Networks Booking Election-Deniers Helps Keep Trump’s Big Lie Alive

Rep. Steve Scalise to concede that the 2020 election was conducted fairly on ABC’s This Week Sunday, as the network came under fire for knowingly bringing on a guest who has helped fuel the so-called “Big Lie” that Donald Trump actually won the election, but that it was “stolen” from him due to widespread voter fraud. Several recounts and more than found no meaningful fraud in the exhaustively scrutinized 2020 election. Yet that didn’t stop Scalise from 146 Republicans last month in trying to overturn the election results—just hours after the deadly insurrection at the Capitol.

On Sunday’s program, Scalise went largely unchallenged in promoting baseless election-theft claims and even dodged what should’ve been an easy layup. “Joe Biden won the election. He is the legitimate president of the United States,” said host Jonathan Karl. “The election was not stolen, correct?” Scalise responded with vague, misleading references to “states that did not follow their state laws” and “the problems that happened with the election” that “millions of people are still concerned about.” Pressed by Karl to “just answer” the “very simple question” of whether November’s election was indeed free and fair, Scalise acknowledged Biden became the legitimate president “once the electors are counted,” but continued undermining the legitimacy of the results—with little, if any pushback, from Karl, as Mehdi Hasan, a host on NBC’s Peacock channel, noted:

Uproar over the appearance underscores the question of whether networks should be booking such guests at all, knowing that doing so could help propagate Trump’s dangerous “fraud” narrative, which is now being wielded by Republicans around the country to restrict voting in the future. “The networks are actively helping Republicans spread this lie,” The Daily Show digital producer Matt Negrin , adding: “There is no good-faith explanation for inviting a Big Liar onto your show to ask them about anything at all, let alone the very topic they spent months lying about to overthrow democracy.” In December, as many Republican lawmakers still refused to acknowledge Biden as president-elect despite every major network and the Associated Press calling the election weeks earlier, Negrin a solution to TV journalists: when interviewing a politician, start by asking them point-blank to confirm that Biden won the election and is president-elect, with any answer besides ‘yes’ resulting in the termination of the interview.

Trump his bogus “stolen” election claims last week, as he emerged for his first post-presidency television interviews on the friendly terrain of Fox News, Newsmax, and OAN. But even beyond Trump, sowing doubts about the election has remained a focus of the GOP, as evidenced by members committed to regurgitating such fictions on air: Scalise is merely the latest of a string of election-denying politicians to be booked by respectable Sunday shows long after the election was called and dozens of Trump lawsuits failed. Just days before a violent pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol to stop the certification of Biden’s clear and decisive victory, Senator Ron Johnson the Big Lie on NBC’s Meet the Press, suggesting that Republican anti-democracy efforts were actually in defense of democracy.

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