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The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper

CNN Presents "The Whole Story: Misinformation, The Trump Faithful." Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired May 24, 2024 - 23:00   ET



HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: You know, 53% White, 44% Black. So, it's a fairly diverse list when it comes to race, but not necessarily such a diverse list when it comes to gender, Laura.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: All right, tell me who and what is your favorite album on here?

ENTEN: You know, I'm not sure I can give you a favorite album, but I will say Stevie Wonder, for the win. "Isn't She Lovely," that was a song that if it wasn't written so long ago, I'd say it was written about you.


COATES: Oh, man, but yet it was written for his daughter, baby Aisha, right, he says? And she's crying for a second. But my Stevie Wonder song is when he says, la, la, la, la, la, ra. I add it every time. So, thank you for having that in there. I appreciate it, Harry Enten. Thank you all as well for watching. The whole story with Anderson Cooper is next. I love that song.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to "The Whole Story." I'm Anderson Cooper. We are less than seven months away from the next presidential election. But even now, four years after Joe Biden won, there are a number of Donald Trump supporters who dispute those results. And that's not all. They dispute the January 6th attack was an insurrection. They dispute the idea of separation of church and state in America. Some even dispute that the last Super Bowl was played honestly, and they blame Taylor Swift for rigging the outcome.

Over the next hour, CNN's Donie O'Sullivan dives deep into the undercurrent of viral misinformation by speaking directly to those who believe in conspiracies and those who are trying to battle them.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This event today is at a church, but --


-- not entirely clear what kind of church it really is. One of the guest speakers there today is a man by the name of Derrick Evans. He spent three months in prison for his role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. And now, he's running for Congress.



UNKNOWN: That was excellent. Thank you so very much. Thank you. We are honored to have with us today a gentleman that has extremely interesting stories. Derek Evans is a J6 survivor, and he's running for Congress as well. So, let's give him a warm welcome.


DERRICK EVANS, REPUBLICAN U.S. HOUSE PRIMARY CANDIDATE: Awesome. Thank you, guys, for coming out here today. I really appreciate it. I spent eight days in solitary confinement because I refused the COVID vaccine while they were holding me hostage.


I'm calling for a prisoner exchange. We need to release the January 6th political prisoners and lock up the criminal who stole the election in the Democrats (ph).


O'SULLIVAN: National media headlines about you is January 6th insurrectionist, now he's running for Congress. What do you want people to know about you beyond that big headline?

EVANS: Well, first of all, I'm a husband and I'm a father, I've got four beautiful children, I love my family very much, I love my community, I love my country, and I think it's despicable that, you know, the media, particularly CNN, has helped paint this false narrative of insurrection.

O'SULLIVAN: How would you characterize what happened on January 6th?

EVANS: January 6th was the most patriotic day of my life.

UNKNOWN: Trump! Woo!

UNKNOWN: We are not putting up with this tyrannical rule!


EVANS: I did nothing wrong that day. We have natural God-given rights in this country. I know a lot of people out there, a lot of your viewers, probably a lot of good people, but they believe that our rights come from the government. That's simply not true. Our rights come from God.

UNKNOWN: Calm down, guys. Calm down in the back.

EVANS: I'm heard reminding people to be peaceful and non-violent and non-destructive.

UNKNOWN: We're him! We're him! Derek Evans is in the Capitol! No vandalizing property!

EVANS: I did more to control the crowd than the police did that day, and I'm the one that goes to prison.

O'SULLIVAN: So, why were you sent to prison?

EVANS: Because this is a political charge right now. I'm a political prisoner. All these people in prison are now political prisoners.

O'SULLIVAN: You did decide to plead guilty.

EVANS: Yeah.

O'SULLIVAN: Was that just out of practicality?

EVANS: Well, I mean, when you're facing 24 years in prison, what options do you really have? I was ready to move on with my life. And the Constitution was written for one reason, one reason only. It was written to prevent the government from infringing on our natural God- given rights.


What I was doing that day was not only protected by the Constitution, it was protected by those natural God-given rights of free speech.

O'SULLIVAN: But also, of course, there's a separation between church and state.

EVANS: No, there's not. There's no separation of church and state. That's another lie that has been portrayed by the left. There's no separation of church and state. There's not one, ever.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Invoking religion to promote our politics and justify our actions is nothing new. Indeed, before he was running for Congress, Derrick made a name for himself harassing women outside abortion clinics.

UNKNOWN: I told you we're broken (ph), I was getting used to it.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): But what was happening here?

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I've got two pronouns, Trump won.


O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): In this church, it felt different.

