October 27, 2021|Updated October 27, 2021 at 7:11 p.m. EDT
On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal published a letter written by former president Donald Trump in which he makes a number of claims about the results of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania. Below, the 14 things you need to know about the letter.
The Wall Street Journal should not have published it without assessing the claims and demonstrating where they were wrong, misleading or unimportant.
The Journal would have been better served had it explained why it chose to run the letter without contextualizing it, since that might have at least offered some clarity on the otherwise inexplicable decision, but it didn’t.
Even if those who decided to publish the letter lacked the resources to fact-check each of the claims, they might have pushed back on obviously false claims, as when Trump falsely claims that Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg spent millions of dollars to “interfere in the Pennsylvania election.”
They might also have noted that the organization that Trump repeatedly cites as an authority for his claims, the “highly respected” group Audit the Vote PA, has no actual experience in evaluating elections.
Or, perhaps, that the organization’s website includes allegations of fraud that are themselves obviously false. This includes a reference to former Trump administration official Peter Navarro’s collection of fraud claims and a presentation by Douglas Frank, a close ally of MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.
They could have pointed out that the first claim in Trump’s letter, about late-arriving mail ballots, had already been adjudicated by the courts and wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the race. That’s even if the numbers he cited (which came from Audit the Vote) were credible, which they aren’t.
They could have contextualized Trump’s argument that changes made by the state legislature should have nullified votes by pointing out that a court had already considered this question and determined that the votes should stand.
They could have noted that Trump’s lead on election night was meaningless given the number of absentee ballots that remained to be counted. It was obvious by the morning of Nov. 4 that there were enough absentee votes outstanding to probably hand Joe Biden a victory in the state. Yet, nearly a year later, the Journal allows Trump’s claim that something suspicious happened to stand without comment.
They might have done more to elevate the fact that Trump’s loyal-until-the-election attorney general, William P. Barr, dismissed Trump’s claims of fraud, instead of letting him malign Barr’s refusal to chase Trump’s imaginary rabbits.
If they really wanted to spread their wings, they could have pointed out that a canvass of one county that claims to have identified 78,000 “phantom voters” is simply not credible. If you think contacting hundreds of people at home is trivial, you are encouraged to speak with someone who has spent even one day running a door-to-door political or marketing campaign.
The Journal could also have come back to Trump before publishing his letter, setting a higher bar for publication than, say, a guy from Ramapo who took issue with the paper’s coverage of dogecoin. The paper could, for example, have asked that Trump offer some baseline number of examples of proven, demonstrated fraud, not simply various numbers dependent on amateur analyses of voter data. It could have insisted that the former president of the United States, a billionaire, present whatever concrete evidence of fraud he should have ascertained nearly a year after the election and with all of the power of his political party and his pocketbook at his disposal.
The paper could have come back to Trump and asked him why he didn’t include various other claims of fraud in the state that he has in the past embraced. He once claimed that the state had 205,000 more votes than voters, a claim debunked in December, given that it was based on flawed analysis of voter data (including from the same system on which many of his Audit the Vote claims are based). Why was that debunked claim excluded when others weren’t?
The main thing you need to know about the letter, of course, is that Donald Trump is still railing against his election loss 358 days after it occurred. And that prominent institutions are still enabling his dangerous misinformation more than 358 days after they should have known better.