The influential right-wing Epoch Times and its “sister” media outlet NTD released a “documentary” this week that urges President Donald Trump to take “decisive emergency actions” to resist the outcome of the 2020 elections. “Who’s Stealing America?” claims that the election is being stolen from Trump by an “extensive attack” from the Chinese government and its allies in the U.S.
“President Trump has the authority to exercise the powers granted by the Constitution,” says Joshua Phillip, an Epoch Times reporter and the film’s narrator. “Decisive emergency actions are necessary to deter this extensive attack.”
Then, in an apparent effort to goad Trump into action, the film cuts to a clip of Trump remarking, “We will not be tyrannized. We will not be demeaned. And we will not be intimidated by bad, evil people. It will not happen.”
Following that clip, Philipp declares, “Defending the Constitution, defending the foundation of democracy that defines America is the duty of the American president, of very government official, and of every American citizen, no matter whether destructive attacks are foreign or domestic.”
The film was released just as Electoral College votes cast Monday formally affirmed Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election. It echoes the calls of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Oath Keepers’ leader Stewart Rhodes, and pro-Trump attorney Lin Wood for Trump to declare martial law rather than concede.
The movie unquestioningly promotes right-wing mythologies around a “stolen election” that have grown up around anecdotes and false claims that have been repeatedly rejected in court.
Epoch Times, a newspaper created by supporters of the Falun Gong religious movement that has been persecuted by the Chinese government, has become “a giant influence machine,” in the words of the New York Times, by aggressively promoting right-wing misinformation.
As the Times reported in October, “Today, The Epoch Times and its affiliates are a force in right-wing media, with tens of millions of social media followers spread across dozens of pages and an online audience that rivals those of The Daily Caller and Breitbart News, and with a similar willingness to feed the online fever swamps of the far right.”
The rise of Epoch Times and its call for Trump to take “emergency actions” rather than admit defeat help explain why so many Republicans believe Trump’s claims about “rigged” and “stolen” elections despite those claims being rejected time and time again by judges—including Trump’s own Supreme Court justices.
In the film, Philipp refers to other moments in U.S. history when presidents took extraordinary actions, notably mentioning George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and appeals to Trump’s self-image by noting that those actions “are still remembered today.”
The so-called documentary builds up to its call for “decisive emergency action” by repeating a range of already-debunked allegations and conspiracy theories about how the election was supposedly stolen from Trump by software algorithms, voter fraud, and corrupt poll workers and government officials.
The film shows security footage from a vote counting center in Georgia that right-wing conspiracy theorists have portrayed as a “smoking-gun” video. But numerous media and fact-checking sites have long since debunked claims that the video shows election workers engaging in fraud.
One of Philipp’s star witnesses is “data analyst” Matt Braynard, who makes quite a few claims about illegal votes he supposedly identified. Earlier this month, Braynard was publicly humiliated by Georgia state Rep. Bee Nguyen, who calmly eviscerated his claims about Georgia voters.
Amazingly, another of Philipp’s interviewees is Melissa Carone, whose allegations were rejected by a judge in November as “not credible.” Carone’s appearance at a Dec. 2 hearing held by Michigan legislators was so off-the-rails that it was immortalized by Saturday Night Live’s Cecily Strong.
The Epoch Times video delves into the ownership of Dominion Voting Systems. George Soros is mentioned, of course. And there’s also a reference to a mysterious deal Joe Biden supposedly made with Serbian hackers.
The film also gives a shout-out to the Jericho March and Stop the Steal rallies that have been mobilized to support Trump’s stolen-election claims. Philipp calls on viewers to take a stand.
“The 2020 U.S. election is no longer a contest between two parties, nor a contest between Trump and Biden,” Philipp says. “It is a battle between traditional values and communism, a battle between good and evil. We are not bystanders. We all play a role.”
As the film ends, this text appears on the screen: “At this critical moment, Americans need to come together to take a stand against fraud and in favor of truth, to choose freedom over communism, and good over evil. Share this video with everyone you know.”
“Who’s Stealing America?” had been shared from the Epoch Times website more than 50,000 times as of Thursday afternoon.
Update: Oath Keepers, whose leader has warned of right-wing militias leading a bloody civil war if Trump doesn’t assert his powers as commander-in-chief to overturn the election results, is promoting “Who’s Stealing America” on its website.