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CNN Live Event/Special
DEMOCRACY IN PERIL: Former CISA Director On Election Security & Protecting Democracy; Math And Science Teacher Traveling The U.S. To Spread Debunked 2020 Voter Fraud Claims; Chris Stirewalt On Threats To Democracy. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired January 18, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: A reminder, don't miss Full Circle, our digital news show that give us a chance, to dig in some important topics, have in-depth conversations.
You can catch it, streaming live, at 6 P.M., Eastern, at CNN.com/FullCircle, or watch it there, and on the CNN app, at any time, on-demand.
The news continues, here on CNN, with Brianna Keilar, and DEMOCRACY IN PERIL.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Anderson, thank you so much.
I'm Brianna Keilar. And this is DEMOCRACY IN PERIL, a new series about our political system, and the threats to it.
A year ago, this month, we watched, as the traditionally peaceful transfer of power, was challenged. A sitting president and his associates orchestrated a coup, in the end, stress-testing a democracy that ultimately held.
But it revealed cracks. It revealed weaknesses. You saw them. The people trying to exploit them, also saw them. And they took notes. And, on this program, tonight, and in the nights ahead, we're putting those vulnerabilities, under the microscope.
Tonight, we're looking specifically, at disinformation, and the way that it is poisoning the well, of the American experiment.
We're going through the looking glass, to see how the Big Lie is getting bigger, as a math and science teacher, in Ohio, who claims that he has uncovered an algorithm, proving the 2020 election was stolen, is proselytizing his so-called findings to willing conspiracy theory consumers, across the country.
We're also talking to the people, who held the line, a year ago, and continue to do so, people who told the truth, who put their country first.
We'll speak tonight with Fox's former Digital Politics Editor, who was fired after his involvement, in a decision to call Arizona, for Joe Biden, a projection that deflated any hopes, at Trump election headquarters that he could actually win, fair and square.
And we are about to speak with Chris Krebs, the Cybersecurity Chief, appointed by Donald Trump, and then fired by tweet, after he refuted the Big Lie, when he said, 2020 was the most secure election, in U.S. history.
Krebs is one of three dozen former Trump administration officials, who recently joined together, in a planning call, to figure out how to thwart their former boss' influence, in the upcoming elections. A phone call, first reported by CNN's Jake Tapper.
Two former White House Communications Directors, a former top adviser, to Vice President Pence, and former White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, also on that call.
Former DHS Cybersecurity Chief, Chris Krebs, is joining us, now.
Sir, thank you so much, for being with us tonight. If you can just tell us a little bit, about this call, or what the goal was here?
CHRISTOPHER KREBS, FORMER CYBERSECURITY OFFICIAL UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP, FORMER SENIOR OFFICIAL, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, PARTNER, KREBS STAMOS GROUP, FIRED BY TRUMP AFTER CORRECTING VOTER FRAUD DISINFORMATION, PART OF STRATEGY CALL ON COUNTERING TRUMP IN FUTURE ELECTIONS: Well, I'll tell you my perspective, from participating in this - in the phone call.
For the last year or so, I think, I've been pretty vocal. I've been on CNN, plenty of times, and in other networks as well, to talk about the danger that the former President Trump, still poses to democracy, in the way, his corrosive effect, on the Republican Party, not just at the federal level, here in Washington, D.C., but throughout state and local elections, across the country.
And so, what I'm trying to do is identify any of those fellow travelers, those folks that I used to work with, in the last administration, that have good ideas that have voices that have influence that can work to ensure that we don't have a repeat of the Trump era.
KEILAR: So, where do you start? I understand that looking at candidates, he is going to support in the midterm elections, is one place?
KREBS: Well, I think everybody's got a different view, based on their experience, and their priorities. One of the areas that I'm particularly interested in, is at the state level, so, some of those state elected officials, like Secretaries of State.
There's some pretty key elections, up in Georgia, and Arizona, and Nevada, and elsewhere, where some of the, at least front-runners, on the Republican ticket, are basically, carrying the flag for Trump. You talk about Jody Hice, in Georgia, Mark Finchem, in Arizona, Marchant, in Nevada.
And my grave concern is that, just like last time, when we had Raffensperger, Brad Raffensperger, as Secretary of State, in Georgia, where he held the line that, he placed country over party? That, we may not have those folks, with the same resolve and commitment, to the Constitution.
And so, that's the - those are the sorts of things that I'm interested in, and in, looking for partnerships there.
