Enter fact-checking site PolitiFact, which took it upon itself to examine the governor’s statement.
“Gov. Glenn Youngkin recently gave his blessings to an ‘Election Integrity Unit’ established by Attorney General Jason Miyares, a fellow Republican, to investigate and prosecute violations of Virginia’s election laws,” PolitiFact’s Warren Fiske wrote.
He added, “Youngkin’s office sent us a number of recordings of prominent Democrats saying that Trump’s 2016 victory was turned by events that occurred during the campaign, especially documented Russian interference on Trump’s behalf. It’s important to point out, however, that the Democrats did not question the actual counting of ballots in 2016, as Youngkin’s statement implies, or that Trump won the election.”
In a 2020 interview with The Atlantic, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted, “There was a widespread understanding that [the 2016] election was not on the level. We still don’t know what happened … but you don’t win by 3 million votes and have all this other shenanigans and stuff going on and not come away with an idea like, ‘Whoa, something’s not right here.’”
Meanwhile, former President Jimmy Carter declared in 2019, “There’s no doubt that the Russians did interfere in the election, and I think the interference, although not yet quantified, if fully investigated would show that Trump didn’t actually win the election in 2016. He lost the election, and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf.”
Unless Fiske is insisting Carter is not a Democrat, it is not clear how he can claim Democrats did not doubt Trump won the election, given the quote above.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also tweeted in 2017, “Our election was hijacked. There is no question. Congress has a duty to [protect our democracy and follow the facts].”
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) May 16, 2017
Meanwhile, Karine Jean-Pierre — now the White House press secretary — tweeted shortly after the 2016 election, “Stolen emails, stolen drone, stolen election …..welcome to the world of [unpresidented] Trump.”
— Karine Jean-Pierre (@K_JeanPierre) December 18, 2016
Fiske conceded “some well-known Democrats — including Clinton — said Trump’s 2016 victory was fishy.”
However, he said, “They mostly cited events that happened during the campaign, such as Russian hacking of campaign information and Comey’s announcement that the FBI was reopening an investigation into Clinton’s emails. They also complained that many states had passed laws that suppressed voter turnout.”
He went on:
“The Democrats, while questioning events that occurred during the campaign, didn’t contend there was widespread vote-counting fraud that flipped the election… While the Democrats rejected the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency based on the oddities of the campaign, they acknowledged that he won the election.”
Finally, Fiske wrote, “All told, we rate Youngkin’s statement Half True.”
Sure, the Democrats mentioned by PolitiFact did not explicitly claim illegal votes were cast, or that votes were tampered with.
But raising the prospect that “Trump’s 2016 victory was fishy,” without nuance or claiming Trump “lost the election” and “was put into office” has the same effect.
And the argument that events swayed voters’ opinions does not add up with the claim Trump is illegitimate. People decide how they vote. And if they see information that pushes them toward one candidate or the other, even if it is missing context or manipulated, it does not make their vote any less legitimate.
Raising doubts about election results causes people to lose faith in our electoral system. Whether the claim is that events altered the outcome of an election or that fraudulent votes did, it’s not good. It leads people to believe their votes won’t matter.
It’s not good when Republicans baselessly claim the 2020 election was stolen, and it was not good when Democrats claimed the 2016 election was stolen, either.
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