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California Politics

Right-wing media are already crying foul on the California recall

Gay conservative Richard Grenell is calling for people to catalog supposed instances of voter fraud in the recall election on his website

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Photo Credit: Instagram account of former U.S. Ambassador Grenell, selfie with former President Trump

By Spencer Silva | WASHINGTON – With California’s gubernatorial recall election happening on Tuesday, the state’s voters have been flooded with conspiracy theories aimed at undermining their faith in its outcome. 

With polls now showing sitting Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom firmly in the lead, right-wing media have been steadily pushing election misinformation — laying the groundwork to claim that the forthcoming election is rigged before the votes are even cast. 

Predictably, Fox News has been beating that election misinformation drum. Pro-recall Facebook groups are also teeming with voter fraud conspiracy theories. Former Fox contributor Richard Grenell, who served as a cabinet member in the Trump administration, is even calling for people to catalog supposed instances of voter fraud happening across the Golden State on his website. 

The narrative has gotten so bad that both local and state officials have now had to preemptively push back against bad-faith claims of fraud on official social media accounts.

Conservatives have latched onto four different bogus pieces of evidence to cast a pall over the results of the recall effort before the election even takes place.

Right-wing figures are claiming California’s ballot design will lead to fraud

On August 19, Grenell shared a video of a California voter claiming that holes punched in mail-in ballot envelopes allowed ballot handlers to identify “yes” votes on the ballot’s central question of whether they wanted to to remove Newsom. The person in the video made a bogus claim that the envelope design is “sketchy” and can be used to tamper with the “yes” votes. 

In reality, the holes in question are a tactile way for the visually impaired to locate the ballot envelope’s signature line. They also act as a visual aid for election officials to quickly identify if an uncounted ballot has been left in an envelope. (Additionally, each county in California designs its own ballots, so the fact that a ballot in one county lines up with the envelope holes when folded one very particular way is hardly evidence of fraud.) 

But the fact that the ballot holes controversy was easily debunked didn’t stop right-wing media figures from running with the narrative. The day after Grenell tweeted the video, The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles cited it as proof that Democrats cheat in elections and implied that the ballot design was part of a clever statewide conspiracy to allow political operatives to identify votes in favor of the recall and trash them.

Right-leaning media outlets are vilifying the state’s accessible voting system

In early August, right-wing media seized on a voting feature, Remote Access Vote-by-Mail, that allows some disabled voters to fill out their ballots online and print them at home. The system isn’t used widely and limits each user to printing one ballot, and “the voter’s choices are also transferred to a ballot and both documents are stored together for a post-election audit.” But conservatives spent the past month billing the system as a tool California Democrats would use to rig the recall election.

On August 9, right-wing website RedState published an article that describes the remote voting feature as a “scheme” concocted by “crazy California Democrats” to “cheat on elections.” The same day, One America News Network host Natalie Harp cast doubt on the home-printed ballot program for disabled voters, asking, “How does California define what’s a disability?” 

On August 19, Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield fearmongered about California’s remote voting program, asking his audience, “Can you imagine if we start printing our own ballots? Our elections would be lawless. Can you imagine if we don’t go after voter fraud? We have to.” Stinchfield’s segment also cited the “ballot holes” video mentioned above as additional evidence of widespread voter fraud.

During a September 7 appearance on Newsmax, election misinformation superspreader former President Donald Trump claimed with no pushback from the interviewer that the California recall election is “probably rigged” before mentioning that “you can even make your own ballot” — a seeming reference to remote vote-by-mail.

Right-wing media are misleadingly amplifying an incident of mail theft as “stealing votes” 

On August 23, news stations reported that police in Torrance, California, found 300 unopened mail-in ballots for the recall election in a car parked outside a 7-Eleven along with a sleeping man, a bunch of other mail, a gun, and drugs. 

While one might reasonably assume that the ballots were incidentally taken along with the thousands of other pieces of stolen mail, right-wing media immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was clear evidence widespread of voter fraud. 

On Facebook, Fox News’ social media headline read: “STEALING VOTES: Hundreds of Calif. recall ballots, drugs, loaded gun found in passed-out felon’s car: police.” 

Breitbart, The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro, and Fox host Dan Bongino each shared the story. Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder also shared a link to a YouTube video from right-wing podcaster Tim Pool, who discussed the stolen ballots. 

Pro-Trump media networks OAN and Newsmax also ran with the story. During an interview with Elder on August 24, OAN host Dan Ball cited the Torrance story, and other claims as evidence of voter fraud. Elder responded, “Well, we know what happened in 2020. We know about all the fraud, shenanigans that went on in the 2020 election. As you know, you can now print your own ballot here in California. What could possibly go wrong? That’s why we have a battery of lawyers watching all of this. … We’re watching them. But I wouldn’t put it past them.”

