In the days and hours leading up to Vice President Joe Biden being declared the nation’s next president, Oklahoma Republicans pushed a baseless narrative accusing Democrats, the media and others of attempting to “steal” the election.
Without providing any evidence or even claims of where voter fraud is occurring, the Oklahoma Republican Party was among the groups who echoed President Donald Trump’s unsupported accusations that the election is rigged and that the president should win a second term because he was temporarily ahead in several key states on election night.
Party leaders initially spread these claims, which have been denounced and debunked by election officials, Democrats and even some top Republicans, Thursday afternoon on the official Oklahoma Republican Party Facebook page, which has 41,350 followers.
The post included a quote from Republican congressman Matt Gaetz saying “Trump’s path to victorty [sic] remains alive,” which was true at the time of posting since votes are still being counted and major networks have yet to call the race for Biden or Trump.
But Oklahoma party officials went on to write on the post that the”election was won on election night” and the “media and DNC” are trying to “steal” it.
Those claims are untrue, as numerous fact checks have shown.
Many states, including those still tabulating votes Friday, allow votes to come in after the election, including from military members, and it is a regular occurrence for ballots that were submitted legally and on time to be processed well after Election Day. And that has exactly been what has been playing out since Tuesday.
The Oklahoma Republican Party, nor the president or any of his allies, additionally have not presented any credible evidence of attempts by the Democrats, the media or anyone else of trying to steal the election.
Although Trump’s legal team has tried to intervene in the counts in several states and as the president himself has tweeted to “stop the count,” no court has substantiated any claims of mass voter fraud.
Election officials in states that were undecided still on Friday have also rejected claims of widespread problems.
Oklahoma Republican Chairman David McLain responded to questions about the post from Oklahoma Watch Thursday night by saying Trump’s supporters are entitled to “express their opinion on the ballot county process.”
McLain did not specifically address their stolen-election claim, which was made without evidence, or the false claim that the election was won on election night. He didn’t even name what state or states he and others were saying fraud was occurring.
He did not respond to follow up questions from Oklahoma Watch asking him to provide any evidence for the “stolen” election claims.
After The Associated Press and the major network news outlets called the race for Biden on Saturday, the Oklahoma Republican Party’s Facebook page shared a statement Trump put out that that accuses Biden of “rushing to falsely pose as the winner.” The president also vowed to fight the results in court, but did not provide any proof that any widespread fraud had occurred.
Without providing any evidence or specifics about how or where votes are being “stolen,” the Tulsa GOP additionally announced Thursday that it would holding a “Protect the Vote Rally” Friday to “stand in solidarity with those states currently in jeopardy of having their Trump victory stolen from them.”
Earlier in the day Thursday, however, the Tulsa GOP was sharing the event to its 3,012 followers as a “stop the steal rally.”
Hundreds attended the rally, according to a report from the Tulsa World.
In addition to some speakers suggesting that state legislators in contested states should certify the election for Trump before vote counting finished, others before the rally started shouted “not won, but stolen” in reference to the presidential race.
The Tulsa Republican Party, similar to the Oklahoma Republican Party, did not include details of how or where votes were being stolen or where they needed to be protected in the post advertising the rally.
The Oklahoma Republican Party announced later in the day Thursday that a “stand with the president” will also be held Saturday at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City.
The event appears to be first shared by Brian Hobbs, a former Oklahoma House of Representatives candidate who lost a primary race in 2018 and current mayor of Newkirk, Oklahoma. He wrote on Facebook, ” I’m calling on all Oklahoman’s [sic] who are disenfranchised with the presidential election” and “and demand election transparency.”
Several current or former lawmakers expected to attend, according to the post.
Hobbs went on to write that “we will cross that bridge when it comes” when asked by another commenter what are they supposed to do if “they’re going to force biden [sic] into be president.”
Oklahoma Democrats, meanwhile, called on state Republican leaders, including Gov. Kevin Stitt and the state Republican congressional delegation, to condemn the president’s attempt to delegitimize the election.
As of Friday afternoon, however, none of the Republican leaders had publicly made statements calling on Trump to reign in his rhetoric.
