RIGGED? PBS Touts Focus Group of Two-Time Trump Voters Switching to Biden After Verdict

The PBS NewsHour quickly rounded up its semi-regular focus group of GOP voters one day after Donald Trump’s conviction in a Manhattan courtroom on 34 felony counts for falsifying business records (misdemeanors inflated to felonies). They touted that six of nine in their collection of two-time Trump voters said that Trump’s conviction made them less likely to vote Trump in 2024.

PBS pounced on Friday, with anchor Amna Nawaz getting the focus-group scoop via “Republicans Against Trump” organizer Sarah Longwell and the staff’s biggest liberal activist, White House reporter Laura Barron-Lopez.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Amna, this focus group was of voters who voted for Donald Trump twice in 2016 and in 2020. And they were slightly already a little souring on him, but some of them could have very well gone back to him. And it was conducted by a group run by Republican strategist Sarah Longwell. And so after this verdict, they said, about six of them, there were nine total, about six of those voters said that the fact that these were felonies that Trump was convicted of carried more weight for them than if they had been misdemeanors. And out of those nine voters, five of them said that this made them less likely to support Donald Trump, including 52-year-old Michele from Florida.

Barron-Lopez emphasized life-long Republican Michele, who said Trump “as a convicted felon is completely unfit” for office. Valerie from Georgia wanted him to serve jail time.

Only one of the nine, Mark from Georgia, called the trial a double standard and that the case (reviled as a hit job in conservative circles and even seen as dubious in some liberal channels) would make him more likely to vote Trump.

Who might have guessed that the “Republicans Against Trump” lady would nudge her focus group into voting for Biden? No rigging there…

But the end of the segment was a wall of fear-mongering, with the host and reporter spinning justified questions about, and criticism of, the case into Republican attacks on “the judicial system” itself.

Amna Nawaz: Laura, as you know, and we heard earlier, Mr. Trump also continued his attacks on the judge in this case, Judge Merchan. In the last 24 hours, we have now seen Republicans relentlessly attacking the judge, the judge’s daughter, the judicial system. What is the impact of all of that rhetoric?

As often happens on liberal channels, PBS didn’t bother to mention the Democrat tilt of the Merchan family: That Judge Merchan made a small but still illicit donation to the Biden campaign (New York State judges are barred from political donations) and that his daughter Loren Merchan is a highly partisan Democrat fundraiser. 

Barron-Lopez responded with talking points from a left-wing nonprofit that in her phrase, “tracks far-right social media.” Sound objective?

Barron-Lopez: Well, we’re starting to see some direct impact, Amna, because, as you noted, a lot of Republicans, in addition to Donald Trump, have said that — tried to sow doubt about the justice system, have directly attacked the judge in this case. And I was working with Advance Democracy, a nonprofit investigative group that tracks far-right social media, and provided us an early look at data that they have been gathering since the verdict came out yesterday. And they were tracking social media across X, formerly known as Twitter, Telegram, TRUTH Social — that’s Trump’s social media site — and they found an increase in calls for violence and violent rhetoric.

They also found an increase in calls to dox jurors and to dox the judges. And here are some examples. On Telegram, one posted: “Hang the judge for corruption.” On a site called Patriots Win, another follower said: “Someone in New York with nothing to lose needs to take care of Judge Merchan. Hopefully, he gets met with illegals and a machete. And then another one posted: “We need the judge’s address, along with his daughter’s. And we will be peacefully protesting, but, ultimately, the gloves are off and do your duty.”

This sudden concern about doxing comes from the same network that didn’t mention the assassination attempt by Nicholas Roske on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh outside the justice’s home until a week afterward, and then in three brief sentences in a “news wrap” segment.

This segment was brought to you in part by Cunard.

A transcript is available, click “Expand.”

PBS NewsHour

5/31/24

7:06:06 p.m. (ET)

Amna Nawaz: For more on the political fallout of Trump’s guilty conviction, Laura Barron-Lopez heard from Republican voters about how this impacts their thoughts on the former president and the upcoming election.

Laura, good to see you.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Good to be here.

Amna Nawaz: So you watched this focus group today with a group of voters the day after that guilty verdict. How were they reacting?

Laura Barron-Lopez: Amna, this focus group was of voters who voted for Donald Trump twice in 2016 and in 2020. And they were slightly already a little souring on him, but some of them could have very well gone back to him.

