News & Politics

CNN Tried to 'Fact-Check' Mike Pence's Op-Ed. It Backfired

Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP

On Wednesday, former Vice President Mike Pence wrote an op-ed in The Daily Signal expressing concerns about irregularities in the 2020 election and warning that H.R. 1, Democrats’ “For the People Act,” would only exacerbate serious concerns about election integrity. CNN attempted to fact-check Pence’s op-ed on air, but this attempt to prove Pence wrong only blasted what remains of CNN’s credibility.

CNN Newsroom host Brianna Keilar played footage of Capitol rioters chanting, “Hang Mike Pence!” and then launched into Pence’s article.

“And now, nearly two months later, Pence is still out there pushing the Big Lie,” she claimed, referring to the narrative that President Donald Trump truly won the 2020 election.

“In a new op-ed, the former Vice President says the election was ‘marked by significant voting irregularities and numerous instances of officials setting aside state election law’ and that he is concerned ‘about the integrity of the 2020 election.’ Patently false,” she asserted. “Proved false by Trump’s own attorney general, Bill Barr, and Trump’s former FBI director, Chris Wray, just yesterday when he said that there were no irregularities on a scale that would have changed the outcome of the 2020 election.”

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Just in this introduction, Keilar blatantly twisted Pence’s words. Pence did not claim that Trump won; he only claimed that there were significant irregularities and instances of officials rejecting election law — both of which are true — and he said he shares concerns about the integrity of the election.

It was heinous for Keilar to claim that this statement was “patently false.” While it remains unlikely that Trump really won the election, it also remains true that there were significant irregularities and abuses of power in the 2020 election. Furthermore, Keilar technically said it is “false” that Pence was “concerned” about election integrity. Can she read his mind?!

After this brief introduction, Keilar brought on Daniel Dale to go through a “fact-check.”

Dale focused on the parts of Pence’s op-ed focused on H.R. 1. He sought to debunk Pence’s claims but ended up proving them correct.

“There was a significant amount of dishonesty just in the H.R. 1 part of the op-ed,” Dale began. “For example, Pence claimed that this Democratic bill would ban voter ID nationwide. It would not, in fact, do so. What it would do is require states that do have voter ID to allow voters who are not presenting their identification to sign, present a sworn statement attesting to their identity. So Pence can say that requirement weakens states’ voter ID requirements, but it certainly does not ban them.”

Dale acknowledged that the bill effectively forces states to allow voters to vote without presenting ID, but he claimed that Pence’s article was false because H.R. 1 did not explicitly strike state voter ID laws. This is technically true, but it is a meaningless distinction. Allowing voters to cast a ballot without an ID effectively bans voter ID, whether or not the text explicitly strikes voter ID laws.

“Pence also claimed that anyone who’s listed in a government database, state and federal, would have to be added to the voter registration rules under the automatic voter registration system in the bill, he said including millions of undocumented immigrants,” Dale noted. “In fact, undocumented immigrants would continue to be prohibited from voting under this bill. Nothing changes federal law limiting voting to U.S. citizens.”

Again, Pence did not claim that illegal immigrants — he did not say “undocumented” but “illegal” — would gain the legal right to vote, he merely said that automatic voter registration would entail putting illegal immigrants who registered for a driver’s license on the voter rolls. This is a valid concern — in fact, it is so valid that H.R. 1 explicitly exempts from prosecution people who are “not eligible to vote in elections for Federal office but [were] automatically registered to vote” (Sec. 1015).

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Finally, Dale faulted Pence for refusing to hedge his claims on mail-in ballots.

“Pence also claimed that the bill would require states to accept, he said, ‘every mail-in ballot that arrives up to 10 days after’ the election. This is highly misleading at best,” Dale argued. “The bill would require states to accept ballots that were post-marked on or before Election Day and then arrived up to ten days after the election but it would not require states to accept ballots that were mailed after Election Day and then arrived up to ten days later. So you couldn’t mail, six, seven days later, have it arrive on day ten, and have it accepted.”

“That continues to be wrong, false, in its entirety,” he added, for emphasis.

Technically, states would not have to count “every ballot” that arrives 10 days after Election Day, but the basic gist of Pence’s point remains true — the deadline for the arrival of ballots would be extended ten days after the election, even if that only applies to ballots postmarked on or before Election Day.

“CNN’s own words contradict their claims,” Katrina Trinko, editor in chief at The Daily Signal, told PJ Media in a statement.

“Most Americans would understand a rule that requires all states, even those with voter ID laws, to allow anyone to cast a provisional ballot, even if that person has no valid ID, to be effectively eliminating voter ID laws,” Trinko argued. “Likewise, while CNN tries to rebut Vice President Mike Pence’s claims about the 2020 election by noting the words of FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Bill Barr, they miss that the words they quote do not in fact refute what Pence wrote.”

“Saying there was not sufficient fraud to alter the outcome of the 2020 election does not rule out the possibility of significant voting irregularities having occurred,” Trinko noted.

“In this era of fake news, we need fact checking more than ever. It’s unfortunate CNN isn’t able to provide its viewers with genuine fact checking,” the editor concluded.

Is it unfortunate or is it that way by design?

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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