Jimmy Kimmel, Bette Midler, John Barrowman, and several other celebrities were left red-faced Saturday night after sharing a viral video purporting to show absentee ballot voter fraud, committed by supporters of President Donald Trump — the only problem, of course, was that the video did not show any voter fraud.
Twitter account “Jaded Creative” tweeted a now-deleted video of herself opening an absentee ballot request form. The form, clearly sent by a Republican organization, had the absentee ballot request inside but pasted below a huge paper photo of the president. Jaded Creative apparently believed the absentee ballot request to be a form of “voter suppression,” because it included information supporting Trump’s re-election campaign.
Kimmel, outraged that an “official” absentee ballot request would come with such biased accountrement, tweeted out the video with a breathless, “How is this acceptable to ANYONE?”
Bette Midler and others followed suit, excoriating an unnamed government entity for actively suppressing the votes of those who weren’t casting ballots for Trump’s re-election by sending out request forms with Trump’s photo on them.
“I am STUNNED,” Midler said on social media. “Even after 4 years of this cheating, lying MFer, he would pull a stunt like this!”
I am stunned. Even after 4 years of this cheating, lying MFer, he would pull a stunt like this! https://t.co/rXWjSV1Bwe
— bettemidler (@BetteMidler) September 12, 2020
There was one problem: absentee ballot request forms aren’t official absentee ballots, and campaigns are authorized to send mailers to voters who may be interested in requesting absentee ballots, instrucing them to send the enclosed card to a government entity so that they can receive their official mail-in ballot. The request “Jaded Creative” received likely came from a Republican political campaign and not from a corrupted or biased government, as a number of reporters and high-profile Twitter users — many of whom are definitely not Trump supporters — pointed out.
“Hi Jimmy! That mail ballot request form did not come from a state or county government office, it came from a political campaign — it’s extremely routine for campaigns, parties, and nonprofits to send out mail ballot application forms out to lots of people every election year,” Business Insider reporter Grace Panetta tweeted at the late-night talk show host.
Twitter personality Yashar Ali echoed Panetta: “Please stop tweeting and retweeting this video. And if you have already, please delete it. As others have explained ballot applications can be sent by anyone. It’s a common practice. This woman did not receive a ballot application from a government office.”
“This video with a woman talking about getting an absentee request form with Trump’s face on it has gone viral, so let me explain: A government agency did not send it out, and it is not illegal or unusual for campaigns or political parties to send them,” POLITICO’s Zach Montellaro noted.
Kimmel deleted his Tweet. Midler’s is still active. Actor John Barrowman tried to double down, insisting that he was just sharing something noteworthy and not actively spreading misinformation.
“Looks like @JohnBarrowman is active on Twitter but he hasn’t deleted the incredibly misleading video he tweeted out about ballot applications,” Yashar Ali noted.
“How is it incredibly misleading?” Barrowman argued at Ali, who addressed him directly. “I did ask people to find out if it was real. I also thanked everyone for their comments. But I can’t respond to every tweet retweet. Jb”
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