D'Souza serves misinformation about 2020 election but falls short of validating claims

Was the 2020 election stolen through voter fraud? For most Americans, that has never been a serious question. Joe Biden is the legitimately elected president of the United States.

But for other Americans, the belief that the election was somehow stolen remains strong. Regardless of one's thoughts on the claim, the fact that millions of our fellow Americans still believe this falsehood must be taken seriously.

To find "evidence" to support the stolen election fallacy, people have turned to all sorts of misleading and mistaken sources of information, including author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza.

D’Souza has a long record in politics and activism. He worked in the Reagan administration, held a post at the American Enterprise Institute and received an Ivy League education at Dartmouth College.

Intellectual corruption at work

One truth I hope is driven deep into people’s understanding is that intellectual breeding and government service do not make a person immune from the biases and bad incentives that corrupt intellectual work. D’Souza is a case in point.

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Author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza was charged in 2014 with breaking campaign finance law. He received a pardon from President Donald Trump in 2018.
Author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza was charged in 2014 with breaking campaign finance law. He received a pardon from President Donald Trump in 2018.

In May, he released the film "2000 Mules," which attempts to document a massive conspiracy to commit voter fraud in the 2020 election. Through data gained by an organization call True the Vote, D’Souza claims that "mules" visited multiple election drop box locations in a manner that presumably indicates they improperly deposited ballots in bulk.

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The filmmakers then make an enormous leap in logic to supposedly determine that thousands of votes not only were improperly cast but also only in Biden's favor.

Former President Donald Trump unsurprisingly raved about the film, but others, less determined to see what they want to see, are far less impressed.

Former attorney general 'unimpressed'

Asked about the film during a Jan. 6 committee hearing, former Attorney General Bill Barr laughed out loud.

"The (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) was unimpressed with it," Barr told the committee. "I was similarly unimpressed with it."

An Associated Press fact-checker determined that the film is "based on faulty assumptions, anonymous accounts and improper analysis of cellphone location data."

And conservative commentator Ben Shapiro raised what is perhaps the most important objection to the film. Even if every claim made about the existence and impact of the "mules" were true, it would not prove that a single ballot was cast for Biden that was not intended for Biden.

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It would constitute a procedural violation. But there is nothing in this evidence to suggest that votes meant for Trump were destroyed or altered, or that people ineligible to vote were voting for Biden.

Nothing in the documentary validates the claim that the outcome of the election did not reflect the will of American voters.

The film isn't D'Souza first wild attempt to prove the existence of a conspiracy to undermine America. Years ago, I went to a theater to watch "2016: Obama’s America," a documentary well crafted in terms of production values and story telling but lacking in merit in the small matter of its core arguments.

I saw the film early in my campaign for Congress as a Republican seeking to challenge Democratic incumbent Rep. Maxine Waters in the 43rd District of California. As I traveled among GOP activists in and around Los Angeles, I couldn't avoid the buzz surrounding D’Souza’s film. My father was excited about it, too.

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Had D’Souza decoded President Barack Obama? A former Obama supporter turned critic of the president, I was interested to see what the film had to say.

I left the theater disappointed. Instead of attributing Obama’s trillion dollar deficits to falling federal tax receipts, rising entitlement costs and questionable fiscal policies, D'Souza's film claimed it was a conscious effort to destroy the economy to make America equal to the third world. Obama’s nuclear disarmament program meanwhile, supported by a long list of former Republican secretaries of State and Defense, was rather an intentional capitulation to Russia meant to please the ghost of his socialist father.

Flimsy arguments, predetermined conclusions

Now, D'Souza is back with another film that is flimsy in its arguments and ignores any evidence that doesn't fit his predetermined conclusions.

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D’Souza has argued in response to Shapiro's objections to "2000 Mules" that there is no difference between an illegal ballot and a legal ballot illegally cast. Yet, in the first scenario, a vote is made up or stolen; in the second case an honest vote is submitted incorrectly.

Still, it is legitimate to look at weaknesses in our voting procedures and violations of the process. Such violations should carry consequences, and if D’Souza is right in reporting that states were derelict in their duty to monitor ballot drop boxes, then accountability should be enforced.

John Wood Jr. is a columnist for USA TODAY Opinion. He also is a noted writer and speaker on subjects including racial and political reconciliation.
John Wood Jr. is a columnist for USA TODAY Opinion. He also is a noted writer and speaker on subjects including racial and political reconciliation.

But Trump’s argument that the election was stolen from him always rested on the idea that the American people did in fact reelect him but had their will overturned by a rigged system. D'Souza's film falls far short of validating that claim.

The information in "2000 Mules" may be good enough to make a case for better accountability in electoral procedures. But it leaves any real evidence that the election was stolen as elusive as it was before.

Dinesh D’Souza is a talented filmmaker and an intelligent man. I wish he would use his gifts to bring balance and perspective to a political environment filled with intellectual dishonesty from all directions.

John Wood Jr. is a columnist for USA TODAY Opinion. He is national ambassador for Braver Angels, a former nominee for Congress, former vice chairman of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County, musical artist, and a noted writer and speaker on subjects including racial and political reconciliation. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnRWoodJr 

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: D'Souza promotes Trump's Big Lie about 2020 election in '2000 Mules'