KEILAR: So, what happens, if there isn't a Brad Raffensperger, in place? Or actually - I mean, the Georgia law kind of guts, what his authority would be anyways.
What if there's no Chris Krebs, someone like you, who, people listen to you, when you are a Trump-appointed official, who says "This election was fair." What happens if those people are not in place?
KREBS: Well, the dynamics will certainly be different, at the federal level, with the current administration, in 2024, at least.
But out there, again, across the - across the country, in the 50 States, and those state capitols, I think that's a - it's a valid question, of what happens if you do have a, you know, someone that's carrying the flag for Trump? And what are those legal avenues open?
I think one of the things that Congress should do now, is take a hard look, at updating the Electoral Count Act, and clarifying who in fact, the state authority is that would sign out those slates of electors, so, we don't have a situation where you have a Secretary of State sign one slate, and a Governor sign another.
And that was a real threat, or risk, in 2020. And, I think, in 2024, it's even a more significant risk. So, it's something that Congress - it's low-hanging fruit that they could get on top of, right now.
KEILAR: Do you think, Democrats - do you think this administration is doing enough that they're concerned enough about the threats?
KREBS: Well, if you look at, the debate in Congress, or at least, the dialog and discourse, out of Congress, the voting rights is the number one issue.
They may have taken a long weekend, because of the holiday and the winter-ish storm we had, here in D.C. But it's driving all the news cycle. So, I think it's certainly top of mind.
I think where they're hung up apparently, is on the strategy and the process side. And so, they've got to work that out.
But I've talked to plenty of members of Congress, in both the House and the Senate that think it's a priority, obviously, the majority, on the Democratic side. But there's more that needs to be done here. We need to get past this.
KEILAR: So, we've already seen the Big Lie, and the role that it played. Now, we're seeing how it's metastasizing, beyond Trump.
In Florida, there's a Democrat, who won a U.S. House seat, with 79 percent of the vote, if you can imagine. That's a lot! And yet, her Republican opponent still hasn't conceded.
In Arizona, you're seeing Big Lie embracers, at the state and local level, trying to install themselves, to oversee elections. How do you combat that?
KREBS: You used, I think, an appropriate word, metastasized. And I think that's really what we've seen, is that this is - this is so far beyond just the former President.
It really has activated a base that has lost all source of reality, or at least they're in a - there're two separate realities, basically. And they're living in one, and we're living in another. And they think we're crazy, just like we think they're crazy.
But, I think, going forward, we have to have committed leadership, in state capitols, just like we did with Governor Ducey, in Arizona that again, held the line as a Republican. We need more principled conservatives and Republicans, when they're in office, to hold the line, and Democrats do the same.
And there are bright spots, across the country. Kentucky's a good example. A Republican Secretary of State, working with the State Legislature, to codify some of the improvements, and changes, they made. That is - that's unfortunately, an exception. We're not seeing enough of that. So, I would, you know, I'd love to see more of that.
And I'd also like to see, when you look at some of the gerrymandering and redistricting, that's going on, right now, I like what the Ohio Supreme Court did, step in, and said, "Uh-uh! This isn't playing fair. So, we need to take it back, and take another hard look at how these lines are being drawn."
KEILAR: You said, we're living in one reality and, they're, meaning, people, who think the election was stolen, they're living in a different reality. There are a lot of people living in that different reality.
73 percent of Republicans still think the election was stolen from Trump. Only 33 percent of Republicans say that they will trust the 2024 election, if the candidate they support loses.
Do you see - and look, this seems to be the conundrum that no one can answer. So, you may not have the answer. But is there a way that you see, to penetrate that, to get through, to people, who believe this, to change minds?
KREBS: I think the unfortunate answer here is that, no. There is no single solution. There's no silver bullet. I used to kind of hang my hopes on the former President actually just coming clean, and doing what was right, and telling everyone that the election was legit.
But look at what happened, when he told everyone that the vaccines work, and that he's been boosted? He's a pariah! So, that's the point of the metastasizing - it metastasizing, so far. It's beyond the control of a single individual. It really has become this kind of cult-herd mentality.
So, it's going to take a long-term effort, to reengage, at the local community level. And I do think that COVID has made this lack of grasp of reality, in these rabbit holes, QAnon, and otherwise.
It's made it that much worse, because, we lost that sense of community. People go into kids' soccer games, or whatever, and saying, "Hey, I heard, JFK Jr. is still alive." You wouldn't have said that in the before times!
