balloting.

Hemingway claimed that these changes “took away some of those bedrock protections or expanded them and made it almost impossible to detect fraud after the fact.” She didn't specify examples, though her article about the book does point to Republicans having been concerned about changing verification requirements.

But the key question, of course, is whether those purported concerns actually led to any demonstrated fraud. Hemingway clearly didn’t like expanding voting because it helped more Democrats vote, but she doesn’t want to simply say that easier voting is bad. So she instead hints vaguely at the idea that maybe more fraud occurred, somehow.

Carlson then asked her directly: “Do you think there was widespread fraud in the last election?”


Hemingway, caught off guard, fumbled for a moment.

“I think that it — what’s important — it’s important to think about what happened in general,” she replied. “You want free and fair and transparent and accurate elections in order to have free and fair and transparent elections. You also need to have a media that is behaving responsibly. You need to not have a society that engages in censorship.”

In other words, no. No, she doesn’t think that. The best she could do is claim that the rule changes made it “impossible to detect fraud,” which by itself makes no sense. There were examples of attempted fraud that were unearthed in 2020, including in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania that changed their voting rules. The total nationally, by my count, was 16 cases. Claiming without providing any evidence that rules allowed fraud to happen without detection is begging the question. It’s a ghost hunter claiming that a wily poltergeist had jammed his poltergeist-detection device.


This is the preferred way to discuss the claims Trump has made about 2020 specifically because it generally allows for the serious-minded to avoid having to embrace the former president's obviously untrue conspiracy theories. It's how people like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) framed their opposition to the electoral-vote count on Jan. 6 in an effort to appeal to Trump supporters. It treats Trump's nonserious efforts to assuage his pride as being serious concerns focused in a completely different direction.

Again, though, it’s useful to contrast Hemingway here with her presentation of what happened in 2016. Part of Hemingway’s cherry-picking to disparage the Russia probe centers on claims that Russia somehow hacked voting results, claims for which there was never robust evidence and which generally sat outside of mainstream examinations of the country’s role in the election. There’s no real question that Russia did, in fact, steal information from Hillary Clinton’s campaign team and the Democratic Party that was eventually published by WikiLeaks and used to power weeks of criticism. (Among those elevating the information released by WikiLeaks? Mollie Hemingway.) Is that “extensive media manipulation” as Hemingway phrases it? It’s not nothing. There was also apparently some effort at voter suppression, if only haphazardly and “illegal” — to use her term — largely in that they allegedly committed fraud and identity theft in doing so.

Hemingway has long argued that the left polluted Trump’s 2016 election by asserting falsely that Russians exploited the media to influence the outcome and that they’d committed voter fraud. Now, she wants to pollute Biden’s 2020 election by asserting that media companies tried to influence the outcome and that the left enabled voter fraud.

As for the media not wanting you to read her book: Go for it. But perhaps go into it with the sort of skepticism Hemingway demands of her opponents.

Analysis | A perfect example of how obviously unproven fraud claims are sanitized (2024)


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