ANN VANDERSTEEL, PODCAST HOST: All right, well, I guess we got the fake news here. You might as well get the real news because --

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Here, conspiracy theories reign supreme.

VANDERSTEEL: And I have a very high-level source who contacted me the other day and said, Ann, you need to get this out, because this is the playbook. You look at Oklahoma, you look at 9/11, and you realize the reason planes flew into buildings and bombs have gone off in certain places is because they're destroying evidence.

O'SULLIVAN: You've been labeled an extremist.

EVANS: Yeah. falsely, yeah.

O'SULLIVAN: You would say falsely?

EVANS: Yeah.

O'SULLIVAN: The stuff you posted on Christmas Day.

EVANS: What about it?

O'SULLIVAN: The Democrats being lynched. You probably shouldn't have done that, should you?

EVANS: I want to see Fauci in handcuffs. I want to see Mayorkas in handcuffs. I want to see them standing right now in front of a jury shackled.

O'SULLIVAN: You want to see them hung.

EVANS: I want to see them in front of a jury shackled in a military tribunal, and whatever the jury decides, we accept that outcome.

Keep in mind that this is spiritual warfare. This is a battle of good versus evil right now.

TAYLOR GREENE: You're the deplorables. The second-class citizens. The supposed to not have freedom of speech.

VANDERSTEEL: The DOD, by the way, is behind the development of the COVID shots, behind the development of this horrific killing machine.

JEREMY BROWN, FORMER GREEN BERET, MEMBER OF OATH KEEPERS: Everybody have a candle? All right, welcome. We had a good day, huh?

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Later that evening, some of the congregation gathered nearby at a sister church.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): This is a free call from --

BROWN: Jeremy.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): An incarcerated individual at Citrus County, Florida.

BROWN: For the last 826 days, I have served as a political prisoner of war in my home country.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Jeremy Brown was a member of the Oath Keepers militia and was seen outside the Capitol on January 6th. He called into the church and began preaching conspiracy theories that Trump supporters weren't really responsible for the attack.

BROWN: January 6th, 2021 was a clandestine, compartmentalized, unconventional warfare operation. Planned, coordinated, and executed by compromised elements within the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community, and federal law enforcement.

O'SULLIVAN: Wow, this is gorgeous. How are you?


O'SULLIVAN: Nice to meet you.

POWELL: You too, come on in.

O'SULLIVAN: Thanks so much for having us.


My name is Rachel Powell. And I've had eight kids. So, I've been busy.


I have my seventh grandchild coming up to be born this year.

O'SULLIVAN: This is your last weekend before you go in to prison for the next four or five years. How have you been spending the weekend?

POWELL: I know it's not a funeral procession, but it kind of reminds me of that. My friends, my family, they've been coming in and just been really busy, which is good, because when it gets -- when it gets quiet for a minute, that's when the emotions set in.

O'SULLIVAN: Do you remember where you were when you heard that Biden had won the election?

POWELL: I do, I was at my house, I got a phone call saying that Biden won, and I was like, what?

O'SULLIVAN: You couldn't believe it?

POWELL: No, absolutely, and people around me couldn't believe it either.

O'SULLIVAN: You still can't believe it?

POWELL: I still can't believe it.

O'SULLIVAN: Why did you decide to go to D.C. on January 6th?

POWELL: Well, how often does a president ask you to come to a rally? It doesn't happen.

O'SULLIVAN: At some point, this goes from peaceful protest to you having an ice axe in your hand.

POWELL: Uh-hmm.

O'SULLIVAN: Did somebody give you the ice axe?



POWELL: I don't know.

O'SULLIVAN: You don't remember.

You'd admit this is a bad look, obviously.

POWELL: Oh, totally. You know how dumb I feel when I look at this picture? Like, oh, my goodness. Like --

O'SULLIVAN: You had an axe in your hand. You broke a window. You were shouting over a bullhorn --

POWELL: Uh-hmm.

O'SULLIVAN: -- to tell people to take the building.



O'SULLIVAN: Why should people believe that you weren't trying to overturn the election, do something illegal, and commit insurrection?

POWELL: It's ridiculous. If we wanted, if we went there with a plan to take that building with as many people as were there and we were coordinated, we'd have been in there in like 30 seconds.

O'SULLIVAN: Have you ever had a moment where you're like, you know, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Biden actually won the election. Maybe I'm the conspiracy theorist.

POWELL: No, not at all. Nope.

O'SULLIVAN: So, in a few days, you're going to be reporting to federal prison.

POWELL: Right.

O'SULLIVAN: How have you talked about that to your children?

