Radio remains arguably the most influential channel for right-wing thought, despite the rise of podcasts and social media. Tens of millions of people across the country, especially older Americans and workers, listen to it regularly. Disinformation experts warn that talk radio stations, many of which broadcast political commentary 24 hours a day, receive far too little attention compared to other mass media. Talk radio is also uniquely difficult to analyze and harder to moderate, as hosts’ on-air musings usually disappear over the air in the blink of an eye.
“Liberals or even most moderates never listen to it, they don’t pay attention, they don’t see it, they don’t hear it,” said Lewis A. Friedland, a professor who studies radio at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “So you don’t know it exists, you don’t know how widespread and how powerful it really is.” In Wisconsin, he said, local radio stations play “far-right propaganda” five or six hours a day.
When asked about the false statements, Mr. James, the host of “The Charlie James Show”, and other conservative radio hosts and their networks defended them. Many pointed to past examples of voter fraud or conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. They said dismal poll results for Democrats raised the alarm about the integrity of the midterm elections.
“I think any talk radio host, guest, or caller can be forgiven for wondering if maybe ‘cheating’ isn’t necessary to win,” said Tom Tradup, the vice president of news and talk programs at the United States. Christian and Conservative Salem Radio Network.
Other hosts and radio networks declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.
Liberal commentators have also argued that Republicans have cheated or will cheat again, but to a much lesser extent. After Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia, lost in 2018, Democrats rallied doubts on the integrity of the election, citing voter suppression. A petition that received nearly 60,000 signatures after the election was titled, “Don’t let Georgia cheat Republicans and steal the governor’s house from Stacey Abrams.”
As Ms. Abrams is campaigning for office again this year, conservative radio hosts have portrayed her efforts to improve voter access, particularly for historically disenfranchised groups, as a means of enabling cheating.