How do we get back to that? That situation that, you know, those circumstances, where people, think a little bit, before they speak, and go, "You know, what? Maybe this stuff I read online is a little bit crazy."
KEILAR: Yes, the before times! We miss those, some of us, I think.
Do you think things are better now, or worse, than they were a year ago?
KREBS: It's hard to say there aren't - I don't know, if there are a whole lot of good metrics, to at least quantitatively measure, how severe the election-related disinfo is, the COVID-related disinfo is.
The social media platforms continue to take action, to enforce their terms of service. They continue to de-platform folks that take advantage of the mechanism.
Just saw, the other day, DirecTV is not going to renew OAN. And that's something that I actually - I cancelled my DirecTV service, because of their long-term support of OAN. So, this is the market working. These are accountability norms being enforced.
And so, we are seeing some, I think, gradual improvement, out there. But I think there is a really calcified, hardened base, in the diehard space that it doesn't matter what they're - any sort of countermeasure, is viewed as the Deep State, the Establishment, or, whatever, the global cabal that's out to get them.
And I think, really, what we have to work on, is chipping away at the edges, of that really hardened base, and see if there are folks that are still on the fence, and pull them back, into reality, and do it with a degree of empathy, as best we can, as hard as that is, after the last couple years.
KREBS: I've personally gotten death threats. And I don't look kindly on that. But, if we can bring folks back, I think that's one of the ways, we have to get out of the demand-driven cycles.
KEILAR: Yes. Tough as it is. You do have to empathize with people, who are being lied to, right? They're victims, in a way, some of these people, for sure.
Chris, thank you so much, for being with us tonight, Chris Krebs.
KREBS: Thanks, Brianna.
KEILAR: Coming up, a teacher, who is himself, a lesson, in disinformation. He's going around the country, spreading the Big Lie. And he tells CNN why he wants to help create a constitutional crisis.
And then, later, we roll the tape, on the dangerous, relentless fiction, about the Insurrection, being spewed by Fox, the videos that show, an abandonment of the truth, no matter the cost to our country.
DEMOCRACY IN PERIL, continues.
KEILAR: When you think of the forces that are pushing the Big Lie, maybe you think about politicians, or Russia, or even Iran. Media figures, right?
You probably wouldn't put a math and science teacher, at the top of your list! But CNN's Sara Murray brings us the surprising story of an Ohio teacher, who's traveling the country, and spreading election lies, to big crowds.
DOUGLAS FRANK, MATH TEACHER: Just about every county in the country was hacked.
(PROTESTERS CHANTING "STOP THE STEAL!")
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is how the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen gets even bigger.
FRANK: I'm standing against a whole establishment that's saying "Oh! That was the cleanest election in history!"
MURRAY (voice-over): That's Douglas Frank, an Ohio math and science teacher, who's traveled here, to Texas, and dozens of other States.
FRANK: Hi, everybody.
MURRAY (voice-over): With the financial backing of other conspiracy- minded Americans, claiming he uncovered an algorithm, proving the election was stolen. He's even absurdly claimed his findings could land Donald Trump, back in the Oval Office.
FRANK: I'd like the country, to stand up, and say "Wow! This thing was ripped off. Let's do a do-over," or "Let's put Trump back in office."
These data we're bringing in are--
MURRAY (voice-over): Frank's findings have been debunked, by mathematicians and election experts. And more than a year later, there is still no evidence, of widespread fraud, in the 2020 election.
But Frank is still winning audiences, with lawmakers, election officials, and voters, across the country.
FRANK: We're going into each state, clandestinely. And I meet, privately, with legislators, and secretaries of states, and attorney generals.
MURRAY (voice-over): He is just one, in an army of foot soldiers, inspired by Donald Trump's election lies, now trying to convince others, the 2020 election was stolen.
FRANK: Who are these 35,000 people, who mailed in ballots? You need to find out, Super-Mom.
MURRAY (voice-over): Frank is connected with women, he calls Super- Moms, who have embraced voter fraud claims, and are clamoring for post-election audits, running their own, door-knocking campaigns, to try to uncover fraud, and advocating for hand-count-only elections.
SHERRONNA BISHOP, ELECTION DENIER IN COLORADO: In Colorado, we are a Red state.
TONI SHUPPE, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC RELATIONS, AUDIT THE VOTE PA: There's absolutely no way that Joe Biden legitimately won the State of Pennsylvania.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to stand our ground, in Arizona (ph). And we need to have a real audit.
MURRAY (voice-over): Perhaps, most critically?