POWELL: Yeah. I'm sorry. It's like my last weekend before I go in. But I love my children so much. And so, it's like the last thing that they can take from me. And that'll be the hard part. And I don't deserve this. And my kids don't deserve it. Like, have we not been through enough? Like, that's the last thing that we have to lose is each other.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): It had been just three years since the Capitol attack. A day that cost lives --

UNKNOWN: Let's go!

O'SULLIVAN: -- and ruined lives. But the truth of what happened that day has been so twisted.

TUCKER CARLSON, CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER FOX NEWS HOST: Lies about January 6th have been relentless. Almost like it was a coordinated operation.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): So warped --

UNKNOWN: Twenty confirmed incidents. The dozens of feds, FBI agents, and state operatives who infiltrated the Trump crowds on January 6th at the U.S. Capitol. We have total on top of all the other proof, more proof.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): -- that those who took part in the attack are being lauded in churches.

EVANS: We talk about all the corruption that happened surrounding January 6th, the feds' direction, because we know that the federal government was involved.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): And the man who incited it all, he's still the hero.

POWELL: So, this hat says, Rachel, we love you. Trump.

O'SULLIVAN: Are you hoping Trump will pardon you?

POWELL: I know he'll pardon me. That's not a hope. I know that Trump will pardon me.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Rachel still had faith in Trump, even faith in the election lies that were sending her to prison. But how alive are these lies among the wider Trump base? I went to Vegas to find out.

Do I put it all on red or all on black tonight?

UNKNOWN: I put it on 21.

O'SULLIVAN: Twenty-one?

UNKNOWN: Twenty-one.




UNKNOWN: Because I'm the only person in history to win cars in both the Wheel of Fortune and the Price is Right.


O'SULLIVAN: I came over to you because I saw your shirt.

UNKNOWN: Uh-hmm. O'SULLIVAN: That's Trump being arraigned.


UNKNOWN: We should all be united to stand with this man.

UNKNOWN: I was better off four years ago.

UNKNOWN: I believe Trump is the only hope right now on the earth.

O'SULLIVAN: What happens if Trump loses?

UNKNOWN: We're in a whole lot of trouble.

UNKNOWN: All right.

DEEJON LACKEY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I feel like the mainstream media makes me feel like my views are -- I'm wrong for having my views. I was a lifelong Democrat until 2019.

O'SULLIVAN: Until 2019?


O'SULLIVAN: What changed?

LACKEY: Donald Trump.


JOE BLACK, TRUMP SUPPORTER: That's what we thought.


BLACK: Are you guys going to cover it like accurately?

O'SULLIVAN: You don't think it's accurate?

BLACK: Not really. I think you guys do soundbites.

O'SULLIVAN: Where do you get most of your news and information out?

BLACK: I go to multiple different sources like Telegram. Um, I try to stay off the main sites like Facebook and stuff like that. It's all got algorithms and stuff like that that are designed to hide your posts.

O'SULLIVAN: And you get fact-checked on Facebook?

BLACK: Well, fact-checked by who? You know, some guy that's 30 years old living in his ma's basement.

UNKNOWN: I would love to speak to you.

O'SULLIVAN: All right.

UNKNOWN: You don't have to put it on the camera if you don't want to.

O'SULLIVAN: Well, sure, we might as well put it on camera.

The job of the journalist is to ask the questions, allow the person to speak, and just report the facts, what was spoken. Would you like for me to pull up the definition of journalist?

O'SULLIVAN: That's okay, but thank you, Julianne (ph).


O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): I met Julianne (ph), a die-hard Trump supporter from Texas, who was in Vegas for a gun show.

UNKNOWN: I have a God-given right to speak my own truth.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): She still believes the 2020 election was stolen.

But there are facts, right?

UNKNOWN: The facts have shown that the election was stolen. Whether you're willing to look at that and accept that and really show what's going on, that's your issue, not ours. We want the God-given freedom that our Constitution and our Bill of Rights is based on.

O'SULLIVAN: God-given constitutional rights?


O'SULLIVAN: They're two different things, right?

UNKNOWN: No, sir, they're not. Read, R-E-A-D, the Constitution. Read it out loud to yourself --


UNKNOWN: -- so that you hear what the words of the Constitution say.

O'SULLIVAN: God isn't mentioned in the Constitution.

UNKNOWN: Sir, you had to learn the Constitution to become a U.S. citizen.

O'SULLIVAN: No, I didn't.

UNKNOWN: You didn't?


UNKNOWN: You did not have to learn the Constitution or the Bill of Rights to become a U.S. citizen.

O'SULLIVAN: I was born a U.S. citizen. My mom is American. But this isn't about me.

UNKNOWN: You just made a statement. You tried to make what you're considering is a factual statement that God is not talked about.