That same evening, OAN’s Harp told her audience that the Torrance ballots had been “intercepted.” 

Right-wing actors highlight an Associated Press story about election fraud without giving context

On September 2, The Associated Press reported that a group of cybersecurity experts sent a letter to California’s secretary of state calling for an audit of the state’s election because unauthorized system images had been released at a right-wing voter fraud conference hosted by disgraced businessman Mike Lindell. 

Right-wing personalities like Blaze TV host Steve Deace, preacher Jack Hibbs, and former Trump attorney Jenna Ellis all shared the story online, holding it up as evidence of fraud and casting doubt on the results of the forthcoming election. Unsurprisingly, none of them mentioned that experts were calling for an audit because right-wing activists had triggered a security threat.

Local newsrooms have had their hands full debunking all of these ridiculous claims, but right-wing media continue to spread them anyway, attempting to undermine the legitimacy of California’s election.

Additional reporting and research by Eric Kleefeld & Kellie Levine

********************

Spencer Silva is a researcher at Media Matters. His writing and reporting have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, the East Bay Express, Oakland Magazine, KQED-FM, and other outlets.

He holds bachelor’s degrees in political science and Spanish from the University of Portland as well as a master’s in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. 

The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

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California Politics

Karen Bass & her LGBTQ staff discuss commitment to equity & justice

“Diversity is something you have to do consciously,” Bass said. “I always look at my staff and [ask myself] ‘who’s missing?’

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Karen Bass with campaign staff, supporters, and former California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (Photo by LeRoy Hamilton)

LOS ANGELES – U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), a leading candidate to become the next mayor of the city Los Angeles, has hired LGBTQ+ folks with diverse backgrounds to leadership positions on her Congressional staff and in her mayoral campaign because of “their dedication to fighting for social and economic justice,” Bass told the Los Angeles Blade over the phone Thursday morning. 

“Diversity is something you have to do consciously,” she said. “I always look at my staff and [ask myself] ‘who’s missing?’ to make sure we have representation. I think it’s really important to approach it that way.” 

Meanwhile three senior members of Bass’s staff, all of whom identify as LGBTQ+ – Senior Advisor and Policy Director Joey Freeman, Campaign Manager Jenny Delwood, and Chief of Staff Darryn Harris — spoke to The Blade about their personal relationships with the Congresswoman. 

They also highlighted what they described as a throughline in Bass’s adherence to principles of equity and justice, beginning with her early career as a nurse and physicians’ assistant through to her candidacy for mayor of Los Angeles. 

Bass is slated to square off against billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso in the November 8 election to replace term-limited incumbent Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. The two candidates advanced from the June 7 primary elections, having each received less than 50% of the vote. 

A longtime ally of the LGBTQ+ community, Bass kicked off her “LGBTQ+ for Bass affinity group” Wednesday night at the historic Black Cat restaurant in Silver Lake.

Bass has been a mentor to the next generation of LGBTQ+ leaders on her staff.

When it comes to her staff, Bass said, “I see my role as helping to develop their leadership and helping to support them however I can.” 

“I was able to be my full self here; fully black, fully gay,” said Harris, Bass’s chief of staff, who has known the Congresswoman for his entire adult life and served in multiple positions before being appointed to lead her congressional office. 

“When you have a boss who’s that supportive of you, it helps in so many different ways,” he said. “Not only with the work we do, but also it was one of the things that helped deepen our friendship and deepen our mutual trust, because I was able to bring my whole self to work.”

Delwood, Bass’s campaign manager, has also known the Congresswoman for more than a decade and served in multiple positions before her appointment to lead her mayoral campaign. As a human being, as a professional, and as a lesbian, Delwood said Bass has embraced every part of who she is. 

“The Congresswoman has been not only a boss, but also a mentor,” Delwood said. “I started working for her as a fellow/intern in 2007 in the California Assembly, and she and I have built a very strong relationship over the years. She is part of my extended family, now.”

Jenny Delwood, pictured right, with Bass (center) officiating her wedding to wife Christine
(Photo courtesy of Jenny Delwood)

Beginning with her early career in healthcare, Bass has been an ally of the LGBTQ+ community

“When I went to school to be a physicians’ assistant in the early 1980s,” Bass said, the virus that would become known as HIV/AIDS began to emerge, disproportionately impacting gay men. “It was unbelievable, in the first few years of the epidemic, how [badly] these patients were treated,” she said. 

In her work treating patients, and as a full-time clinical instructor at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, Bass pushed for better treatment of HIV/AIDS patients, practicing what she preached. 

“From that time on, she’s been standing for and with the community,” said Freeman, Bass’s senior advisor and policy director, who identifies as gay. 

