CNN fact-checker explains why Steve Scalise’s 'legalistic evasion' on 2020 is 'dangerous' to democracy

CNN fact-checker explains why Steve Scalise’s 'legalistic evasion' on 2020 is 'dangerous' to democracy

When Chris Wallace interviewed House Minority Whip Steve Scalise on Sunday, October 10, he demanded to know if Scalise thought the 2020 presidential election was "stolen" from Donald Trump. The Louisiana Republican was evasive in his response, never admitting that it wasn't stolen but never coming right out and saying that it was. And CNN fact checker Daniel Dale, in a biting op-ed published by CNN's website on October 12, argues that Scalise's evasiveness is no less toxic to U.S. democracy than Trump promoting the Big Lie during a MAGA rally in Iowa on Saturday, October 9.

"At a rally in Iowa on Saturday night," Dale explains, "former President Donald Trump told a laughable series of specific lies about the 2020 election he lost. He said, for example, that the state of Pennsylvania and the cities of Detroit and Philadelphia each recorded more votes cast than they have actual voters, though none of that is even close to true. In a television appearance the next morning, the second-ranking House Republican, Minority Whip Steve Scalise, repeated none of Trump's detailed fraud fantasies. But what he did do was no less dangerous for its vagueness."

Dale continues, "Asked three times by Fox News host Chris Wallace whether the election was 'stolen,' Scalise refused each time to offer the only correct answer: no. Instead, Scalise danced around a direct answer — claiming that states had not followed their own laws in conducting the pandemic-era election."

Scalise, during the interview with Wallace, claimed, "There are states that didn't follow their legislatively set rules" in 2020.

"For Scalise," Dale explains, "this kind of legalistic evasion offers the best of all worlds. He can avoid sounding like an unhinged conspiracy theorist, as Trump inevitably does when he starts going into detail about imaginary fraud shenanigans, while also avoiding the wrath of Trump, staying in the good graces of millions of Trump supporters who subscribe to the lie that the election was rigged, and delegitimizing the current president whose agenda he is trying to defeat. It's a handy position for Scalise: promote Trump's nonsense and simultaneously maintain plausible deniability. For American democracy, though, Scalise's middle ground is no middle ground at all."

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