In the days after the 2020 election, as Donald Trump refused to concede, his allies began scrambling for evidence that the election was invalid. Some busied themselves challenging local election laws and trying to disqualify ballots in Democratic areas based on technicalities. Others were already rushing toward fringier conspiracy theories.
One particular conspiracy theory took hold early: “Hammer and scorecard.”
It held that a CIA supercomputer, called “hammer,” ran a program, “scorecard,” that flipped Trump votes to Biden. It was boosted by a serial fabulist and one-time intelligence contractor who claimed he had built the computer and the program to manipulate elections. Right-wing lawyer Sidney Powell seized on the theory, and detailed it on Fox News and Fox Business. The hosts, Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo, did not push back.
Now, thanks to the Dominion defamation lawsuit, we get a peek behind the scenes, including a Nov. 7 email that Bartiromo circulated to her staff the day before Powell joined her show. It appears to be notes about topics that Powell might discuss.
“Hammer ore voting Bank,” it says at one point, a line that seems to include typos.
“Hammer – A sophisticated computer system that allied site ration of votes,” it says later, followed by a line that is presumably more of interest to Dominion: “Thete is also a dominion system that I didn’t know about that has reported glitches & has been used in key states. And it adds on thousands of votes.”
As Philip Bump writes at the Washington Post, the document shows that on some level, Fox’s hosts were truly entertaining this stuff — in defiance of basic common sense.
It’s a mind-boggling document, not simply because it alleges obviously false incidents of fraud but because Bartiromo was once a well-regarded journalist. It’s not simply that this is someone uncritically sharing nonsense; it’s that it’s someone who was once considered a bulwark against nonsense who is doing so.
But it also suggests that Bartiromo had been given a preview of Powell’s wild claims before she came on air. Yet when she offered them up for Fox’s audiences the next day, they went unchallenged.
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