“She was on the ground floor of the HIV AIDS epidemic,” Delwood said, “providing medical care for people with HIV/AIDS when folks were steering clear of and being discriminatory [against those who were positive].” From those early days of her career, Delwood said, “Congresswoman Bass has been in deep solidatiry with the LGBTQ community.”

“It wasn’t just gay men with HIV,” said Zach Seidl, Bass’s communications advisor, “but trans folks, too.”  In the best of cases, doctors would greet HIV/AIDS patients in hazmat suits; in the worst, refusing treatment, Seidl said. Bass, meanwhile, insisted she needed to help them, he added.   

Bass believes in consulting people who will be directly impacted by policy

Policymakers often speak with subject matter experts without consulting those who will be directly impacted, Bass said. It’s an oversight the Congresswoman has been careful to avoid. 

For example, Bass told the Blade she visited a federal prison yesterday morning to hand out copies of draft legislation that concerns women in the criminal justice system, inviting incarcerated women to read and share comments or input by email. 

This will extend to her work as mayor, Freeman said. If elected, Bass will be charged with selecting staff, commission members, and general manager appointments, roles where she will ensure LGBTQ+ people are well represented, because this is how she prefers to govern – by consulting with people who are directly affected by policy. 

Working so closely with Congresswoman Bass, “I have the opportunity to see that every single day,” Harris said, “Ordinary people influencing public policy at state, federal, and – soon – the citywide level” under her leadership. 

Bass believes the most effective way to create lasting change is to work with community members and to bring forward solutions that are community driven, Delwood agreed. “In order to actually solve homelessness or address crime in LA or deal with our lack of affordable housing, it’s imperative” to work with a variety of stakeholders from the community as well as in the county, state, and federal government, she said. 

Bass and her staff have big plans to address problems afflicting Los Angelinos 

“I could have stayed in Congress to fight for a leadership spot,” said Bass, who was reported as a front runner for President Joe Biden’s vice president during his 2020 electoral campaign. But there are crises in Los Angeles, she said, pointing to the latest figures on the city’s unhoused population as an example. 

Bass Policy Director Joey Freeman (Middle) and Campaign Manager Jenny Delwood (far right)
(Photo by LeRoy Hamilton)

It was the second time in her career that Bass was faced with such a decision, she said. “I was a full-time faculty member of the medical school” when Los Angeles began to experience a crack-cocaine epidemic in the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

“I was mortified at how the city was responding to crack cocaine and gang issues,” Bass said. “These were health, social, and economic issues, but the response of policymakers was to criminalize everything and everyone in South LA.”

Leaving USC, Bass formed the Community Coalition and began her work as a community organizer. “I worked to prevent the city from locking everyone up, and to steer people away from gangs,” the Congresswoman said. “And then I looked for how we organize people to fight for drug treatment instead of incarceration for those who were addicted.” 

Likewise, Bass said, the current moment calls for coalition building and working across the government to improve the lives of Angelenos and effectuate just policymaking for, especially, vulnerable communities.

Members of Bass’s staff pointed to how the Congresswoman could be particularly effective as mayor on issues of homelessness, LGBTQ+ rights, child welfare reform, foster care reform, housing affordability, and violence against Black trans people. 

“Forty percent of young people on the streets are LGBTQ+,” said Delwood. “Being able to address that is a top priority of the congresswoman as well as our entire team.” Many children land in the foster care system because of discrimination over their sexual orientation or gender identities, she said, and while LGBTQ+ adoptive or foster parents are greeted with “open arms” in LA, such is not the case in many other parts of the country. 

As Mayor, in coordination with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Bass will be able to champion foster youth, reform the child welfare system, and prove to the rest of the country how successful LGBTQ adoptive and foster parents can be, Delwood said. 

Freeman agreed. There is a lot of overlap, he said, with issues concerning the foster care system, with high rates of homelessness among LGBTQ+ youth, with the housing crisis. “What we need to do to address homelessness and prevent future homelessness is to tackle the root cause,” Freeman said. “Are LGBTQ  youth receiving the support they need?”  

Congresswoman Bass “has deep relationships with folks here, in DC, and in Sacramento, so when you’re dealing with challenges in LA, she knows how to go in there and how to pool the resources in order to solve them,” Harris said. 

Harris highlighted Bass’s community organizing and coalition building roots, arguing she is the best candidate to represent all of Los Angeles as the city’s mayor.

One issue Harris said he is eager to see Bass’s leadership in addressing is the high rates of murder and violent crime against members of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly Black trans people. “I’m excited to see how she would be able to ensure that they are safe, tracking some of those federal dollars to ensure that they have protections against domestic and sexual violence,” he said.