FRANK: So, if you don't know who I am? I'm the guy that Mr. Lindell discovered.
MURRAY (voice-over): Frank has the backing of MyPillow's CEO, Mike Lindell.
FRANK: He paid for me, to be here, talking to you. So, buy his pillows.
MURRAY (voice-over): A deep-pocketed purveyor of election disinformation.
MICHAEL J. LINDELL, MYPILLOW CEO: We have poured so many resources into this. Now, you can help out, and get a good night's sleep. I am now offering the lowest price ever, on Queen MyPillows. MURRAY (voice-over): With Lindell's support?
FRANK: Mr. Lindell flew his private jet, to pick me up, to take me, to meet with the Secretary of State.
MURRAY (voice-over): Frank has crisscrossed the country, sharing his fraud claims, wrapped in a fancy-sounding mathematical equation.
FRANK: I was the perfect person, in this world, to discover this. I have exactly the right skills.
I have found the sixth order polynomial, in every state, in the country.
They are inflating our registration rolls, stuffing phantom ballots, and then cleaning it up afterwards. It's that simple.
MURRAY (voice-over): Experts say Frank's conclusions are nonsense.
JUSTIN GRIMMER, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: He's much better, at presenting himself, as a professor, than even myself. He gets up. He has a bow tie. He talks about all this data. He talks about a sixth order polynomial.
MURRAY (voice-over): Justin Grimmer is a Stanford University professor, who looked at the data, for 42 States, and found Frank's algorithm, to be essentially worthless.
GRIMMER: I think this took my research group, an afternoon. You uncover that there's no basis for this.
But if you're not someone who, like me, spends all day, working on statistics and data, six order polynomials, and nearly perfect correlations, it sounds like he's uncovered something, really impressive.
FRANK: The red curve.
MURRAY (voice-over): Frank uses the number of registered voters, by age group, and prior voter trends, to predict voter turnout. Then claims it is evidence of fraud when it aligns with actual voter turnout.
GRIMMER: Effectively, what he's doing is he's discovered that anything that you go out and measure in the world is closely related to itself.
MURRAY (voice-over): Debunking Frank's wild claims also wasn't difficult, for Alabama's Secretary of State, John Merrill, who met with Lindell and Frank, on two occasions.
JOHN MERRILL, (R) ALABAMA SECRETARY OF STATE: Every time, they gave us an example, we were able to refute, what they showed us, without even knowing, what they were going to do.
MURRAY (voice-over): Frank blamed the, quote, "Complete botch," in Alabama, on his newly-hired staffer.
To others, Frank's presentation confirms their baseless suspicions that Joe Biden wasn't fairly elected.
ADRIENNE SOUTHWORTH, (R) KENTUCKY STATE SENATE: People say "We know that other States are wrong, but we think Kentucky must be right." And I say, "Well, how do you know?" And they have no idea. They just assume. And so, I said, "Well, that's kind of the problem."
MURRAY (voice-over): Kentucky State Senator Adrienne Southworth says she came away more convinced 2020 was problem-plagued, after hosting an event, with Frank.
SOUTHWORTH: I think the whole world is on the edge right now, of, "Are we going to continue trusting the system?"
FRANK: So, I'm a scientist.
MURRAY (voice-over): It was just one of Frank's stops, on his nationwide tour.
In Missouri, a "Voter Fraud Is Real Bootcamp" featured Frank and a State Representative, with a flyer calling on county clerks to attend.
In Colorado, Frank met with Tina Peters, the Mesa County Clerk, now under investigation, by the FBI, for her alleged involvement, in a security breach, of the county's election system.
In Montana, the Montana Free Press reported that Frank met with staffers for the State Attorney General.
Here, in Texas?
ISABEL LONGORIA, ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATOR, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS: I'm going to walk through these checks and balances again.
MURRAY (voice-over): Harris County Elections Administrator, Isabel Longoria, says a scam like Frank describes, with widespread hacking, and phantom votes, would never succeed.
LONGORIA: If you even change a period, a period, in the election programming, it sends up a red flag that immediately stops the entire process, until we can identify what would have triggered that red flag.
MURRAY (voice-over): In Harris County alone, election officials inspect thousands of voting machines.
LONGORIA: Six months out, we start checking all 13,000 pieces of voting equipment, in Harris County, opening them up. Do they turn on? Have they been tampered with? Can we take them to a voting location? Are all the buttons working?