Oklahoma Republican U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, however, was questioning the integrity of the election – without providing specific evidence of fraud – Friday on Talk 1170 Radio’s The Pat Campbell Show podcast.
Mullin said while he is not a “conspiracist person,” he suggested that the “disproportionate voting” between how people voted in-person versus absentee is proof there is fraud.
Democrats across the country including in Oklahoma, however, performed much better when it came to absentee than in-person voting. In addition to a massive outreach effort encouraging voters to vote early by Democrats, Trump repeatedly told his supporters not to trust mail voting as, for months, he criticized the process that he even used to vote in presidential elections.
“Something isn’t right,” Mullin said. “This is American. We shouldn’t allow our election to be stolen. Numbers are number and you can’t tell me in (Pennsylvania and Georgia) it would be breaking in these states unless something fraudulent is going on.”
Mullin also made a completely unfounded claim, which he nor the host followed up on, that somehow the absentee votes were coming from deceased voters.
“I’ve never seen a dead person show up in person and vote, but they sure seem to be able to lick a stamp and mail it in,” he said.
Oklahoma Republican U.S. Sen. James Lankford also questioned the integrity of the election, without providing evidence, during his appearance on the same podcast, also on Friday.
He wouldn’t go as far as saying the election had been “stolen,” but Lankford said Republicans have “a lot of questions all over the country.”
“I know the left and the media are all saying we should all sit down and shut up,” he said. “But there is a lot of reasonable questions to ask, those questions should be asked. We should have attorneys go in and election observers go in and examine it.”
Lankford was also asked about a debunked viral video from Project Veritas, an outlet run by right-wing activist James O’Keefe, that purportedly showed someone claiming to be a Pennsylvanian Postal Worker saying fraud was committed by postal workers who illegally back-dated absentee ballots.
This accusation, which has made its rounds across the Internet this week, has not been substantiated and Politifact ruled in a fact check that the claim “didn’t hold up.”
That, however, didn’t stop Lankford to respond, “nope, that’s not legal.”
Other Republican party leaders or elected officials also were sharing unsubstantiated or debunked claims of election fraud Thursday and Friday.
This includes state Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, posting on his legislative Facebook page cited an incorrect statistic that Michigan saw an impossible “90% participation rate” to justify his claim that this was “probably the biggest case of voter fraud in US history and likely in the history of the world.”
A fact check from Politifact, a nonpartisan group, however gave this viral claim, which was spread by Donald Trump Jr. among others, a “pants on fire” rating. The fact check pointed out the calculations are “based on bad math, not reality.”
Standridge did not respond to requests for comment from Oklahoma Watch. As of Friday afternoon, the posts, which has been shared more than 325 times, remained up even though Oklahoma Watch and several commenters on the senator’s post pointed out the debunked claim.
The Pottawatomie County Republican Party’s Facebook page was among others that indicated they wouldn’t accept a Biden win. This included a post sharing comments “from a friend” that parroted several unfounded conspiracy theories or debunked claims, including one that claimed voters were forced to vote using Sharpie pens that aren’t read by voting machines in Arizona. That was also disproven by Politifact.
Pottawatomie County was among the groups or elected officials who shared the most misinformation in an Oklahoma Watch investigation just prior to the election.
Oklahoma Watch reviewed of hundreds of Facebook pages and thousands of posts to reveal that state and local political parties, lawmakers and legislative hopefuls have shared at least 85 posts that were flagged as false or misleading information — with the vast majority coming from Republican voices.
The posts range from debunked medical advice about the COVID-19 pandemic, conspiracy theories involving pedophilia rings and fabricated or misattributed quotes from living and dead politicians. Altogether these posts were directly shared 2,700 times, something which misinformation experts say is especially dangerous because they come from trusted sources and people in positions of authority.
This story was updated at at 12:15 p.m. Saturday to include details and reactions after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the election by The Associated Press and other news outlets.
Trevor Brown has been an Oklahoma Watch reporter since 2016. He covers politics, elections, health policies and government accountability issues. Call or text him at (630) 301-0589. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @tbrownokc
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