A Michigan state representative who has repeatedly promoted former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election introduced a bill on Tuesday that would require “fact checkers” to register with the state.
State Rep. Matt Maddock, a Republican, wrote in a Facebook post last week that his proposed legislation “will put Fact Checkers on notice.”
“Don’t be wrong, don’t be sloppy, and you better be right,” Maddock wrote.
The bill, called the Fact Checker Registration Act, would require “certain fact checkers” to register with Michigan’s secretary of state and insure themselves with $1 million fidelity bonds.
If the bill were enacted into law, a person would be able to sue a “fact checker” for “any wrongful conduct that is a violation” of Michigan state laws. A person who violated the act would be subject to a $1,000 fine per day for each day the violation continued, according to the bill.
Under Maddock’s proposal, a “fact checker” is defined as someone who is paid by a national or international fact-checking organization, is a member of the “International Fact Check Network,” publishes content in Michigan and presents themselves to the public as a fact-checker. (Maddock confirmed Wednesday that “International Fact Check Network” is meant to refer to the International Fact-Checking Network, a Poynter Institute initiative that connects fact-checkers working at media organizations across the world.)
Maddock told HuffPost on Wednesday that he isn’t sure how many people will qualify as a “fact checker” under his proposal.
“I don’t think anyone knows how many fact checkers are doing business in Michigan but we will find out!” Maddock wrote in a text message to HuffPost.
He said he wrote the bill because he feels “people and businesses are being unfairly targeted and deplatformed and cancelled because fact checkers deem them ‘false.’”
“But is there any accountability when a fact checker gets it wrong?” Maddock said. “There isn’t. Sloppy fact checkers like Snopes destroy lives, destroy business, destroy politicians and there is no penalty when they get it wrong.”
He didn’t offer any specific instances in which Snopes had gotten it wrong.
Democrats criticized the bill, which has garnered at least eight co-sponsors so far. Michigan state Sen. Jeremy Moss (D) said the proposal runs counter to protections established by the country’s founders, which guarantee the press can operate without government intrusion.
“This is an affront to the First Amendment,” Moss told The Detroit News.
Maddock and his wife, Michigan Republican Party co-chair Meshawn Maddock, have repeatedly faced scrutiny for the misinformation they’ve peddled related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 election. They led the Michigan GOP’s charge to overturn President Joe Biden’s win, with Meshawn Maddock claiming to have organized nearly 20 buses of Trump supporters to attend the then-president’s Jan. 6 rally in Washington.
The Maddocks claimed they weren’t able to get into the area where Trump was speaking that day, but Meshawn Maddock’s social media posts appeared to contradict that claim.
“The most incredible crowd and sea of people I’ve ever walked with <3,” Meshawn Maddock wrote in a quote-tweet of a video showing Trump supporters marching on the Capitol.
In mid-January, Michigan Democrats called for the censure, investigation and expulsion of Matt Maddock for his “continued attempts at undermining democracy by fomenting election conspiracy theories and assisting with the heinous attack on the U.S. Capitol.”
Asked how lawmakers who spread misinformation and unproven conspiracy theories should be held accountable, Matt Maddock said: “All elected officials should be held accountable via elections.”
This article has been updated to include Matt Maddock’s comments to HuffPost.