Right-wing Salem media company apologizes, stops distribution of 2020 election conspiracy film ‘2000 Mules’ after lawsuit

Right-wing Salem media company apologizes, stops distribution of 2020 election conspiracy film ‘2000 Mules’ after lawsuit

Salem Media Group, owner of the right-wing talk radio network, issued a public apology and said it would stop distributing a discredited 2020 election conspiracy theory film after a Georgia man wrongly accused of voter fraud sued the company for defamation.

Georgia man Mark Andrews said in his 2022 lawsuit that “2000 Mules,” a film and book by right-wing activist Dinesh D’Souza contained a string of false claims about the 2020 election, leading to threats of violence against him and his family.

Andrews said the film, which has been repeatedly promoted by Donald Trump and widely circulated in the right-wing media as evidence that the 2020 election was stolen, has badly damaged his reputation.

“We never intended that the production of the Mules 2000 film and book would harm Mr. Andrews,” Salem said in a statement Friday. “We apologize for the hurt the inclusion of Mr. Andrews’ image in films, books and promotional materials has caused Mr. Andrews and his family.”

“We have removed the film from the Salem platform, and there will be no distribution of the film or book by Salem in the future,” the right-wing company added.

The apology from Salem comes as part of a larger settlement to a lawsuit filed by Andrews. A representative for Protect Democracy, a nonprofit group suing Salem on behalf of Andrews, did not comment on the terms of the settlement. So is the representative for Salem.

Salem operates a national talk radio network, distributing the programs of some prominent pro-Trump personalities such as Charlie Kirk and Sebastian Gorka, to more than 2,700 affiliates. It also owns dozens of Christian-format radio stations and the right-wing political website Townhall.

In the film “2000 Mules”, Andrews was shown on video with his face blurred putting his ballot, along with those of his family, into a drop box in what the film said was a “mule” operation.

“What you see is a crime,” said a voiceover from D’Souza. “This is a fake vote.”

Salem said in a statement on Friday that it “depends on the representations” that D’Souza has made.

“We have learned that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has cleared Mr. Andrews of illegal voting activity in connection with the events depicted in 2000 Mules,” the company said.

After the 2020 election, Trump’s media allies promoted false claims that the election had been stolen by then-candidate Joe Biden. Although the claim was false, polls showed that the lie was effective, convincing a majority of the Republican Party that Biden’s election was illegitimate.

The election lie, however, has led to legal consequences for outlets promoting the claims, with right-wing media companies facing numerous costly lawsuits stemming from their coverage of the 2020 election. Last month, pro-Trump networks One America News settled a lawsuit brought by voting technology company Smartmatic over the outlet’s promotion of lies about the 2020 election. And last year, Fox News settled a historic $787 million defamation lawsuit filed by election company Dominion Voting Systems.

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