MURRAY (voice-over): They run accuracy tests, under the watchful eyes, of bipartisan observers. And, on Election Day, they track the number of people showing up to vote, and the number of ballots cast, one of many safeguards that would catch an election, inflated by phantom voters.
MURRAY (on camera): So, somebody would have, to find a way, to break into the voter rolls, for every single county?
LONGORIA: In tandem, again, breaking into multiple buildings, multiple systems, in tandem, with not a single red flag going off, in this incredibly sensitive system, all in unison, right, as you have all eyes, on elections, from every election staff.
MURRAY (voice-over): After Frank's pitch, in the Lone Star State, this week?
FRANK: What is the media saying? "Oh, Texas might be turning purple!"
Don't believe it. You're Red!
MURRAY (voice-over): He sat down for an interview with CNN, and defended his efforts, to undermine confidence, in America's elections.
FRANK (on camera): It'll be a constitutional crisis. It will be a crisis. It's going to happen. It's inevitable. It's going to happen. And I'm helping that happen. Yes.
MURRAY (voice-over): He stands by his flawed conclusions, convinced the elections are rigged, regardless of the many experts, who have debunked his claims.
FRANK (on camera): I said, I know the elections are not real. I know the elections are being manipulated. Regardless of who wins, I just want them to be fair.
KEILAR: And Sara Murray is joining us now.
Fascinating report, Sara! Thank you so much, for taking us through that.
So, tell us about where all Douglas Frank goes? Is he mainly traveling to battleground States, where a Trump victory would have made a difference? Is that where he heads?
MURRAY: You would think that. But he has been all over.
I mean, we were looking through his events. We tracked him to dozens of States, places like Montana, places like Idaho, places like Kentucky, places that were not at all contested that were never in question, when it came to who was going to win the 2020 election.
He, and these other folks, who have questioned the results, of the 2020 election, are so committed to this. They want to spread this across the country, Brianna.
KEILAR: It's so important, to note, Sara that it's not like all Republicans are buying into these claims.
MURRAY: It is important to note. We saw that pushback, from John Merrill.
We know there are a number of other Secretaries of States that have heard, of these claims, the Douglas Frank are making, the Republicans. And they have come out publicly, and reaffirmed their election results. They have said, there is no fraud.
We also know privately, there are lawmakers, who have heard this presentation, and they come away thinking, "Huh? That's interesting. That seems incredible."
And then, they do checking, of their own. And they go back to their colleagues, other Republican lawmakers, and they say, "I've talked to mathematicians. I've talked to election experts. This is not what's actually going on."
We don't always see that all in public, because we know what the blowback looks like, from someone like Donald Trump, if you come out there, and say there was no fraud in 2020. But there are checks and balances, going on, even within the Republican Party, about claims, like Douglas Frank's.
KEILAR: Yes. Well, good for those folks, who are checking on that.
Sara Murray, great report. Thank you so much, joining us from Austin, Texas.
As we were exploring, the universe, of disinformation, tonight, we, of course, must look at the sun, around which, so much of it orbits. That would be Fox!
When DEMOCRACY IN PERIL returns, we roll the tape.
KEILAR: We can't discuss, the tsunami of disinformation, jeopardizing American democracy, without talking about the mothership, Fox. I don't call it news, even if they do, because it's not news.
It is lucrative, however, raking in hundreds of millions of dollars, for Fox Corp, last year, as it shovels out stuff like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST, TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT: Of all the things that January 6 was, it was definitely not a violent terrorist attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: So, let's not take the word, of Fox's chief propagandist, on that. Let's see what Chris Wray, Donald Trump's pick, to head the FBI, says.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Unfortunately, as you noted, Mr. Chairman, January 6 was not an isolated event. The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing, across the country, for a long time now. And it's not going away, anytime soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Tucker Carlson not one, to let that get in the way, of gaslighting 3 million people, a night. He explains it away by amplifying a conspiracy theory that it was actually the FBI that instigated the attack on the Capitol.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Strangely, some of the key people, who've participated, on January 6, have not been charged. Look at the document. The government calls those people, "Unindicted co-conspirators." What does that mean? Well, it means that in potentially every single case, they were FBI operatives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: The case that Carlson is talking about goes back to June. It involves Thomas Caldwell, who has pled not guilty. And, according to statements, in court documents? That alleged operative was most likely his wife.
And you'd think that Carlson would know this. After all, he interviewed Caldwell, and his wife, not once but twice. The second time, for a 50-minute long interview, 5-0!
