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Some creators of debunked ‘2000 Mules’ haven’t stopped selling the movie, or its false premise

Defamation lawsuit prompts an apology from the distributor. But that’s unlikely to dissuade people who believe the movie’s claims of illegal voting.

Two people pushing a stroller stand at a crosswalk waiting to cross the street next to a movie theater marquee that has three movie titles including 2000 Mules and Top Gun.
A movie theater marquee in June 2022 in Casper, Wyoming. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

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The right-wing media company that published the purported documentary and book “2000 Mules” announced late last week that it was pulling them from distribution. Salem Media Group also apologized to an Atlanta man for false claims in the film that he’d illegally cast the ballots of others.

It is the latest in a long series of hits to the film’s credibility, though the movie and its makers — Dinesh D’Souza and conservative nonprofit True the Vote — appear to still have a few lives left.

The film was released in May 2022, and held its premiere at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. It alleges that hundreds of so-called mules illegally cast ballots in the 2020 election, swinging it for Joe Biden.

Mark Andrews, the man featured in the film, sued Salem Media, True the Vote, and D’Souza for defamation in October 2022 over footage that showed him dropping off ballots while a voiceover falsely accused him of committing a crime. Investigators later found that the ballots were those of Andrews’ family, dropped off legally. Salem Media’s apology and the retraction stem from that lawsuit.

By the time Andrews filed his suit, the film had already been roundly debunked. The creators responded to questions about its credibility by challenging journalists to debates and filing complaints against states that refused to act on their assertions. Meanwhile, they refused to come forward with much evidence to support their allegations.

None of the fact-checking mattered much to fans of the movie, though, and the film sparked a wave of people taking it upon themselves to guard ballot drop boxes. The Texas Republican Party organized three screenings of the film at its 2022 convention. Trump called it the “greatest [and] most impactful documentary of our time.” The movie also made plenty of money.

Similarly, Salem’s choice to apologize and stop distributing the film may not dent the faith of the people who already believe the film’s claims. As The Bulwark’s Andrew Eggar wrote of the retraction, “Mopping up the water doesn’t un-carve the gorge.”

Notably, the apology came only from Salem; True the Vote didn’t sign on. In a statement about Salem’s apology and retraction, True the Vote said, “It is true that Salem is no longer in the case, but their departure does not change our position.” The group said it stood by the methodologies and claims in the film, despite having admitted earlier this year in a Georgia court filing that it had no evidence to support many of those claims.

True the Vote’s statement said that Salem’s apology is “gleefully being spread by the legacy media.” That gets at a central problem here: The people who believe what “2000 Mules” claimed are a completely different group from the people who will take notice of Salem’s retraction.

Despite Salem’s decision to stop distributing it, “2000 Mules” is still widely available. It is, for example, being shown in Wisconsin in a few weeks as part of a Monday movie series put on by conservative nonprofit Turning Point Action. The DVD is available for purchase on Amazon from D’Souza Media: $24.50 will get you a “2 DVD combo set” featuring both “2000 Mules” and D’Souza’s 2020 film “Trump Card.”

D’Souza has also created other themed content for purchase.

For example, there’s a children’s book for $21.06 called “The Plot Against the King 2000 Mules” (that’s the actual title), which is described as “a fantastical retelling of the horrible plot against Donald Trump to the whole family. It teaches fairness, integrity, and most of all: the importance of being truthful.”

As a reminder, D’Souza pleaded guilty to facilitating illegal campaign contributions — a felony — in 2014, only to be pardoned by Trump four years later.

If there’s any doubt that support for “2000 Mules” will outlive Salem’s decision, consider that D’Souza’s son-in-law, Brandon Gill, is likely to be elected to Congress this year in Texas’s 26th congressional district. Gill, a former investment banker with no political background, set up a website in 2022 called The DC Enquirer to promote “2000 Mules” and moved to a ruby-red district in Texas where a longtime congressman happened to be retiring.

This year, Gill won his primary with more than 60% of the vote.

Jessica Huseman is Votebeat’s editorial director and is based in Dallas. Contact Jessica at jhuseman@votebeat.org.

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Defamation suit prompts distributor to disavow film about illegal voting. But its creators haven’t stopped selling the movie, or its false premise.