Arizona Audit Backers Turn on Each Other After Recount Flop

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Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Supporters of Republicans’ controversial “audit” of 2020 presidential election ballots have turned on each other after the partisan investigation failed to find proof of election malfeasance, with disaffected backers even circulating a fabricated rival report they claim shows interference by the “deep state.”

The audit report landed with a thud on Friday, only proving, if anything, that Joe Biden won Arizona by more votes than previously realized. On this week’s episode of The Daily Beast’s Fever Dreams podcast, hosts Asawin Suebsaeng and Will Sommer are joined by Arizona Mirror reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy to discuss the audit’s fractious aftermath.

“Some people who were involved in the report say the deep state kept the real truth out,” Sommer said on this week’s episode.

“The deep state and the politically correct lawyers and RINOs of the GOP suppressed this,” said MacDonald-Evoy, summarizing right-wing critics’ complaints about the anti-climactic audit report.

Among the audit report’s new detractors: Jovan Hutton Pulitzer, the controversial inventor whose supposed technology analyzing folds in ballot paper had promised, according to audit supporters, to detect some kind of voter fraud. Instead, the final audit report contained no mention of Pulitzer’s imaging technology, a change Pulitzer attributed on Twitter to “deep state” malfeasance.

Asked over email who in the “deep state” supposedly sabotaged his contribution to the report, Pulitzer remained vague.

“That’s the big question — is it not?” Pulitzer wrote in an email to The Daily Beast.

Audit discontent has been growing elsewhere in the conservative fever swamps. Joe Oltmann, a conservative businessman who rose to prominence in the post-election right after claiming without evidence that he heard a voting systems employee plotting on a conference call with antifa, claimed the state Senate had put on a “dog and pony show.” Ron Watkins, the one-time 8chan administrator who’s been accused of running the QAnon conspiracy theory, shared a video suggesting Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers (R), one of the audit’s most prominent supporters, was in fact blocking a real investigation of the 2020 ballots.

Right-wing media personalities disappointed by the audit have even promoted a fictitious rival report they claimed was the “real” report from audit operators Cyber Ninjas. In this telling, the fabricated “draft” report called for Biden’s win to be decertified. But while the fake report was embraced by prominent right-wing news blog The Gateway Pundit as proof that the real report released on Friday had been “watered down,” Cyber Ninjas blasted the report as a hoax.

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Despite the auditors’ humiliation and now discord, Suebsaeng and MacDonald-Evoy say there are only more MAGA audits ahead before the midterms.

“I think it’s almost never-ending, especially with 2022 coming up,” MacDonald-Evoy said, suggesting that “audit reporter” could be a necessary new journalism beat.

Elsewhere on the pod, The Daily Beast reporter Kelly Weill joins to talk about a right-wing group organizing attempts to censor school books. Suebsaeng and Sommer discuss an NBC News report on the rise of amateur coronavirus “medical vigilantes” encouraging seriously ill patients to avoid hospitals. Also on the pod: the hosts consider the prospects of an oddly named Gen-Z Republican TikTok group called “Today is America.”

Listen, and subscribe, to Fever Dreams on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.

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