A festival of lies

Fifty days ago, a mob incited by Trump's false claims of election fraud attacked the Capitol, leaving five people dead. Beginning Thursday evening in Orlando, conservatives will gather for a four-day event focused on perpetuating Trump's lies about the presidential election. Top Republicans from the House and Senate will participate. The entire affair will be streamed online by Fox News. And it will culminate Sunday night with Trump's first public speech since leaving office. 

The event, known as the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), is organized by lobbyist Matt Schlapp. After Election Day, Schlapp "helped lead the former president's effort to overturn the election results." 

In a November 8 appearance on Fox News, for example, Schlapp claimed there were "literally 9,000 people who voted in this election who don’t live in Nevada." The next day Trump said that Schlapp had uncovered evidence proving Nevada was "a cesspool of Fake Votes." 

Schlapp's claim was false. There is "no proof that 9,000 people cast illegal ballots in Nevada after moving out of state, and there remains no evidence of any widespread voter fraud in Nevada." The Trump campaign created a list "of 3,062 unnamed individuals who they claimed voted in Nevada after moving out of state." But the list does not prove voter fraud and "showed changes of address for people who moved to military bases," relocated for college, or otherwise could vote legally despite temporarily moving out of state. Some people who identified their address on the list began speaking out:

“It’s shocking that the Trump campaign would call these military members criminals for exercising their right to vote,” said Amy Rose, who said she found what appears to be herself and her husband, an Air Force major, on the list by matching up the ZIP Codes of where they lived in Nevada and where they now live in Northern California.

Months later, Schlapp continues to make false claims about voter fraud in Nevada. In an appearance on CNN this week, Schlapp suggested people in Nevada voted twice. "You should only vote once and if you vote by mail, somebody at that election office should have to verify that signature according to the state statute. That did not happen in the state of Nevada," Schlapp said. Again, Schlapp was wrong. There was signature matching for mail-in ballots in Nevada. 

Schlapp has created a program centered around these false claims. There are seven panels devoted to perpetuating lies about election fraud, including:

Other Culprits: Why Judges & Media Refused to Look at the Evidence

The Left Pulled the Strings, Covered It Up, and Even Admits It

Failed States (PA, GA, NV, oh my!)

The "Other Culprits" panel features Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL), who appeared at the January 6 rally that occurred just before the riot. Brooks told the crowd that it was time to start "taking down names and kicking ass." He refused to apologize

Trump will undoubtably include his false claims of election fraud in his keynote address on Sunday. In a statement this week, Trump claimed that "experts" believed he "won" the election and bemoaned the "election crimes that were committed against me." 

It's not surprising that Schlapp has created a four-day event to cater to Trump's ego. Publicly aligning himself with Trump has been profitable for him. In the waning days of Trump's presidency, Schlapp was paid $750,000 by convicted fraudster Pete Petit to try to secure a pardon from Trump. Schlapp failed to get Petit a pardon. 

But top Republican leaders in Congress are participating in this event. They have decided to make Trump's lies about election fraud central to the future of the Republican Party. 

GOP Congressional leaders come to CPAC, continue to embrace Trump's lies

The Republican leaders responsible for leading their party in the 2022 election cycle are coming to CPAC. Their participation is consistent with their refusal to disavow Trump's false claims — or take responsibility for their own role in creating the conditions that resulted in the January 6 riot.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will be taking the stage alongside Schlapp for a talk titled “Winning Back America.” McCarthy objected to finalizing Biden’s victory and, more recently, opposed the impeachment of Trump. McCarthy initially acknowledged that Trump “bears responsibility” for the insurrection. Later, McCarthy reversed course, stating that “I don't believe [Trump] provoked it if you listen to what he said at the rally,” and added that “everybody across this country has some responsibility.” 

A few days after revising his comments, McCarthy went to visit Trump in Florida, Business Insider reported. According to an email from Trump’s Save America PAC, McCarthy and Trump discussed “taking back the House in 2022.”

“President Trump’s popularity has never been stronger than it is today, and his endorsement means more than perhaps any endorsement at any time,” reads the January 28 email. “President Trump has agreed to work with Leader McCarthy on helping the Republican Party to become a majority in the House.”

Back in November, McCarthy peddled baseless accusations of voter fraud and publicly declared Trump as the winner of the 2020 presidential election. 

"President Trump won this election, so everyone who's listening, do not be quiet," McCarthy said on Laura Ingraham’s show on November 5, 2020. "We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes...Join together and let’s stop this."

Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), one of the eight Senators who voted to overturn the election results, will also be speaking on the CPAC main stage. Scott is chair of the NRSC -- a group responsible for electing Republicans to the Senate.

After the election, Scott, baselessly claimed that the election was rigged. When asked by CNN if he regretted voting to throw out Pennsylvania's electoral votes and disenfranchise millions of voters, Scott said “no.” 

Scott also refused to hold Trump accountable for inciting the riot, arguing that “he’s not the one who made the decision to breach this Capitol.” “I think it's irresponsible and false to say the President told people to break into the Capitol. He didn’t do that." Scott said to CNN.

Other Republican legislators slated to speak at the conference include Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), and Tom Cotton (R-AR) as well as Representatives Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Matt Gaetz (R-FL), among others. 

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Fox News to stream hours of lies about the 2020 election

In response to a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit filed by the voting machine company Smartmatic, Fox News defended its election reporting as rigorous and fair. "We are proud of our 2020 election coverage and will vigorously defend this meritless lawsuit in court," the company said in a statement. 

Now, Fox News plans to broadcast four days of misinformation about the 2020 election over its streaming platform, Fox Nation. 

In promoting CPAC, the network emphasized that this year's CPAC "is expected to feature a strong lineup that includes several Fox News personalities.”

Fox & Friends host Pete Hegseth is a featured speaker. Many panels include Fox News contributors, such as Jason Chaffetz, Deroy Murdock, and Leo Terrell.

Fox Nation is listed as a "Featuring Sponsor" of CPAC which means Fox News paid at least $250,000 to support the event. Fox News' embrace of CPAC could be an effort to hold off rivals Newsmax and OAN, which have seen ratings spike by aggressively promoting Trump's false claims about election fraud.