O'SULLIVAN: In the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

UNKNOWN: Okay. Okay. Hold on.

O'SULLIVAN: I could pull it up on my phone, too, if we could do that.

UNKNOWN: Okay. Sure. Go ahead. I'm trying to -- I might have just gotten something wrong, which they'll probably use that to --

O'SULLIVAN: Okay, you have the Constitution --

UNKNOWN: Let me say this, and this is probably why I get it. In the United States, the federal Constitution does not make a reference to God as such, although it uses the formula, the year of our Lord, which is capitalized in Article 7. There's only one Lord, capitalized L-O-R- D. So, there is a reference to God in our Constitution and in our Bill of Rights.

O'SULLIVAN: There's one.

UNKNOWN: In Article 7. In Article 7, go read it.

O'SULLIVAN: One reference that states the date.

UNKNOWN: One reference is enough. It refers to the year of the Lord, capital L-O-R-D. There's only one Lord.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Religion has always played a role in American politics.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Pope Pius XII said, into the hands of America, God has placed an afflicted mankind.


O'SULLIVAN (VOICE-OVER): But what's happening now is different.

UNKNOWN: Jesus Christ, we invoke your name! Amen!

UNKNOWN: I'm to the place right now, if you vote Democrat, I don't even want you around this church. You can get out. You can get out, you demon. You can get out, you baby butchering election thief. You cannot be a Christian and vote Democrat in this nation.

MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to have one nation under God and one religion under God.

REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): I'm tired of this separation of church and state junk.


O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): It has a name. It's called Christian nationalism.

TAYLOR GREENE: I say it proudly. We should be Christian nationalists.

REV. DENNIS JACOBSEN, FOUNDING MEMBER, MILWAUKEE INNER-CITY CONGREGATIONS ALLIED FOR HOPE: January 6th, crosses everywhere, huge poster of a white Jesus with a "Make America Great Again" red hat on. As a Christian, it just grabbed my guts and got me furious.

UNKNOWN: We're going to reclaim America for Christ, retake America for Christians.

UNKNOWN: So, we hold up President Trump before the creator of the universe.

UNKNOWN: This is an explicitly Christian country.

UNKNOWN: The Bible says those that truly follow Jesus Christ take it by force.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): This perversion of patriotism and faith has pastors across the country worried that their flocks are being led astray.

PASTOR CALEB CAMPBELL, DESERT SPRINGS BIBLE CHURH: I see in American Christian nationalism, toxic anxiety and rage. And I see it tearing families apart.

UNKNOWN: Christian nationalism is not Christian at all.

CAMPBELL: I started getting called names by people that I loved and had known for over a decade. I was called a fascist, a communist, and that I had a Luciferian spirit of fear.



UNKNOWN: There is a demonic hedge of protection around Joe Biden.

UNKNOWN: If this nation is going to succeed, they better put Christians into office. You vote for the person who holds closest to a biblical worldview value.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): They preach Christian nationalism and they pray for Trump. But this pastor says they are leading their flocks in a dangerous direction.

CAMPBELL: And so, Father, we give you this time, as we think about how we manage our common life together, as we think about government and politics.

UNKNOWN: Our concern today is political extremism on the right side of American politics.

UNKNOWN: So that's what we have tried to do.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): This event today is organized in a response to Christian nationalism. CAMPBELL: We've recognized that there's a deficiency in training pastors to how to actually engage scripture and then apply that into the political life.


UNKNOWN: And so, it is an answer to what we saw as an aberration from the teachings of Jesus, which is American Christian nationalism.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Pastor Caleb Campbell knows a lot about extremism. He used to be a neo-Nazi skinhead who played the drums.

CAMPBELL: When I was a teenager, I fell in with a group of neo-Nazi skinheads and did that. Kind of after high school, we had a woman from the church was dialing drummers and called me and said, can you come play at the church?

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): He began playing here at the Desert Springs Bible Church. Twenty-three years later, he's still here.

It's in this room where you had your awakening?

CAMPBELL: Yeah. Ours is traditionally called like a conversion experience. And I was baptized in this room. It has been quite a ride. I definitely didn't expect to be a pastor, much less a pastor in church like this.

O'SULLIVAN: Do you know how many times God is mentioned in this?

CAMPBELL: In the Constitution? Zero.

O'SULLIVAN: Yeah. It gets mentioned once I think, our Lord, just in terms of in the year of our Lord.

CAMPBELL: Yes. Evangelical Christians of which I am one, I'm a theological evangelical, they are generally operating under the assumption that the Christian God is all over the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution. And then I'll just invite them to read it. Let's read it together and let's just highlight all the spaces that anything uniquely Christian shows up, and you'll notice that we have not had to pull out our highlighter. There are certainly ideas that have been shaped throughout human history by the Christian tradition.

