In the final stretch of the 2020 campaign, right-leaning news sites with millions of readers have published dozens of false or misleading headlines and articles that effectively back unsubstantiated claims by President Trump and his allies that mail-in ballots threaten the integrity of the election.
The Washington Examiner, Breitbart News, The Gateway Pundit and The Washington Times are among the sites that have posted articles with headlines giving weight to the conspiracy theory that voter fraud is rampant and could swing the election to the left, a theory that has been repeatedly debunked by data.
Major polls have shown Mr. Trump lagging behind the Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., in an election that will have significantly more people than usual voting by mail because of the coronavirus. False claims about mail-in voting have been a staple of the president’s campaign. At last month’s debate, he claimed without evidence, “This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen.”
In August, The New York Post published an article that relied on one anonymous source, identified as a Democratic operative, who claimed that he had engaged in voter fraud for decades. The Blaze, Breitbart, Daily Caller, FoxNews.com and The Washington Examiner posted their own versions of the article. It was also promoted by Donald Trump Jr. and his brother Eric, the Trump campaign’s communications team, the “Fox & Friends” television program and Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, according to a recent Harvard University study.
The Harvard researchers described a “propaganda feedback loop” in right-wing media. The authors of the study, published this month through the school’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, reported that popular news outlets, rather than social media platforms, were the main drivers of a disinformation campaign meant to sow doubts about the integrity of the election.