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‘2,000 Mules’ Producer Apologizes to Man Falsely Portrayed as Election Fraud Perpetrator

Conservative media company Salem Media Group has apologized to a Georgia man who was wrongly portrayed as an election fraudster in the film “2,000 Mules,” which Salem co-produced and released in 2022.

The documentary, written and directed by right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza, alleged that Democrats conspired with nonprofits to rig the 2020 election in favor of President Joe Biden by using ‘mules’ that swing ballot boxes states filled.

More than 1 million people watched “2,000 Mules” in the first two weeks of its release in May 2022 alone, and the film grossed more than $10 million. The baseless accusations became an article of faith for untold numbers of Americans who were convinced the election had been stolen. Five months later, Salem released a companion book.

The film features surveillance footage of Georgia man Mark Andrews putting ballots into a mailbox near Atlanta, along with voiceover commentary from D’Souza who calls the action “a crime” and adds: “These are fraudulent votes. .”

Although Andrews’ face is blurred in the footage, the film’s producers used blurred versions of the same video to promote the film on several conservative news outlets, including Tucker Carlson’s former show on Fox News and a show hosted by Charlie Kirk, a founder of Turning Point USA, and produced by Salem.

Andrews sued D’Souza, along with Salem and two individuals associated with the right-wing election monitoring group True the Vote, for defamation in October 2022. State investigators in Georgia have since found that Andrews committed no crime and that he filed the report legally. ballots for himself and some members of his family.

“It was never our intention that the publication of the film and book ‘2,000 Mules’ would harm Mr. Andrews,” Salem said in a statement Friday. “We apologize for any distress that the inclusion of Mr Andrews’ image in the film, book and promotional material has caused Mr Andrews and his family.”

Salem, one of the nation’s largest radio stations, with 115 stations, also syndicates radio and podcast content, operates several websites and publishes a number of Christian-themed conservative magazines. It said Friday that it had pulled “2,000 Mules” from its platforms and would no longer distribute the film and book.

As the 2022 midterm elections approached, the film became a leverage point for a variety of institutions and individuals who claimed the presidency had been stolen from Donald Trump, who in turn called it “the greatest and most impactful documentary of our time” .

Several advocacy groups, inspired by “2,000 Mules,” were formed to stake out ballot drop boxes — sometimes with individuals carrying firearms — and warn voters against early voting.

But some of the film’s staunchest promoters — including Rudy Giuliani, who attended a screening at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida, residence, and Fox News, which aired several segments about the film — later relented that they had spread lies. about the elections. In February, an attorney for True the Vote told a Georgia court that there was no evidence to support the state’s election fraud allegations.

Despite such admissions, many Americans continue to believe that the 2020 election was rigged. A CNN poll last August found that more than two-thirds of Republican voters did not believe Biden had won fairly.

D’Souza did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of True the Vote, did not return a phone call or email seeking comment.

“2,000 Mules” relied heavily on cell phone location data from True the Vote, which D’Souza claimed showed voting mules approaching the polls several times a day, as well as attending Black Lives Matter protests. The film claimed to provide evidence of fraud in battleground states crucial to the outcome of the 2020 election, including Georgia and Arizona. It is true that Vote officials claimed they had turned over evidence of fraud to the FBI.

But subsequent investigations have debunked the documentary’s claims, and Arizona’s attorney general referred True the Vote to the FBI and IRS for investigation, noting that the group had provided no evidence to substantiate its fraud claims.

In September, a federal judge in Georgia rejected attempts by defendants to dismiss Andrews’ defamation lawsuit. The case is pending.

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This article originally appeared in The New York Times.