IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Election denialism is not a ‘both sides of the aisle’ problem

The Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee said "both sides" have election deniers. That's a difficult line to take seriously.


When House Republican leaders announced their slate of committee chairs for the new Congress, too many of them had something unfortunate in common. Of the 17 GOP members who’ll lead standing committees, 11 voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, and 12 signed on to a misguided legal brief that asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the results.

On some key panels, the data was even more discouraging. Of the 15 new Republicans tapped to serve on the House Oversight Committee, HuffPost found that “13 either voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election based on former President Donald Trump’s lie about it being stolen from him, or are freshman members who have rejected or questioned the validity of President Joe Biden’s win.”

Republican Rep. Mike Turner — who did not try to overturn the 2020 election — sat down with CBS News’ Margaret Brennan yesterday, and the “Face the Nation” host asked the incoming House Intelligence Committee chairman about his party elevating so many election deniers to powerful posts. Turner replied:

“There’s a long history of both sides having raised issues, including, you recall, Al Gore taking President [George W.] Bush’s election all the way to the Supreme Court.”

This was an unfortunate start. As the GOP congressman really ought to know, it was George W. Bush’s lawyers, not Gore’s, who asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. What’s more, there was a post-election recount controversy at the time, not ridiculous allegations about non-existent “fraud”: At no point did Gore deny the legitimacy of election results.

In other words, Turner tried to argue that “both sides” have denied elections, and in his first example, the Ohio Republican got the relevant details backward. He then reiterated his point, this time without evidence:

“I work with both sides of the aisle, and there are election deniers on both sides of the aisle.”

There really aren’t. Election denialism is a problem, but it’s not a bipartisan problem.

A similar issue came up last month, when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican National Committee targeted House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries as an “election denier” because the New York Democrat was among the many who raised serious concerns about the 2016 election. Jeffries, like others throughout his party, also repeatedly emphasized the fact that Russia targeted our political system in order to help put Donald Trump in power.

But that does not an election denier make.

Let’s not define the label down to the point that it no longer has any meaning. After the 2020 race, Republicans opposed the certification of election results. And helped file lawsuits asking courts to throw out votes they disapproved of. And claimed that the losing candidate secretly won based on evidence that only exists in the imagination of fringe conspiracy theorists. And described legitimate votes as “fake.” Some even went so far as to express sympathies for insurrectionist rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol in response to discredited election conspiracy theories.

If Turner or others in his party can point to congressional Democrats who’ve done the same thing, I’m all ears.