And it was conducted by a group run by Republican strategist Sarah Longwell. And so after this verdict, they said, about six of them, there were nine total, about six of those voters said that the fact that these were felonies that Trump was convicted of carried more weight for them than if they had been misdemeanors.

And out of those nine voters, five of them said that this made them less likely to support Donald Trump, including 52-year-old Michele from Florida.

Michele, Florida: I’m tired of the lies. I’m tired of the nonsense. And I believed the testimony. And that is why I am happy that the jury found him guilty. And I think also, now that he is a convicted felon, he’s completely unfit. He can’t pass a basic security clearance at this point.

I’m not sure if he can vote in Florida. He may not be allowed to go to different countries as a felon. This is not appropriate. Knock it off, Republicans. Find somebody else.

Laura Barron-Lopez: And Michele, that voter, Amna, Michele, she had voted for Republicans her entire life, voted for Trump twice. But this verdict carried a lot of weight with her. It carried a lot of weight with a number of the other voters, who also some of them raised January 6 as something — the insurrection as something that had started to convince them that they maybe couldn’t vote for Trump again.

Amna Nawaz: So, Michele from Florida less likely to vote for him as a result of the verdict.

Was anyone pushed further towards Mr. Trump as a result of the verdict?

Laura Barron-Lopez: One out of the nine voters in this focus group said that this verdict made him more likely to support Donald Trump.

And that’s Mark, 54, from Florida — sorry — from Georgia, and he called it a sham trial.

Mark, Georgia: It’s a double standard. It was a politicized prosecution. It was the elevation of what are misdemeanors into felonies just for political purposes.

Laura Barron-Lopez: And the voters were also asked whether or not this verdict made them trust the justice system more, trust the justice system left, or it didn’t change their mind.

And three of them said that it made them trust the justice system more. Most said it didn’t change how they viewed the system. Mark, who we just heard from in Georgia, said that it made him not trust the justice system as much.

But as for whether or not they thought that Donald Trump should go to jail, Valerie, 64, also from Georgia, had a very strong response to that.

Valerie, Georgia: He should start jail time, the crime — the — pay paid the penalty for the crime. We all know what’s going to happen. They’re going to negotiate and renegotiate. And he’s not going to serve any time, but he will get more time on television right here at election time.

Laura Barron-Lopez: And, at the end of the day, they were asked, if you had to pick between President Biden or Donald Trump, who would you pick come November? And roughly six of them said that they would vote for Joe Biden. One, Mark, who we heard from, said that he would vote for Trump.

And one to two of them were basically unsure or said that they may not vote.

Amna Nawaz: Fascinating insight there.

Laura, as you know, and we heard earlier, Mr. Trump also continued his attacks on the judge in this case, Judge Merchan. In the last 24 hours, we have now seen Republicans relentlessly attacking the judge, the judge’s daughter, the judicial system. What is the impact of all of that rhetoric?

Laura Barron-Lopez: Well, we’re starting to see some direct impact, Amna, because, as you noted, a lot of Republicans, in addition to Donald Trump, have said that — tried to sow doubt about the justice system, have directly attacked the judge in this case.

And I was working with Advance Democracy, a nonprofit investigative group that tracks far right social media, and provided us an early look at data that they have been gathering since the verdict came out yesterday. And they were tracking social media across X, formerly known as Twitter, Telegram, TRUTH Social — that’s Trump’s social media site — and they found an increase in calls for violence and violent rhetoric.

They also found an increase in calls to dox jurors and to dox the judges. And here are some examples.

On Telegram, one posted: “Hang the judge for corruption.”

On a site called Patriots Win, another follower said: “Someone in New York with nothing to lose needs to take care of Judge Merchan. Hopefully, he gets met with illegals and a machete.”

And then another one posted: “We need the judge’s address, along with his daughter’s. And we will be peacefully protesting, but, ultimately, the gloves are off and do your duty.”

Now, posting these on Telegram, Amna, that is a Web site that is also used by Proud Boys. The Proud Boys were at January 6. So, overall, there has been an increase in calls for violence, an increase in calls for doxxing. And, potentially, it appears that one user may have actually doxxed a juror, but they’re still trying to verify whether or not it’s that juror’s address.

Amna Nawaz: Laura Barron-Lopez, great reporting, as always. Thank you so much.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Thank you.

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