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Eric Trump Is An Election Disinformation Superspreader

The president’s son has prematurely claimed victory in Pennsylvania, spread rumors and lies, and, so far, gotten away with it.

Posted on November 5, 2020, at 2:07 p.m. ET

BuzzFeed News; Drew Angerer / Getty Images

When the Trump campaign held a press conference in Pennsylvania on Nov. 4 to lie about having won the state, Eric Trump was front and center.

“This is fraud. This is absolute fraud,” said the president’s son, inaccurately.

While President Donald Trump’s penchant for falsehoods and conspiracy theories is well documented, his middle son has become a superspreader of false and misleading election information. Eric Trump has used his Twitter account, which has more than 4.4 million followers, to blast out false claims of vote count irregularities, to prematurely claim victory in Pennsylvania, and to promote misleading news articles.

“Political elites using social media to sow distrust in the election process is unprecedented in the US,” Joan Donovan, the research director of Harvard's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, told BuzzFeed News. “Even in 2018, while we saw false associations between candidates and their political positions, there was no large scale campaign to upend trust in the voting process. While President Trump has become known for white propaganda campaigns, Eric has not used his social media in the same way until now.”

Eric Trump's blitz included a claim about Sharpies in Arizona, votes for Trump being burned, and inaccurate calculations of voter turnout in Wisconsin. All of these were false.

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He also shared a story from a Texas website that suggested a video showing a man wheeling a box into a Detroit polling center was transporting suspicious votes. In fact, the video shows a camera operator from a local TV station bringing in equipment.

And on election night, Trump shared a screenshot of a baseless tweet from his father claiming that his opponents were trying to “STEAL the election.”

Twitter

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The falsehood that Trump has most frequently spread is about the vote count in Michigan. He sent multiple tweets and retweets of a misleading claim that former vice president Joe Biden’s total suddenly increased by more than 130,000 early on Nov. 4, a mistake based on a quickly corrected data error, not fraud.

That did not deter Trump. Hours after the vote totals were corrected, he retweeted an article from conservative opinion site the Federalist that declared “Yes, Democrats Are Trying to Steal the Election” and cited the Michigan data error. On Thursday morning, Trump tweeted the same article, following it by sharing a tweet from Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo that repeated the false claim about Michigan as well as the incorrect rumor about Sharpies in Arizona.

“Maria the fraud being undercovered / reported is nothing short of insane,” Trump tweeted.

As of Thursday morning, Twitter has placed warning labels on just two of Trump’s tweets. His premature claim of victory in Pennsylvania was labeled as unsupported by official sources, and his share of the Federalist story was given a label noting that it contains disputed information that could be misleading about the election.

"One has to wonder how many labels Twitter will add to an account before the company realizes they must take other actions to stop the spread of disinformation pulsing through their services," Donovan said.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the record.

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