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California Politics

Rep. Karen Bass greets LGBTQ+ affinity group at the historic Black Cat

Bass has been a longtime ally of the LGBTQ+ community. In her remarks she listed some of her achievements in the battles for LGBTQ+ equality

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Screenshot via video by Troy Masters for the Los Angeles Blade

LOS ANGELES – Surrounded by well-wishers, supporters, and former California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez at her side, U.S. Representative Karen Bass launched the official “LGBTQ+ for Bass affinity group” Wednesday evening at the Black Cat, an LGBTQ+ historic site located in the Silver Lake neighborhood of the City.

Pérez, an openly Out gay man served as the 68th Speaker of the California State Assembly, succeeding Bass as Speaker in 2010. Bass made several warm references to their mutual past political history. She also spoke on subjects that are critical to furthering LGBTQ+ equality and equity in her six-minute chat.

U.S. Representative Karen Bass & former California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez
(Photo by Troy Masters)

The congresswoman is locked in a close race with billionaire real estate tycoon Rick Caruso to succeed current Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti in the Fall elections on November 8. Both candidates advanced from the June 7 primary election since neither received 50% of the vote. Incumbent Mayor Garcetti is unable to stand for re-election due to term limits.

Bass has been a longtime ally of the LGBTQ+ community. In her remarks Wednesday at the Black Cat she listed some of her achievements in the battles for LGBTQ+ equality, first in the California Assembly, then in Congress.

The venue where the Congresswoman launched the LGBTQ+ political affinity group is famed as an LGBTQ+ historic site. The Black Cat was the site of one of the first demonstrations in the United States protesting police brutality against LGBT people, preceding the Stonewall riots by over two years.

From the One Archives at USC: A New Year’s 1967 raid by the Los Angeles Police turned brutal as LAPD undercover officers began beating several of the patrons and ultimately arrested fourteen patrons for “assault and public lewdness.” As reported by the local gay newspaper Tangents, two bartenders were beaten unconscious. The paper also noted that patrons fled to another gay bar, New Faces, but they were followed by police and arrested. The officers mistook the manager, a woman named Lee Roy, for a man (named “Leroy”) wearing a dress, and beat her severely.

Photo by Troy Masters

The historical account continued: Contrary to popular myth, there was no “riot” at the Black Cat, but a civil demonstration of 200 attendees to protest the raids was held on February 11, 1967. The demonstration was organized by a group called PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education) – founded by Steve Ginsberg – and the SCCRH (Southern California Council on Religion and Homophile). The protest was met by squadrons of armed policemen. Demonstrators carefully adhered to all laws and ordinances so that the police had no legitimate reasons to make arrests.

Two of the noteworthy events that arose from the Black Cat arrests and later protests was the establishment of The Advocate, which began as a newspaper for the group PRIDE and has continued publishing to this day and formation of the Metropolitan Community Church led by Los Angeles LGBTQ+ pioneer, the Reverend Troy Perry.

Karen Bass speaks at LA’s iconic Black Cat:

Editor’s Note: The Los Angeles Blade has endorsed Rep. Bass in her election campaign to become the next mayor of the city of Los Angeles.

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California Politics

Abortion rights: California Constitutional Amendment heads to ballot

The state is expanding efforts to protect women seeking abortions or reproductive care as well as anyone assisting those women

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Capitol building in Sacramento (Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – In November, California voters will have an opportunity to amend the state’s constitution to include the right to an abortion and today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to further protect women coming to California from other states.

“California will not back down from the fight to protect abortion rights as more than half the states in this country, enabled by the Supreme Court, ban or severely restrict access,” said Newsom. “We are ensuring Californians will have the opportunity this November to enshrine the right to choose in our state constitution. And we’re not waiting until November to take action, today’s executive order ensures that the state will not hand over patients who come here to receive care and will not extradite doctors who provide care to out-of-state patients here. In California, women will remain protected.”  

The order signed today prevents any information, including medical records and patient data, from being shared by state agencies or departments in response to inquiries or investigations brought by other states or individuals within those states looking to restrict access. The state is expanding efforts to protect women seeking abortions or reproductive care as well as anyone assisting those women.

SCA 10 was passed by the California State Assembly today and now heads to the November ballot.  

Within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last Friday, Governor Newsom signed legislation to help protect patients and providers in California from civil liability for providing, aiding, or receiving abortion care in the state. In addition, Governor Newsom and the governors of Oregon and Washington launched a new Multi-State Commitment to defend access to reproductive health care and protect patients and providers.  

The budget agreement announced yesterday includes more than $200 million in additional funding for reproductive health care services. Governor Newsom recently signed legislation eliminating copays for abortion care services and has signed into law a legislative package to further strengthen access and protect patients and providers.  

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