Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is going after a right-wing news site, demanding it take down misleading videos of poll worker trainings in Detroit.
In an Oct. 28 cease and desist letter, Nessel told Big League Politics the videos violate Michigan law because they contain “misleading and false election information,” according to a photo of the letter posted to the conservative blog Gateway Pundit.
Nessel’s spokesperson Ryan Jarvi confirmed Tuesday the attorney general sent a letter to the site and what Gateway Pundit posted appeared to be authentic. Nessel’s office will release a statement about the cease and desist later this week, Jarvi said.
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The videos no longer appear to be live on Big League Politics’ website, though a combined version of the audio exists on the video-sharing platform Bitchute, which is known for hosting the far-right and conspiracy theorists.
Big League Politics is a right-wing news site started in 2017 by former Breitbart employees, according to The Atlantic. The HuffPost called the site a place “for people who find Breitbart too reasonable.” It has been known to promote false claims and conspiracy theories.
In the weeks leading up to the election, Big League Politics reporter Shane Trejo posted stories using audio recordings of what he said was a poll worker training in Detroit. The videos didn’t record images of the training; rather it showed subtitles of what was said as the audio played.
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The videos contained false information about how poll workers counted challenged votes prior to 2020, Nessel said. The videos also make a false statement about whether challenged ballots could be taken out of the official count. Challengers have six days to prove a vote was improper, Nessel wrote in the letter.
Nessel told the site to take the videos down as well as any stories under the “#DetroitLeaks” title.
The videos are considered misinformation, a term used to describe false or misleading information. If misinformation is spread with the intent to mislead, then it is disinformation.
“Other portions of the video clips posted on your site are taken out of context or deceptively edited,” Nessel’s office wrote in the letter. “Further, they do not portray accurate information.”
This is a big part of these influence campaigns, said Josh Tucker, a New York University professor of politics and co-director of NYU’s Center for Social Media and Politics. It isn’t always faking things, Tucker said.
“If you think of attending every single training, for every single poll worker everywhere and somebody cracking a joke at one point about something, right, or splicing something somebody said, of course you’re going to be able to find things that sound suspicious,” he said.
In 2019, Big League Politics broke the story that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wore either blackface or a Ku Klux Klan robe as a costume in a yearbook photo. The site is backed by Republican operatives, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Despite breaking the Northam story, Big League Politics is not one of the larger right-wing media organizations to crop up since 2016, said Howard Polskin, creator of The Righting media company. The Righting aggregates content from right-wing news sites to give mainstream media consumers and liberals a better picture of the media landscape.
Polskin maintains a list of conservative websites ranked by unique visitors. Big League Politics doesn’t rank among the most popular sites, according to the data Polskin gets from Comscore Media Metrix.
One of the titles Big League Politics posted its story under was “#DETROITLEAKS — Anyone with Easily-Forged ‘Voter Registration Receipt’ Can Come to a Precinct, Receive a Ballot, and Vote!”
“Wow, wow, that’s pretty bold,” Polskin told the Free Press. “I do not see that often.”
Reporter Clara Hendrickson contributed to this report.
Ashley Nerbovig covers mis- and disinformation for the Detroit Free Press. Contact her at [email protected] This project was produced with support from a grant from the American Press Institute.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan AG to right-wing website: Take down misleading videos