Radio remains perhaps 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 blue-collar workers, listen to it regularly. Disinformation experts warn that call-in radio channels, many of which carry political commentary 24 hours a day, are subject to far less scrutiny than other mass media. Talk radio is also uniquely difficult to analyze, and even more difficult to moderate, because the hosts’ on-air thoughts tend to disappear instantly into the ether.
“Liberals, or even most moderates, never listen to it, never pay attention, never see it, never understand it,” said Louis A. Friedland, a professor who studies radio at the University. Wisconsin-Madison. “So you don’t know it’s there, you don’t know how widespread it is and how powerful it really is.” In Wisconsin, he said, local radio stations play “extreme right-wing propaganda” five or six hours a day.
Asked about the false claims, Mr. James, 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 floated conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. They said the lackluster results for Democrats raised concerns about the integrity of the midterm elections.
“I think a host, guest or broadcaster in radio could be forgiven for wondering if ‘cheating’ might be necessary to win,” said Tom Tradup, vice president of news and discussion programming at the 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 said that Republicans have cheated or will cheat again, but much less so. After Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams lost in Georgia in 2018, Democrats raised doubts about the integrity of the election, citing voter suppression. The petition, which received nearly 60,000 signatures after the election, read: “Don’t let Georgia Republicans cheat and steal the governor’s mansion from Stacey Abrams.”
As Ms. Abrams campaigns for office again this year, conservative talk radio hosts have portrayed her efforts to improve voter access, particularly for historically disenfranchised groups, as a gimmick.