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Republicans Must Confess Their Complicity in the Big Lie

Dominion Voting Systems goes to court to get an apology from the right-wing conspiracy mongers. Where does the country go for its apology?
January 19, 2021
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Crowds carrying pro-President Donald Trump signs gather for the "Stop the Steal" rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

If you missed the retraction from the right-wing American Thinker, it’s one for the ages. Noting that they had received a warning from lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems, the editors considered the “full import of the letter” and issued the following statement:

American Thinker and contributors Andrea Widburg, R.D. Wedge, Brian Tomlinson, and Peggy Ryan have published pieces on www.AmericanThinker.com that falsely accuse US Dominion Inc., Dominion Voting Systems, Inc., and Dominion Voting Systems Corporation (collectively “Dominion”) of conspiring to steal the November 2020 election from Donald Trump. These pieces rely on discredited sources who have peddled debunked theories about Dominion’s supposed ties to Venezuela, fraud on Dominion’s machines that resulted in massive vote switching or weighted votes, and other claims falsely stating that there is credible evidence that Dominion acted fraudulently.

These statements are completely false and have no basis in fact. Industry experts and public officials alike have confirmed that Dominion conducted itself appropriately and that there is simply no evidence to support these claims.

It was wrong for us to publish these false statements. We apologize to Dominion for all of the harm this caused them and their employees. We also apologize to our readers for abandoning journalistic principles and misrepresenting Dominion’s track record and its limited role in tabulating votes for the November 2020 election. We regret this grave error.

Fox News has issued similar retractions. This is the beginning, not the end. Dominion has sent letters to 20 other entities and individuals, including One American News Network, Newsmax, Lin Wood, White House Counsel Pat Cippolone, and Rudy Giuliani. Sidney Powell, the “Kraken” lawyer in Trump’s orbit, got more than a warning. She was slapped with a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit for her outrageous and outlandish claims, including that Dominion’s voting machines were designed by Hugo Chavez to help him rig elections; that the machines contained secret algorithms to change Trump votes into Biden votes; that Dominion had bribed Georgia officials to obtain its contract with the state; and that she had a video showing the company’s founder bragging that his system “could easily change a million votes, no problem.”

Powell has yet to grovel as the American Thinker did, but she would be wise to start. Dominion is not backing down. CEO John Poulos told the Washington Post that he would prefer to take these cases to court rather than settle, because “We feel that it’s important for the entire electoral process.” The company did not rule out suing Trump.

It seems that the only means we still possess as a society for holding people to account for vicious and democracy-endangering lies is the tort law system. The only acknowledgment of wrongdoing in the most destabilizing crisis of the past 160 years was the one extracted from an obscure website by a private company whose reputation and income took a severe hit. I wish Dominion every success against the other defendants, but what of the country that has taken a severe hit? Can Dominion also sue Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, the Federalist, Maria Bartiromo, the 17 state attorneys general who joined the ludicrous Ken Paxton lawsuit challenging the election results in four states; Kevin McCarthy; and the 121 House Republicans and six Senate Republicans who voted to reject the Electoral College ballots of Arizona? Because until we hear confessions and corrections from conservative media, we will continue to inhabit a dark cave as a country.

The 20,000-plus National Guard soldiers in Washington, D.C., along with smaller forces arrayed in state capitals, may, God willing, get us through the inauguration without any further spasms of violence. But unless the propagandists of right-wing media confess and correct the record—unless they forthrightly admit that they spread lies about the election being rigged—the fury they’ve incited among a huge swath of Americans will continue to endanger the lives of public officials and crack the foundations of this republic.

The lie they propagated is what propelled those deluded people to storm the Capitol. Of course the perpetrators of the violence are fully responsible for their decisions, and some of them were clearly mentally unbalanced or extremists or criminals of various stripes. But there were also thousands of otherwise normal people who were deceived into believing that their democracy had been fatally compromised, and millions who now harbor doubts about our system’s legitimacy. Three out of four Republicans believe that Trump was the legitimate victor of the election. They couldn’t have gotten this idea entirely from Facebook posts or YouTube videos (though those platforms bear responsibility too). No, without the imprimatur of prestige conservative media like Fox and Limbaugh, and the support from official Republican party organs, and the complicity of Republican officeholders like Paxton, McCarthy, Hawley, Cruz, Steve Scalise, and Rick Scott, it’s doubtful that Trump’s big lie could have led where it did. The guilt is corporate.

The goons who defiled the Capitol and smashed poles into the heads of police thought what they were doing was righteous. They think of themselves as patriots. The cynical liars like Hawley and Levin and the rest, who took advantage of their ignorance for their own purposes, drape themselves in the flag too. How dare they? Their little game, which began by indulging the base’s attraction to fictions like the birther conspiracy, has metastasized into stoking insurrection—for a fantasy. Is there no point at which they question their complicity? Is there no point at which they say to themselves, “For the good of the country, I need to correct this?”

Dominion Voting Systems may get its reputation restored through the courts. The damage to the nation must be repaired by a chastened Republican party.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is Policy Editor of The Bulwark, a nationally syndicated columnist, and host of The Bulwark’s Beg to Differ podcast. She can be reached at [email protected].

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