Carlson dedicates so much airtime to disinformation that he produced a three-part documentary. And, in it, he pushes other conspiracy theories, like Antifa being behind the attack, which is a Fox favorite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST, THE INGRAHAM ANGLE: They were likely not all Trump supporters. And there are some reports that Antifa sympathizers may have been sprinkled, throughout the crowd.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST, HANNITY: We also knew that there's always bad actors that will infiltrate large crowds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: You want to know how disingenuous those comments are? Those same hosts were texting Trump's Chief of Staff, during the attack, trying to get him to call off the crowd.
And some Trump supporters, charged in the riot, don't want to share credit. So, that tells you something! One saying, quote, "It was not Antifa," at the Capitol. And another Trump supporter, saying, they, quote, "Proudly take responsibility for storming the castle."
Carlson also likes to go full Orwell, claiming the Insurrection, was not an insurrection.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: "Oh, it was an Insurrection!"
So, how many of the participants, in that Insurrection, have been charged with insurrecting, with sedition, with treason? Zero.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Queue the Fox backup singers!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREG GUTFELD, FOX NEWS HOST: No one has been charged with sedition or insurrection.
MARK R. LEVIN, LAWYER, AUTHOR, & RADIO PERSONALITY: Has anybody been charged with sedition? Nobody. Has anybody been charged with treason? Nobody. So, why do they keep calling it an "Insurrection?"
INGRAHAM: How many times do words, like "Insurrection," "Sedition," or "Treason," appear in Biden's own DOJ indictments, against the January 6 rioters? The answer? Zero.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Just last week, Fox's Brit Hume, tweeted, quote, "Let's base our view on whether January 6 was an "Insurrection" on whether those arrested are charged with Insurrection. So far, none has been."
Tweets that don't age well, for 200 pleas, because three hours later, the DOJ announced an indictment, charging 11 People, with seditious conspiracy. And you know who says it was an Insurrection? Them!
Oath Keepers' founder, Stewart Rhodes, quote, "You can call it an insurrection or you can call it a war or a fight." His co-defendant, Kelly Meggs, wrote on Facebook, quote, "Wait for the 6th when we are all in D.C. to insurrection." Rhodes and Meggs have both pled not guilty.
Still, alleged insurrectionists, have a greater handle on the truth, than their biggest cheerleader, who according to a federal judge, can't be trusted, farther than he can throw his pom-poms.
Fox's own lawyers argued, as much, in a defamation suit, against the network. Successfully, they argued.
The judge, in that case, quoting their apparently convincing argument, quote, the "General tenor" of the show should then inform a viewer that he is not "Stating actual facts" about the topics he discusses and is instead engaging in "Exaggeration" and "non-literal commentary."
And Fox's own lawyers argued that "Any reasonable viewer" arrives with an appropriate amount of skepticism" about the statements that Tucker Carlson makes."
Wishful thinking, perhaps, because according to Pew Research, Republicans predominantly get their political news, from Fox, far more than from any other right-wing cable channels.
When Ted Cruz, needs the biggest audience possible, to self- flagellate, for referring to January 6, as terrorism, where does he go?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: You called this a terror attack, when by no definition was it a terror attack. That's a lie. You told that lie on purpose. And I'm wondering why.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): The way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy, and it was frankly dumb. And, as a result, it's--
CARLSON: I don't buy that. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! I don't buy that for a--
CRUZ: Well, hold--
CARLSON: Look, I've known you a long time, since before you went to the Senate. You were a Supreme Court contender. You take words, as seriously, as any man, who's ever served in the Senate. And every word - you repeated that phrase. I do not believe that you used that accidentally. I just don't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: And when Fox needs to fill up its primetime lineup, who do they install? Tucker-Lite, who has fashioned himself, in the image, of Fox's demigod of delusion and disinformation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: This may be a lot of things, this moment, we're living through. But it is definitely not about Black lives.
JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS HOST: These protesters and BLM activists don't care about the evidence. And they don't care about justice either.
CARLSON: At this point, there was no remaining doubt that Kyle Rittenhouse acted in self-defense.
WATTERS: This is a clear-cut case of self-defense.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: Actually, it's a clear-cut case of how to cultivate an echo chamber, or a gremlin. Water it, feed it, until it multiplies. The only thing that stops it? Sunlight.
Next, we'll speak to a former Fox Political Editor, who was a key figure, in one of the network's most consequential projections, in the 2020 election, but was fired, after he helped Fox, make the right call, on Election Night.
His insight on how to combat disinformation, when DEMOCRACY IN PERIL returns.
