U.S. Representative Scott Perry’s Baseless Conspiracy Theories Have Real-Life Consequences, Experts Say
Midstate GOP Congressman Scott Perry comes under fire after it was revealed he texted a Trump White House official about ways to cancel the 2020 election .
Perry, who represents Dauphin and parts of York and Cumberland counties, texted former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, discussing Trump’s plans to promote Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark to the post of Attorney General. Clark planned to investigate Georgia’s election results, despite a lack of evidence to warrant an investigation, according to a US Senate report.
Perry pushed baseless conspiracy theories, urging Meadows to have direct Trump intelligence agencies investigate Dominion voting machines for signs of voter fraud or foreign interference. The claims are false, as state officials detected no evidence of fraud when auditing the Dominion machines and always said they were safe from interference.
Perry also told Meadows that the British and Italian governments were manipulating the US election, while alleging that CIA director Gina Haspel conspired with them. There is no evidence to support Perry’s claims about foreign election interference or Haspel’s involvement in a conspiracy.
Perry has a proven track record supporting conspiracy theories while working on Capitol Hill.
After the Las Vegas shooting, he said the shooter was both alive and a member of ISIS. This is false, because the shooter was found dead by the authorities. They also said he was not affiliated with ISIS. During Hurricane Maria, Perry claimed that Puerto Rico was lying by saying it had no power or water. In reality, the storm destroyed the infrastructure of the island and killed three thousand people.
Grant Tudor, a policy advocate with the government watchdog group Protect Democracy, said he was not surprised to hear Perry helped overturn the 2020 election, citing the examples of Las Vegas and Puerto Rico.
“And, obviously, the last escalation that we know of is lying publicly about the election results, and… sort of playing a central role in an attempt to overthrow the government.”
Perry was the first sitting lawmaker to be asked to testify before the House Select Committee on Jan. 6, which wants to learn more about his involvement in the events leading up to the U.S. Capitol insurrection.
The deputy has refused to testify.
“I decline the request of this entity,” Perry wrote on Twitter. “I stand with immense respect for our Constitution, the rule of law, and the Americans I represent who know this entity is illegitimate…”
Perry was cited more than 50 times in a Senate court report that detailed Trump’s efforts to reverse his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden.
Election experts and officials from both political parties validated the results of the 2020 elections.
The lawmaker did not return a request for comment.
Perry’s strategy, Tudor said, is to keep his rhetoric consistent while repeatedly pushing his conspiracy theories to voters.
“If you hear enough lies, then lies become familiar and familiarity breeds truth,” Tudor said. “And, so, the extent to which we blame these voters makes me a little uneasy… [they] have been subjected to years and years of misinformation.
By casting doubt on the electoral process, experts say Perry’s rhetoric endangers poll workers and election security officials across the country.
A survey last year by the Brennan Center for Justice found that a third of election workers nationwide do not feel safe at work. And about one in five described threats to their life as a “work-related concern”.
Al Schmidt, head of the government watchdog group the Committee of 70, was the only Republican on Philadelphia’s three-person Electoral Council in 2020. He was publicly harassed by former President Trump for certifying the city’s votes , and attacks by his followers continue today.
“Comments like that have consequences,” Schmidt said. “Like the death threats and violent threats we’ve seen directed at election administrators across the country.”
Schmidt, his wife and young children received death threats and were assigned to 24-hour security for more than a year. The family eventually left their home.
Nearly half of county election officers in Pennsylvania have resigned since 2019, according to the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.
“They can throw these things out there and they can think it’s a harmless little lie,” Schmidt said. “But the consequences of these lies undermine trust in democracy and violently threaten those who run elections.”
Perry’s Meadows texts were revealed just weeks before the May 17 primary, where he is the only Republican to represent Pennsylvania’s 10th congressional district in the United States House.
Robin Kolodny, professor of political science at Temple University, doesn’t imagine this will affect him much.
“You assume that people can even nominate their congressman. And I don’t think most of them can,” Kolodny said. “We all already know that at least a third of eligible voters will not cast a vote under any circumstances. So they completely disconnected.
Perry will be re-elected in November, but since it will be a midterm election without the president on the ballot, Kolodny predicts that lower turnout in Pennsylvania than in 2020 will help Perry retain his seat.
Kolodny said Perry’s rhetoric has helped erode people’s faith in Pennsylvania’s election security.
A poll released earlier this year found that 40% of Pennsylvanians were “not confident” in the fairness of the 2020 election, and 26% felt “not at all confident” that it was being conducted fairly.
Al Schmidt called recent attempts by politicians to undermine state electoral systems a “critical moment in our history.”
“There’s a circular nature to a lot of things, where you have elected officials deceiving their voters, and then those deceived voters insist that election officials do something about it,” he said. “And I think that’s why you end up with these ridiculous so-called audits.”
Schmidt said he wants more Pennsylvanians to know that the Commonwealth already audited its elections last year and found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
“It’s a lot harder to commit voter fraud than people realize, and it’s very easy to spot it,” Schmidt said. “And when it is detected, it is investigated and prosecuted.”
Last year, 11 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties reported a total of 26 possible cases of voter fraud. So far, four people have been convicted of voter fraud crimes related to the 2020 election in Pennsylvania, all of whom were Trump voters.