“Well actually, the election was rigged, which you, unfortunately, still haven’t figured out,” Trump wrote at the top of his op-ed, insisting — contra facts — that he actually won the state of Pennsylvania.
Before we go any further, let’s revisit what happened in Pennsylvania in 2020.
Joe Biden won 3,461,221 to Trump’s 3,379,055, according to the Almanac of American Politics. That’s a margin of 82,166 votes.
Which is close!
And the closeness of that result led Trump to make several attempts in the wake of the election to have courts step in. A federal judge dismissed Trump’s lawsuit in November 2020, writing: “One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption. That has not happened.” Around that same time, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected an attempt by Trump’s campaign to stop the counting of some absentee ballots in certain areas that included Philadelphia.
On November 24, Pennsylvania certified the results in the state after all 67 counties had certified their results individually.
There is simply no there there. None. Zero. Zilch.
Which, of course, the Wall Street Journal and its editors know. (Sidebar: Trump’s letter was published in the “Opinions” section, which is separate from the news and reporting end of the publication.) And that knowledge makes what they did all the worse.
The op-ed section at the Journal will likely hide behind 1st Amendment free speech arguments to defend themselves. But that misses the mark, since our speech is bound in all sorts of ways already. You can’t yell “bomb” on a plane without repercussions. Or “fire” in a movie theater. (Remember when we used to go to the movies? Yeah, that was fun.)
Under that same logic, you can’t simply allow lies about the 2020 election to be printed in a major national newspaper under the guise of free speech. There is absolutely no evidence that any of what Trump wrote in the letter is true. (He appears to have cobbled much of it together from a group known as Audit the Vote PA, which touts a number of debunked theories about the Pennsylvania vote count.) And by giving Trump such prominent space, you are conferring some credibility to what we know are wild and fact-free conspiracy theories.
So, why did the Journal do it?
Well, their opinion section has long been quite conservative. And a letter from the former president of the United States is not the easiest thing in the world to say “no” to. Plus, the letter was sure to be a massive traffic driver for the Journal’s website; it is currently the third most popular Opinions piece on the site and spent much of the first hours after publication in the number one slot.
None of these reasons, however, are good enough to justify the publication of a lie-filled letter from Trump, a letter which will continue to foment the misguided belief among his loyal supporters that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Especially since we saw on January 6 what all of those lies can create.