KEILAR: Before the break, we talked about the ways that Fox primetime promotes disinformation. And now, we're going to explore, possible antidotes, to that.
Now, it's worth noting the people, at Fox News, at Fox, I don't call it news, who refused to push Trump's falsehoods, are leaving the network, left and right.
There's former host Shepard Smith. He decided to leave in 2019. He says that former colleagues, who lie to the viewers, know what they're doing is wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHEPARD SMITH, FORMER FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I slept very well. I don't know how some people sleep at night. Because, I know that there are a lot of people, who have propagated the lies, and have pushed them forward, over and over again, who are smart enough, and educated enough, to know better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: There's also Juan Williams, a liberal commentator, on Fox, who was removed from his show there.
Last month, two conservative analysts, resigned, in protest of Tucker Carlson's propaganda-filled documentary, on January 6. That's "Patriot Purge."
And even, former Sunday host, Chris Wallace, who quit the network, after 18 years, he joined our new streaming network, CNN+.
Joining me now is a former Political Editor, for Fox News, who was fired, after the 2020 election, when the network projected Arizona, for Joe Biden. Chris Stirewalt is with us.
Welcome, Chris. Thanks for being here.
CHRIS STIREWALT, FORMER FOX NEWS DIGITAL POLITICS EDITOR, SENIOR FELLOW, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE DISPATCH: Great to be with you. Happy Tuesday!
KEILAR: Happy Tuesday! A long way to go, I will say.
So, where do you think we are? Specifically looking at Fox, when it comes to disinformation, is it a better place, or, is it a worse place, than back in 2020?
STIREWALT: Well, I don't know. I've been gone, for about a year, since they fired me. And I'm in a better place. So, that's good.
Look, I think what people have to bear in mind, when you're watching television news, when you're consuming news, on any platform, is what's the profit model? How do people want you to receive this? What is the desired outcome for you?
And a problem that Americans have, and Fox is certainly a considerable part of this, problem that Americans have today, is people don't want to hear things they don't want to hear.
And if you say something, like, I don't know, "Joe Biden's going to win Arizona," if you say something that makes people upset, they might change the channel. And that's not a good model.
So, in the news business, we've got to get better at telling hard truths, to people, instead of always prioritizing profits.
KEILAR: Look, some of your former colleagues, at Fox, they do tell the hard truths. They do report the truth. I know folks, at Fox, who are doing good journalism. They're few and far between. There's fewer of them than there used to be.
How hard is it to be one of those folks?
STIREWALT: Well, I don't know how it is, now. I still have a lot of friends, who were there. I know that it can be challenging. Journalism is always hard, if you're doing it right. If you're doing it right, these days, it's especially hard.
There are certainly people, who are still at Fox that are trying to do the right stuff, trying to do the good thing. And I wish them the - I wish them the best.
Because people of goodwill, people who revere the Constitution, people who love America, people who love Americans, have got to work together, regardless of what network they're on, or what party they're in. Because the threats to - the threats to the Republic, the threats to democracy are too real. And we've got to treat them that way.
KEILAR: This is such a difficult problem, to solve for. I mean, you're talking about people, Democrats or Republicans, who need to work together, right?
People on different sides of the political spectrum, they need to work together. There doesn't seem to be a huge appetite for that, or you have very few Republicans, who want to do that. What do you think?
STIREWALT: The great Peggy Noonan coined a phrase, "Patriotic Grace." And I love it so much. Patriotic grace is when you don't kick the other guy, when he's down.
Right now, the Republicans have a problem with - I looked it up. It's in the new Suffolk poll. 61 percent of Republicans said they're very concerned about the future of democracy. That's just crackers. That's a big problem, for the Republican Party. But it's a big problem for Democrats. It's a big problem for the whole country.
When I watched, what President Biden did, in Atlanta, divisive, demagogic, unreasonable speech that he gave, in Atlanta, to try to push this voting rights legislation? I thought "Jeeper's Crow! If you can't figure out a way to put forward legislation that senators, like Mitt Romney, or Ben Sasse, people who voted, to convict Donald Trump, if you can't figure out a piece of legislation that will unite people, of goodwill, around the cause? You've got a serious problem."
Republicans of goodwill need help from Democrats of goodwill, because that's the coalition that will matter, for the 2022 election. And the 2024 election, is bringing those people together, to conduct these elections, fairly, securely, and appropriately.
KEILAR: Yes. We could all use a little more grace, I will say.
Chris Stirewalt, thank you, for being with us tonight.