It is power that dominates --

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Pastor Caleb is not alone in his fight against Christian nationalism. In Milwaukee, where Trump will officially be declared the Republican candidate at the RNC this summer, pastors Jackson, Jacobsen and Shaw are also sounding the alarm.

JACOBSEN: Can you really with a straight face look at life, teachings, way and death of Jesus and line that up with the correlates of Christian nationalism, anti-Muslim, racist, anti-immigrant? I mean, it just doesn't work. O'SULLIVAN: What I'll hear at events is the founding fathers were Christian. America was built off Christian values. Therefore, this is a Christian country and we should have Christian government.

REV. RICHARD SHAW, MILWAUKEE INNER-CITY CONGREGATIONS ALLIED FOR HOPE: Why then is Jesus nor Christianity mentioned in the Constitution? Then why would you even place in there a freedom of religion? So, to me, the argument is silly, is nonsense. I'm going to really have a problem with Christianity if you say that it was found off of Christian values with the things that took place right here on American soil. What was done to the Native Americans' land, what was done to my people and others?


O'SULLIVAN: Dennis, I can sense that you're particularly --


Yeah. I mean, this really gets to you.

JACOBSEN: Yes, it does. I've had it up to here with distortion of one of the most astonishing revolutionaries into a white Jesus wearing a red MAGA hat. It's just unbelievable to me. I think one reason that younger people are walking right past the door to church is because of the idiocy they see in this movement.


O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): So, a lot of Americans believe that God views America as special.

CAMPBELL: We tell ourselves that. That's part of how we have justified things like warfare.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This crusade, this war on terrorism, it's going to take a while.

CAMPBELL: We've said we're the good. They're the evil. So, God has this relationship with us.

REAGAN: The past few days when I've been at that window upstairs, I thought a bit of the shining city upon a hill.

CAMPBELL: Reagan invoked it that America's the city on a hill. Well, that's Jerusalem. That's biblical language use of Jerusalem.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): In 2020, Pastor Campbell began losing congregants.

CAMPBELL: So, as an evangelical preacher, I'll alliterate. It was Floyd, Fauci, and the federal election.

O'SULLIVAN: So, what were they angry about?

CAMPBELL: Oh, the way that we navigated a global pandemic. Our response to George Floyd and his murder, just the fact that we called it murder was met with resistance, then the federal election came and I was accused of advocating for the blue team because I didn't, from the stage, advocate for the red team. I don't tell people how I vote, and by taking that posture is viewed as a betrayal of what God had chosen.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Some of his congregants left for Dream City Church, a place steeped in Christian nationalism.

UNKNOWN: It is the duty of our Christian nation to select to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A very special thank you to the Dream City Church for hosting us.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Pastor Caleb has spent months attending Christian nationalist events, something he documents in his book "Disarming Leviathan."

CAMPBELL: Most of the folks that I've met, like on the ground, I'm not talking about the leaders and the purveyors of American Christian nationalism, they truly believe that this is what God wants. I honor their patriotism. I share much of their sentiments. But they are afraid. They're anxious about being erased. I think at the heart of this movement is the anxiety of ethnic erasure, that our way of being in the world is under imminent threat.

O'SULLIVAN: Do you see similarities there in what you are looking for?

CAMPBELL: Yeah. It's what all of us are looking for. We're made as communal creatures. We're made for each other. So, for me, as an angry, rage-filled teenager, I found those things in this community. In American Christian nationalist circles, many people are finding safety, belonging, and purpose. The problem is that you're not actually truly safe. If you ask a critical question in a Christian nationalist circle, you will be tossed out. You'll be viewed as a, you know, there's one of the phrases, a RINO, a Republican in name only.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): But this isn't just about Christians and churches. It's about how distrust and fear is affecting our understanding of reality.

BLACK: I think you guys do sound bites.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): My conversation with Joe back in Vegas had been brief, but he had given me his number to stay in touch.


BLACK (voice-over): Hello.

O'SULLIVAN: Hey, Joe, how are you doing? I thought our conversation the other day was very interesting.

BLACK: Yes. O'SULLIVAN: So, I wanted to see if you'd be open to chatting about that a bit further. Maybe I'd come to Colorado to visit you.

BLACK: Sure. Come on down.

O'SULLIVAN: Let's go to Colorado then.



O'SULLIVAN: Here we are.

BLACK: In Grand Junction.

O'SULLIVAN: In Grand Junction. What happened to what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?

BLACK: Yeah, why didn't you stay there?

