News media faces conundrum as Republicans baselessly cry 'fraud' again, this time in California

Tuesday’s California recall is American politics in a nutshell.

“Recalls are weird,” Ari Melber mentioned on MSNBC Monday night time. This recall is certainly bizarre. This second in politics is bizarre and tumultuous and toxic. It’s arduous for anybody however information junkies to make sense of the nonsense.

This recall is particularly about California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and the Republicans who’re attempting to unseat him, however it’s additionally about Covid-19. It’s additionally about Donald Trump and his takeover of the Republican get together. It’s additionally in regards to the GOP’s adherence to voter fraud fabrications that deny the Democratic get together’s legitimacy and undercut democracy. It’s “a preview of coming attractions,” Newsom’s high strategist Sean Clegg advised reporters in Long Beach on Monday.

How so? Well right-wing media retailers have seeded a “stolen election” storyline, placing forth the cockamamie concept that Democrats can solely win in (darkish blue) California if there’s mass vote fraud. It’s the Big Lie playbook on the state stage. It’s as a result of “they know that this dude is going to lose,” Joy Reid mentioned on MSNBC Monday night time.
That “dude” is the GOP’s main contender in the election, Larry Elder, the far-right radio host turned politician. Elder has repeatedly advised Fox audiences that he’s frightened about dishonest. He has not dedicated to accepting the outcomes of the election, as NBC’s Jacob Soboroff confirmed by asking him the question a number of occasions.
Trump made all of it worse on Monday by saying in a press release, “Does anybody really believe that the California Recall Election isn’t rigged?” He explicitly sided with the “fraud” lie narrative and mentioned it is all “just another scam,” which, logically, might discourage Trump followers from casting a poll in California. Conservative commentator Rich Lowry snarkily called it “an ongoing ‘don’t get out the vote’ operation…”

“Battery acid on our Constitution”

So let’s deal with what Clegg meant by “coming attractions.” Regarding Tuesday’s election outcome, he expressed supreme confidence, in response to NCS’s Dan Merica: Clegg mentioned “there’s no scenario where we lose tomorrow.”

But with Elder’s marketing campaign already alleging election impropriety, Clegg mentioned, “We saw it in the November election. We saw it in the January 6th insurrection. We do not have a Democratic and Republican party in this country. We have a democratic party and an anti-democratic party. They’re trying to throw battery acid on our Constitution, on our electoral norms. And it’s a preview of coming attractions. We’re going to see the same thing in 2022 and the same thing in 2024. And unfortunately, it’s become the Trump playbook and they’re going to it. And they’re going back to it.”

The GOP’s hole cries about dishonest are an ongoing conundrum for newsrooms. Outlets that decision out the B.S. are tagged as biased or worse. Outlets that overlook it are enabling an undemocratic idea to take root. Here’s a real-time instance: On Monday night reporters like NBC News’ Alex Seitz-Wald noticed that “Elder’s campaign is promoting a website that claims the recall is over, Newsom won, and they found voter fraud through a statistical analysis of the results.”

The solely downside, as Seitz-Wald wrote, is that “the election hasn’t happened yet.”

But this web site,, was apparently printed with the expectation that Elder will lose and can wish to problem the outcomes. The web site, bankrolled in half by Elder’s marketing campaign, additionally alludes to violence. “We MUST protect election integrity,” the homepage says. “They say that in America, there are four boxes of liberty. The soapbox, the ballot box, the jury box, and the ammo box.” The implication is that election challenges will occur on the “jury box” with the “hope” that the “ammo box” — this is a quote from the web site — “remains closed.”

Real folks learn this stuff!

A well timed reminder: Disinformation campaigns about campaigns and elections damage actual folks. “Election officials take it personally when somebody is just making unfounded accusations about what we do,” Donna Johnston, president of the CA Association of Clerks and Election Officials, told the AP.

On the flip facet, the Los Angeles Times lately quoted a GOP activist, Matt Francis, who expressed confidence that Newsom will certainly be recalled. “He’s worked to make it happen for months, and from online commentary he’s seen in recent weeks, he senses that Californians want a new leader,” The Times wrote. “But if the recall fails?” Francis mentioned, “There is no way I am going to believe it.”

The Los Angeles Times story identified that “conservative conspiracy theories” have been portray Dems as cheaters for a really lengthy time. But it is now supercharged like by no means earlier than.

“Focus on the hard right and ignore the middle”

NCS correspondent Kyung Lah writes from Long Beach: “Larry Elder didn’t do any public rallies over the weekend. What did he do? He focused his efforts on right-wing media, talking up baseless election fraud claims. It’s all ridiculous given the two to one registration advantage Democrats have over Republicans. With Trump chiming in today, it’s similar to the behavior I’m seeing when I cover Arizona’s sham ‘audit’ — focus on the hard right and ignore the middle. It just struck me as illogical since Elder needs a bigger, not smaller audience.”

Lowry’s take

Brian Lowry writes from L.A.: “The recall process in California is obviously strange, but the current use of it has been especially so. I can’t help but note the contrast to 2003, where Arnold Schwarzenegger capitalized on his celebrity and the shortened election cycle to muscle his way into politics, and I think a lot of people took the wrong lesson from it. Schwarzenegger was opportunistic, but he was serious about wanting the job. During the latest election, at times it seemed as if the two most media-friendly GOP contenders in the race, Elder and Caitlyn Jenner, were campaigning with one eye on the governor’s office and the other on media opportunities in the election’s wake. Media Matters’ Matthew Gertz tallied up the Fox appearances by candidates, which suggested that in the battle for attention, Elder could be a winner in terms of his current vocation even if the vote doesn’t go his way.”

For the report

— To get caught up on how a recall works, try Zachary B. Wolf’s “speed read.”
— NCS’s Maeve Reston has “five places to watch” in the recall.
— Reality-based GOP strategist Rob Stutzman on “Erin Burnett OutFront:” Obviously “fraud is not happening” in this race. But Elder, together with his winks and nods to election-rigging, “is just trying to be the most popular Republican in a state where it doesn’t really mean anything to be the most popular Republican.”
— For a special view from the precise, here’s Mediaite columnist John Ziegler arguing that Newsom’s “strong allies in the news media” defeated the recall.

— Cable information networks are including hours of dwell protection late Tuesday and into Wednesday for the vote depend.

— For an area report, The Sacramento Bee is plugging a “Recall Election Night Live Show” Tuesday night time.


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