STIREWALT: You bet!
KEILAR: And when we come back, a Reality Check, with John Avlon, on a little-noticed effort, to take power away, from independent voters, in America.
DEMOCRACY IN PERIL, continues next.
KEILAR: So, here we are, staring into a widening political abyss, as Jimmy Carter called it. Who is working, to push these tectonic plates apart?
John Avlon, here, with tonight's Reality Check.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST & ANCHOR, AUTHOR, "WASHINGTON'S FAREWELL" AND "WINGNUTS": Hey, Bri.
It's important to remember that the political parties are far more divided than the American people, as a whole. And a brand-new Gallup Poll gave us new reason to focus on that.
It showed that the number of self-identified Independents in our country far outweigh the number of Republicans and Democrats. That's an important reminder that the polarized politics we're given don't necessarily reflect, who we are, as a people.
But here's the catch. The political parties are disproportionately dominated by the most ideologically-extreme Americans, because they are the most active. They're showing up.
And they're also showing up, and having a disproportionate impact, in our civic conversation, on social media. Pew Research putting out a new survey, showing that comparatively moderate voters are reluctant to voice their opinion on social media.
And so, the more extreme voices, end up dominating that conversation. And that has an incredibly divisive effect, on our politics. And it doesn't represent, who we actually are. We've been effectively hijacked.
KEILAR: And so, I know you've also noticed that there is this effort, this new effort, to close, open primaries, where, if you're a Democrat, you can vote for whoever. The closing primary voting to only registered members of that party, Democrat or Republican, how does that add to polarization?
AVLON: This is key. And it's fascinating, because we haven't been paying that much attention, to this effort, by a lot of Trump supporters, in individual States.
There's been a lot of attention, given to voter suppression bills, election subversion efforts. They are serious. They are real.
But this effort, in individual States, to close open primaries? That's almost as dangerous and cynical, because it's another attempt to depress majority-rule democracy.
What's an open primary? It's States, where independent voters, that plurality of voters you saw, can vote for the candidate, of their choice, the one they like best, whether they're running as a Democrat or Republican, which has a sane calming effect on our politics. The desire to close those primaries, is a desire to make sure the elections are less representative.
And, in the last year alone, we saw efforts, by Trump supporters, in States, from Louisiana, to Georgia, to Missouri, to Montana, to Utah, to Wyoming, putting bills forward, most of which were knocked down. And this has been tracked by a group called Open Primaries.
But the effort, as you might imagine, is not over. There are renewed efforts, in New Hampshire, famously first the nation primary, when it comes to presidential politics, famously Independents-minded state, and Missouri, again. So, you see this effort that is underway, right now. And it hasn't gotten a lot of attention.
But it's part of the same effort, to combat majoritarian democracy, to close our process, and to have our politics be hijacked by a comparatively small number of extremes, who don't represent, who we really are. And that's the opposite direction we need to go in. If we want to defend democracy, Bri, we need to build broad coalitions because we know that representative elections have representative results. And that's exactly what they don't want.
But, to really defend our democracy, and it's one of the themes, of what we are doing, all week, is that we need to build broad coalitions, of active, engaged citizens, who show up, from the sensible center, beyond party label, to defend our democracy, because that's what it's going to take.
KEILAR: Do you think there's an interest? Are you seeing an active interest, in that, from moderate Democrats, and moderate Republicans?
AVLON: You're starting to see it. Because, at the end of the day, shouldn't we all be single-issue voters, when it comes to defending democracy? I mean, that's what it's all based upon.
But it does require people, who might normally not want to get involved, in the rough and tumble, of politics, to straighten their civic backbone, and roll up their sleeves, and get involved. Because, that's what defending democracy requires.
AVLON: Reaching across the aisle.
KEILAR: It's not partisan, to want to believe, right, that there is a truth that can be shared, across the aisle? It is not partisan--
AVLON: That's right.
KEILAR: --to believe in democracy.
John Avlon, thank you so much.
And I'll be right back.
KEILAR: And, tomorrow night, here, on DEMOCRACY IN PERIL, we will look at the impact of new restrictive voting laws, in America.
Thank you so much, for watching, this evening. "DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: Fascinating - hello? Fascinating last two blocks you had.
I've always liked Chris Stirewalt. I thought that he was a straight- shooter, on Fox. And I like that now that he is not there that he can speak his mind, even more.
He's right about, especially Murdoch Media, in general, right, if you watch? And that translates into your last block that I liked as well.