It’s been nearly two weeks since every major news outlet called the presidential race for Democratic nominee Joe Biden. But for pro-Trump media, the election never ended.
The election map this week on One America News shows President Donald Trump with 232 electoral votes to Biden’s 227, with the states of Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada all still up for grabs. Friday’s front page of The Epoch Times is the same: a United States dotted with gray “undecided” states, indicating that Trump has not yet lost.
An array of far-right and conspiratorial media outlets are still promoting the fantasy that Trump will have a second term ― spinning debunked falsehoods about voter fraud and praising the Trump campaign’s ramshackle legal attempts to invalidate votes as a pretext to claim that Biden’s win was either illegitimate or simply never happened. Like the president himself, they’re not willing to accept that Biden won the national popular vote by around 6 million votes and is slated to receive 306 Electoral College votes, putting him well over the 270 needed for the presidency.
The election is over. But these outlets are helping Trump spin the narrative that it isn’t.
This isn’t a surprise. Pro-Trump media has spent years creating an alternate universe surrounding the president, consistently framing him as virtuously at war against a corrupt media and Democratic Party while ignoring his administration’s rampant ineptitude and authoritarian leanings. As Trump’s time in office approaches its end, these outlets are still clinging to that narrative as they drift further away from reality.
“This is Newsmax, where we have not called the election. Why would we? We do not know who has won!” Greg Kelly, a host on the far-right cable network, said on Tuesday. “This whole idea of a president-elect? It is a media fabrication.”
Kelly’s monologue could have appeared on any number of pro-Trump television and radio shows over the past two weeks. Again and again, hosts have claimed that “mainstream media” is engaged in a mass deception by accurately reporting that Biden has won the election. In order to maintain the delusion, these networks have told their viewers to engage in elaborate mental gymnastics that appeal to their feelings over facts.
“Americans understand what’s real and what isn’t,” OAN host Christina Bobb said on Tuesday, two weeks after the election. “Donald Trump’s popularity is very real. The fact that he won the election is very real. Don’t cave to accepting a version of reality you know isn’t right. Americans will stay the course and enjoy Donald Trump’s second term.”
Pro-Trump media’s conspiracy theories and willingness to undermine the democratic process is part of the symbiotic relationship that these networks and media activists have with the president. As Trump continues to attempt to overturn the election result and call the vote a “hoax,” he has also repeatedly shared misinformation from outlets such as OAN and Breitbart to support his effort to steal the election.
Although Trump and far-right media’s conspiracy theories around the election are baseless and have been widely debunked, they reflect a wider disbelief among Republicans that Trump lost the election. Around 52% of Republicans believe that Trump “rightfully won” the vote, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in mid-November, suggesting that pro-Trump outlets are appealing to a very real grievance among conservatives unwilling to fully accept the election results.
Trump campaign officials have done all they can to push that narrative, holding bizarre press conferences and making dangerous efforts to sow distrust in democracy. Far-right networks have acted as one of their primary vehicles to promote these groundless claims and provided a safe space where such allegations won’t be challenged or face the slightest scrutiny.
“I’m just, like, shocked and appalled by the fact that people just want to rush it in, have him take the presidency, not caring if he actually won,” Kimberly Guilfoyle, a senior Trump campaign adviser, said on OAN. “I tell Americans: Be patient and the truth will reveal itself.”
Peddling the alternate reality where Trump still has a chance has been a boon for some far-right outlets. Channels such as Newsmax have experienced a surge in viewers following the election, as die-hard Trump supporters have chanted “Fox News sucks” while protesting the network’s early but ultimately accurate call that Biden would win Arizona. Although Fox News has promoted pro-Trump conspiracy theories and hosted guests making baseless claims of voter fraud, the decision desk’s acknowledgement that Biden had in fact won the election has set it apart from other right-wing outlets that are eager to sell viewers on the deception that Trump won the vote.
As more states begin to certify election results and Trump’s legal efforts fall apart, far-right outlets may eventually need to give up on the notion that the election isn’t over or at least alter their myths around it. But for now, there are no cracks in pro-Trump media’s unblinking conviction that the president will serve a second term, only expressions of unquestioning loyalty.
“There are a lot of Republicans in the swamp who would just like to turn the page, there are obviously the Democrats and the media establishment. Is this a lonely fight ever?” Kelly asked Guilfoyle on Tuesday.
“No, not really,” Guilfoyle responded. “Not when you’re triumphant and honest and just.”