Meet WIZM’s New “Fact Checker”

La Crosse’s WIZM radio station debuted its new “Fact Check with Bill Feehan” podcast on Jan. 1, days before marauding far-right buffoons were allowed by police to rampage through the nation’s capitol.

The pitch for the show on WIZM’s website reads: “In a world of misinformation, citizen journalism, and polarized media outlets, how can you find the true facts about politics, the United States government, or your basic rights as an American citizen?”

WIZM’s bizarre solution to the issue of “misinformation” and “polarized media outlets” is apparently to call Feehan, the chair of the La Crosse County Republican Party, “your local fact checker” and give him a platform to peddle conspiracy theories to further his political goals, with zero pushback. 

“What we keep hearing from the mainstream media is that there was no voter fraud and that anybody that suggests it is just not realistic,” Feehan says at the top of the episode. “The truth is we have hundreds of affidavits signed in the state of Wisconsin from people that witnessed voter fraud and those people signed statements under penalty of perjury so, yes, there were improprieties in this election.”

In reality, voter fraud is vanishingly rare in Wisconsin, and very rarely proven by election officials, the courts, or anyone else (read the 2020 election commission report on violations here). Nineteen cases of election “violations” or possible fraud were reported out of millions of votes cast across Wisconsin elections between 2018 and 2020, not including the most recent election. That number included “seven reports of an undeliverable Election Day registration confirmation postcard” and “one report of a felon who attempted to register to vote.” Of course, what Republicans are usually referring to when they talk about “fraud” is simply people voting who they would rather not vote, and provisions that make it somewhat easier for people to vote.

But, does Feehan have a point in alleging serious fraud in the 2020 general election in Wisconsin? Here’s Dean Knudson, Republican member of the bipartisan Wisconsin Election Commission, speaking in Madison last month:

“There were no dumps of ballots during the night, none…There is no evidence of any fraud related to Dominion voting machines in Wisconsin…Counting in Wisconsin did not stop and restart. Election observers were allowed to be present throughout Election Day and election night proceedings. The number of voters on our poll books match the number of ballots cast…There has been no criminal evidence presented to the Elections Commission that any of these problems occurred in Wisconsin.”

A reference to this statement would have been useful in Feehan’s podcast. Unfortunately, there’s no such attempt to provide even the merest hint of balance, in this case coming from a Republican official with direct knowledge of the situation.

Feehan also discusses in the podcast how he was recruited to join a lawsuit alleging irregularities in the Wisconsin election by Sidney Powell, the lawyer who was considered so off the wall that even the Trump campaign disowned her. This is not mentioned by Feehan or WIZM’s Kaitlyn Riley, who joins him on the podcast. Powell is currently being sued for defamation by Dominion Voting Systems, for her “wild accusations” of electoral fraud. 

A federal court has already dismissed Feehan’s suit, but the case has now been “docketed” in U.S. Supreme Court. Most likely, that court will not hear the case, and Feehan’s suit will go down in flames like the dozens of others brought by Trump and his allies that have been thrown out, often by conservative judges.

Feehan drops other nuggets of highly questionable information in the show, such as asserting that “about 7,000 people who’ve moved out of Wisconsin voted in this election.”  The state actually mistakenly flagged thousands of voters as having moved earlier this year, when in fact they were still at the same address. Another illustration of the point that the far greater issue than supposed voter fraud, is voter suppression.

Feehan also notes, “It’s just not possible that the number of votes that actually were cast, in the timeframe that they were supposed to be cast, that it actually could have happened. So that’s a really complicated hard to understand piece of this.” I suspect this theory is not really that complicated, it’s simply false.

Both WIZM and Feehan should be ashamed of their role in contributing to the nonsense circus, especially after what happened this week. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely the radio station or the GOP chair will care what anyone outside their political ecosystem thinks.

Top image credit: La Crosse GOP. Email questions or story ideas to lacrosseindependent@gmail.com

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