O'SULLIVAN: Some guys come home from Vegas with a new bride. You come back from Vegas with a bunch of CNN guys.

BLACK: Everybody makes mistakes.


O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): After meeting him outside a Trump rally in Las Vegas --

BLACK: Are you guys going to cover it accurately?


O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): I wanted to understand better why Joe doesn't trust someone like me, a journalist from the so-called mainstream media.

He let us hang out with him.

I wanted to understand better why Joe doesn't trust someone like me. A journalist from the so-called mainstream media. He let us hang out with him for a couple of days here in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Have you always been interested in politics?

BLACK: Since Obama, I've been -- I've been pretty interested in politics.

O'SULLIVAN: Okay, so 2008?

BLACK: Yeah.

O'SULLIVAN: What was it about Obama that got you interested?

BLACK: It was just all the talk around it. UNKNOWN: The President of the United States!

BLACK: He's a very smooth-talking character.

OBAMA: Hope is that thing inside each of us. There is no challenge too great. No mission too hard.

BLACK: He's up there and he's very articulate. The words just flow right out of his mouth.

OBAMA: Obama.

BLACK: You got to be careful for smooth talkers, you know?

O'SULLIVAN: So, if you want to find out what's going on in the world just right now today, what do you do?

BLACK: I check out different platforms that I feel that I can trust.

O'SULLIVAN: One being Telegram?

BLACK: Telegram is definitely one.


(Voice-over): Telegram is a platform first developed in Russia that has few rules, few moderators, and no fact-checkers.

BLACK: They made their big rise to fame after the 2020 election.

O'SULLIVAN: So, explain that to us. Telegram gets big when?

BLACK: When Twitter and Facebook and even Google, like YouTube and stuff, were censoring a lot of information that they were calling misinformation.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): This is CNN Breaking News.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we've got some more breaking news coming into "The Situation Room" right now.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: The president's Twitter account has been suspended.

BLACK: I feel like that's an insult to people to not be able to look at information and to discern it themselves. They're basically calling that person stupid.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Joe says his Facebook account was banned for sharing a meme about January 6th.

BLACK: I turned on my phone one day, and all of a sudden, it has been deactivated.

O'SULLIVAN: How does that feel?

BLACK: It was horrible.


I liked Facebook, you know, social marketplace. You can do business, you can find things. So, it's like being cut off of a part of life. You know, it's like, thanks a lot, Mark, or whoever's in charge.

O'SULLIVAN: So, what's a channel you follow on Telegram? I want to see some of the news for today.

BLACK: My favorite one, it's called Patriot Memes. It's a lot of memes.

O'SULLIVAN: Let's clear up a couple of myths.

BLACK: Not a woman, not a hero.

O'SULLIVAN: Not a woman. That's Bud Light person?

BLACK: Uh-hmm.

UNKNOWN: Hi. Impressive carrying skills, right?

O'SULLIVAN: Not a hero, George Floyd.

I visited Joe a couple of weeks before the Super Bowl. It was just as the conspiracy theory that Taylor Swift was helping rig the game to help Biden started circulating online. It was one of the first things that popped up on Joe's feed.

BLACK: Let's go to something that's like news, though.

O'SULLIVAN: Yeah, citizen Benny.

BLACK: This is from Benny Johnson.

O'SULLIVAN: Johnson.

(Voice-over): By now, everyone knows Taylor Swift is a government psyop, and this is exactly why corporate media is having a meltdown about it.

You don't believe Taylor Swift is a government psyop?

BLACK: I don't know what to believe about Taylor Swift. It's good to keep your mind open. Could she be?

O'SULLIVAN: No, she's dating a Pfizer and Bud Light agent in the NFL because we're a few weeks from the Super Bowl.

BLACK: Yeah. And they're seeking the endorsement from Taylor Swift.

O'SULLIVAN: They are, yeah.

BLACK: The Biden administration. And then, hmm, who's going to win the Super Bowl? O'SULLIVAN: But you don't think the Super Bowl is rigged?

BLACK: Who's going to sing it?

O'SULLIVAN: Do you think the Super Bowl is rigged?

BLACK: I think football is rigged, yeah.

O'SULLIVAN: Okay. There's a CNN clip in here. Watch. CNN has a meltdown over our coverage of the Taylor Swift psyop.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Have you heard the latest conspiracy theory making the rounds? That the Super Bowl will be rigged for Kelsey and the Kansas City Chiefs. And the endgame is Swift endorsing Biden after the big game. Here are some of the messages, I'm trying not to laugh, circulating on social media. Vivek Ramaswamy, I wonder who's going to win the Super Bowl.

