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Pandemic Propaganda: A New Electoral Crisis

Organizer: Brennan Center for Justice

How will the misinformation pandemic inflamed by the coronavirus crisis reshape the political landscape? And how might domestic and foreign actors weaponize rumors, conspiracy theories, and disinformation about Covid-19 against American voters in the lead-up to the November election? A distinguished panel will discuss measures that can address these challenges in the upcoming months and help ensure the 2020 election is free, fair, and safe.

Laura Rosenberger is the director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a senior fellow at The German Marshall Fund of the United States. The Brennan Center's Ian Vandewalker is senior counsel for the Democracy Program, where he works to address the influence of money in politics and foreign interference in U.S. elections. Ángel Díaz is counsel in the Brennan Center's Liberty & National Security Program; his work focuses on the intersection of technology with civil rights and civil liberties. They join Foreign Affairs executive editor Daniel Kurtz-Phelan.

Location: Webinar

Buffalo video: Officers suspended after 75-year-old man pushed down, cracking head | ABC7

Claim: The 75-year-old Buffalo protester seriously injured by police is part of antifa. Fact check: False


President Trump tweeted a baseless theory that 75-year-old Martin Gugino, seriously injured while peacefully protesting in Buffalo, N.Y., following the death of George Floyd, could be "an ANTIFA provocateur." Trump offered no evidence to support the claim — only referencing a report from One America News Network by Kristian Rouz, formerly of Russian state media Sputnik News. The OANN story cited an article on a blog called the "Conservative Treehouse" that had been written by an anonymous person who published the piece under a pseudonym.

Gugino's attorney denied Trump's claim in a strongly worded statement given to Law&Crime, writing Gugino had always been a peaceful protester and "[n]o one from law enforcement has even suggested anything otherwise." The tweet has received backlash from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, as well as former Vice President Joe Biden.

Gugino has been released from intensive care but remains hospitalized following the incident.

Former Defense Secretary Mattis slams Trump l ABC News

Claim: Trump fired Jim Mattis, gave him ‘Mad Dog’ nickname. Fact check: False


President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday the only thing he and former President Barack Obama have in common is "that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis." The tweet came after Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general, criticized Trump's response to the protests being carried out across the nation since the police killing of George Floyd, an African-American man in Minneapolis, Minn.

Trump didn't fire the general. Mattis served as his secretary of Defense from 2017, when he was confirmed by the Senate, until he tendered his resignation in December 2018 as he disagreed with Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria, according to U.S. officials. In the letter, he said his views and beliefs in foreign policy and strategy didn't align with those of the president.

Trump has claimed several times in the past he gave Mattis his "Mad Dog" nickname, which Mattis has openly said he dislikes. Yet, news reports have referred to him by the nickname as far back as 2004. During his Senate confirmation hearing for defense secretary, he said: "That nickname was given to me by the press, and some of you may have experienced similar occasions with the press where perhaps they didn't get it quite right." Other nicknames include "Chaos" and "Warrior Monk."

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Pool/Getty Images

Claim: The President may sign an executive order limiting freedom of speech. Fact check: Mixed


The president can issue an executive on anything he wants, but its impact and legality is a question. Trump signed an executive order that could limit social media companies' legal protections after Twitter began fact-checking on his posts.

According to The Washington Post, lawmakers in Congress and a variety of legal experts from across the political spectrum "doubted the legality of Trump's draft proposal and feared its implications for free speech."

Some in the tech industry even began quietly discussing their legal options, including a potential lawsuit challenging Trump's order, the Post reported.

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