President Donald Trump, already under scrutiny for recent tweets reigniting a debunked murder conspiracy involving a frequent critic of his on cable TV, received a new fact check label on a pair of tweets about mail-in voting on Tuesday.
“Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” the label says, linking to a host of news stories highlighting that Trump has frequently claimed, without evidence, that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud.
Trump had tweeted earlier in the day that “there is NO WAY (ZERO!) that mail-in ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged and even illegally printed out and fraudulently signed.”
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Twitter added the fact check label Tuesday afternoon.
“Trump falsely claimed that California will send mail-in ballots to ‘anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there.’ In fact, only registered voters will receive ballots,” according to the fact check link. “Though Trump targeted California, mail-in ballots are already used in some states, including Oregon, Utah and Nebraska.”
Twitter spokesperson Katie Rosborough told The Washington Post that the president’s tweets Tuesday “contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”
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Last week, the president asserted without evidence that mail-in voting was tied to voter fraud and tweeted unspecified threats of financial cuts to a pair of battleground states using coronavirus relief to make voting easier during the pandemic.
Trump asked for a mail ballot for Florida’s Republican primary last month and has used absentee ballots in the past. But the president, his re-election campaign and his allies have argued against statewide issuance of mail-in ballots.
A pair of studies by Arizona State University in 2012 and 2016 found “negligible rates of impersonation fraud,” according to the The Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute. The studies showed just 10 cases of voter impersonation fraud from 2000 to 2012, and zero prosecutions of such fraud in a handful of states where politicians claimed it was a serious issue.
The election fraud database at the conservative think tank the The Heritage Foundation shows about 200 cases of fraudulent use of absentee ballots over the last 29 years, Roll Call reported last month. In the five states with all-mail voting, Hawaii and Utah reported zero, Oregon reported two, Colorado reported five and Washington six.
The move by Twitter to label Trump’s tweets as misleading marks the first time the platform has taken action against the president.
It came on a day when Twitter said it would not remove tweets by the president accusing MSNBC host and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough of foul play linked to the death of intern Lori Klausutis two decades ago.
In a recent letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey published by The New York Times, Klausutis’ widower Timothy Klausutis said that his wife had an undiagnosed heart condition when she died after falling and hitting her head on her office desk in Florida.
Scarborough was in Washington, D.C., at the time, and law enforcement and medical professionals concluded her death was an accident. But that hasn’t stopped Trump from reigniting false claims about her death in the wake of frequent criticism from Scarborough, including on the Trump administration’s coronavirus response.
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Timothy Klausutis said the president had “perverted” the memory of his dead wife “for perceived political gain.” He said that he and his wife’s family had experienced emotional trauma over years of conspiracy theories that have significantly ramped up because of the president’s false tweets.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Tuesday deflected questions on the matter back to Scarborough, arguing his show has broadcast several “false headlines” about the president. She claimed that in an interview with radio shock jock Don Imus 17 years ago, Scarborough laughed and joked about an intern’s death.
McEnany said “Our hearts are with Lori’s family at this time,” when asked why the president would continue tweeting conspiracy theories against the family’s wishes.
Mika Brzezinski, Scarborough’s cohost and wife, said on Twitter that Imus “made the callous joke in 2003 during a break and then repeated it on air. Joe was embarrassed and said, ‘What are you going to do?’ trying to move on and talk about the show. No lies can cover up the hatefulness of Donald Trump.”
Twitter has previously enhanced policies to flag posts for misinformation, but it has resisted calls to take down tweets of world leaders and newsmakers.
In a blog explaining notices on tweets that may violate Twitter’s rules but remain on the site “in the public’s interest,” the company last year said that “government officials and political figures … have outsized influence and sometimes say things that could be considered controversial or invite debate and discussion. A critical function of our service is providing a place where people can openly and publicly respond to their leaders and hold them accountable.”
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