BLACK: See what she did there?

O'SULLIVAN: What did she do?

BASH: I'm trying not to laugh.

BLACK: I'm trying not to laugh, you know, kind of thing. So, why isn't it okay to take that in and to let it register and think about it for a minute? Could that be possible that there could be some funding going to Taylor Swift or, you know, stuff like that that could lean her into a certain direction so that she would support somebody? I mean, that could be totally possible.

O'SULLIVAN: I call that a conspiracy theory. Okay?

BLACK: Sure, yeah.

O'SULLIVAN: What I find most difficult to believe, but the Taylor Swift, Travis Kelce, Super Bowl conspiracy theory is that you think the Democrats could be so organized to pull out all the stop

BLACK: Very organized.

O'SULLIVAN: Do you think?

BLACK: I do. Yes.

O'SULLIVAN: We're going to get together as well as reading the Super Bowl and Taylor is going to back Biden for president.


That's just so much stuff, like that is so much organization. But --

BLACK: Not that hard to do.

O'SULLIVAN: You don't think?




BLACK: Rigging the election, that would be a lot more complicated.

TRUMP: This is a fraud on the American public. We know there was massive fraud. It was a rigged election.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): It seems that Trump's convincing of millions that the Americans that the last election was rigged has opened some kind of gateway.

UNKNOWN: The facts have shown that the election was stolen.

EVANS: There's no separation of church and state. That's another lie that has been portrayed by the left. There's no separation of church and state.



UNKNOWN: There's one party. It's called the swamp. It's controlled by the Illuminati.

UNKNOWN: They're lying to us. It's the elites, and they're attacking their children. They're pedophiles.

GROUP: Stop the steal!

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): The gateway to an alternate reality where anything is possible, where January 6th was some kind of inside job, and where Taylor Swift can rig the Super Bowl.

Are you a Q fan?

BLACK: I like them. I like watching them.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Joe had been generous in sharing his news habits with me, so I showed him some of the news that I read.

Bet you never see these shared around your Telegram channel.

(Voice-over): And while I wasn't there to change his mind, he was pretty surprised to find out that CNN fact-checks President Biden.

Okay, so, Joe Biden said gun manufacturers are the only industry in America exempt from being sued.

BLACK: This is false.

O'SULLIVAN: And we laid it out there as to why what he said is false.

BLACK: Yeah, I like that. O'SULLIVAN: And look, there's a lot more.

BLACK: You should do that more often.

O'SULLIVAN: So, we have these fact-checks here of Biden, right? But we obviously have way more of Trump. And that's just because Trump says more stuff that's false. Trump and manufacturing jobs, Trump claimed in a November speech in Texas, we created an incredible 1.2 million new manufacturing jobs. The U.S. actually lost 170,000 manufacturing jobs during Trump's presidency.

BLACK: I don't know if it's right or wrong. Again, it's on your site, so.


O'SULLIVAN: So, if we go, as you say, go do our research, we click in, tt's from Economic Research Organization. Like, we do put in the source material. You know, we're not plucking it out of our ass. This is from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. So, it's from the Fed. You don't trust the Fed?

BLACK: No, not really. So --


We are at an impasse, my friend. Look, I appreciate your willingness to sit down and talk to me.

(Voice-over): The kind of conspiracy theories Joe is seeing every day on Telegram might seem harmless, even silly. But they're not. They're corroding trust in American democracy.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): You're the scum of the earth.

O'SULLIVAN: How did they go from you fact-checking to you being a pedophile?


UNKNOWN (voice-over): I really hope people get what's coming to you, and it will come to you.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): They're inspiring and being used to justify violent attacks on American institutions.


O'SULLIVAN: Did you ever think being an election official would make you public enemy number one?


JACOBSEN: We really do think that democracy is at stake in this election. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


O'SULLIVAN: They're saying, who's this strange Irishman coming to feed us? You come to Arizona expecting to talk about the decline of American democracy. But you end up watching deers.


It's great.

ROLL: Look at all of them right there. They're like, I don't know what's going on today.


O'SULLIVAN: So big contrast to politics in the state.

UNKNOWN: The Lord of our faith is going to swallow up all of (INAUDIBLE) that gets on the (INAUDIBLE) Arizona. We got to save our state.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): Bamboo in the paper.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): People were making their own ballots.

UNKNOWN: They want to destroy. They want to destroy us.

O'SULLIVAN: What is it about Arizona that has made it really become this kind of ground zero of election craziness?

ROLL: I think it become a battleground because it's verging on losing its redness.

O'SULLIVAN: They want to keep it as red as those rocks?

ROLL: Yeah.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Gerry Roll spent most her life working in the court system.

ROLL: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the board.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): But nothing prepared her for becoming the election director of a small county in Arizona.

ROLL: In my career, I've done a lot of things. I have been treated better by murderers, child molesters, thieves, rapists. The defendants have treated me far better than the political parties and the elected representatives.

UNKNOWN: The military step in and redo our election. O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Gerry is just one of hundreds of election officials that have been driven out of their job because of hate and intimidation. In her resignation email, Gerry said that she had been subject to ridicule, disrespect, attacks on her reputation and not just from voters.


ROLL: I had the party chair in my office and four other people and they were yelling. They're threatening. They're veiled threats. The Republicans in our county, they want their party to be on top to maintain control.

O'SULLIVAN: And you voted for Trump in 2016?

ROLL: I sure did.

O'SULLIVAN: You were a registered Republican?

ROLL: I was.

O'SULLIVAN: All your life?

ROLL: Yes. The first guy I ever voted for was Richard Nixon. Not proud, but it's true.

O'SULLIVAN: You said you heard all sorts, the things that people believe. What have you heard them believing?

ROLL: I had a guy tell me that he could hack into our election equipment through the power outlet. He could come in through the 110- power outlet. They believe that all of those folks that are volunteering or being paid to handle the ballots are somehow, I don't know, a slight of hand. They believe that we're somehow doing something with them, not counting them.

UNKNOWN: I don't care what anybody else says, our election was stolen.

O'SULLIVAN: Superstition or superstitious?

ROLL: Superstition.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Gerry lives at the foot of the Superstition Mountain Range in Arizona. She says the intimidation that forced her to quit her job was fueled by misinformation.

Some of the stuff you just said there, about what people believe, you know, hacking through a power outlet, everything else?

ROLL: Nonsensical.

O'SULLIVAN: People watching want to say, you know what, they're just stupid. They're just stupid people. But it has never been like this before.

ROLL: It never has been like this before. And it's not stupidity. What they are saying is nonsensical. No, they're not stupid people. But they have a drive and an agenda. And so, they will craft that message to serve their own purposes. And they really don't care about truth or integrity. They just want the outcome, their outcome. I think that's it.

O'SULLIVAN: So why all this haste, why all this vilification of you?

ROLL: I wish I knew. I really don't know. I just know that I became a target, and I began to feel very unsafe.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): You all will end up in gallows. Are you even humans? Probably not. I have a right to research and do my own research. And you all third-party checkers, all you do is B.S.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Alan Duke is one of those fact-checkers I had heard about.

BLACK: Like who's fact-checking it, you know what I mean? You don't know who's fact-checking it.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Alan regularly receives threatening voicemails like these.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): You're the scum of the earth. I really hope you people get what's coming to you and it will come to you.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): He's a former CNN journalist. His fact- checking company has worked for the likes of Facebook where his fact- checks appear over false posts. It's a program Facebook introduced a few years ago to try and curb the spread of misinformation.

What do you think people imagine fact-checkers to be?

DUKE: That I'm part of some conspiracy or conspiracies, that I'm this evil plotter who's trying to steal their voices from them.

O'SULLIVAN: How do people feel when they get fact-checked?

DUKE: I imagine just like if I were to walk up to you and tell you that you're wrong about something.

O'SULLIVAN: So, you can understand why people are pissed off at you?

DUKE: Oh, I understand this. And people scoff at me. But that doesn't make our work false or unimportant or negative or a conspiracy.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Alan, Gerry and pastors Caleb, Jackson, Jacobsen and Shaw are all on the frontlines of the fight against disinformation and division in this country. They're standing up for community, for integrity, for truth.

DUKE: If you believe a lot of this misinformation, you're going to believe that our country is on the brink of extinction or destruction. It can lead you to take action that you really wouldn't otherwise do, and that can be very dangerous.

JACOBSEN: I think we are at risk of terrible violence, increasing violence in this country.

ROLL: You know, whatever is going on right now, it's not fair to the people who work in the elections department and it is ruining what is the cornerstone of our democracy.

SHAW: The biggest threat for me is losing our church, our way of worship.

DUKE: I don't really know what the big solution is. We're doing what we can.

CAMPBELL: I've noticed in the public conversation a lot of despairing and a lot of derision and a lot of they're too far gone.


I don't believe that at all. I believe that every person can see the way of truth. The Bible is full of stories like that, our church is full of stories like that, and our history is full of stories like that. So, don't give up.


COOPER: In the remaining months of this year's presidential campaign, Donie will continue to investigate and report on the misinformation he is seeing in politics on both sides.

Thanks for watching "The Whole Story." I will see you next Sunday.