Trump supporters pray for victory, Bolsonaro berates Biden and North Dakota elects a dead man

Welcome to the Infodemic. We are still tracking how disinformation is shaping the global pandemic response, but, like many of you, we are very distracted by the US election right now. As America counts the ballots, coronavirus news has taken a back seat, but it has continued to feed the narratives — both real and fake — that have grabbed our attention and deserve yours. 

Steve Bannon has called on President Donald Trump to behead infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci. Trump’s former chief strategist went on a long rant against Fauci on his podcast. First, Bannon suggested that Trump fire him, then he said “I’d actually go a step further, I’d like to go back to Tudor England, I’d put their heads on pikes outside the White House,” also referring to FBI Director Christopher Wray. The podcast caused a media storm, and its associated account was banned by Twitter, Banon’s spokeswoman said he was only speaking metaphorically. Bannon is currently free on a $5 million release bond in a federal criminal case, accused of defrauding donors to a nonprofit group that was supposedly dedicated to building a wall between the United States and Mexico. 

While some sat glued to their screens, waiting for the results to roll in, others prayed — and no one prayed quite like Paula White, Donald Trump’s evangelical advisor. This year has produced a wealth of bizarre images, but nothing quite like this video. In it, White bounces up and down repeating the words “I can hear the sound of victory” and “Angels are being dispatched from Africa.” She also speaks in tongues, before shouting, “Let the conspiracy be broken, let it be shattered, shattered, shattered.” 

Background: White is a prosperity gospel pastor. She believes that wealth is a sign of virtue. In 2019 Trump officially appointed her as “spiritual advisor” and gave her a formal role in the Office of Public Liaison, advising members of the president’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative. In July, when Florida was announced the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, White reopened her vast City of Destiny Church in the state, albeit with precautions in place. 

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Appeals to higher powers were also made outside the U.S. As the election kicked off, Hindu prayers were said for Trump in a Delhi temple, because “he has been a good ally for us against China and Pakistan.” Meanwhile, In Nigeria, one of Trump’s biggest fans is the popular televangelist Pastor Chris Oyakhilome. In a recent broadcast, he called on people to pray for a Republican victory. Oyakhilome has also been making headlines for his passionate promotion of conspiracy theories linking 5G technology to the spread of the coronavirus.  

On social media, QAnon followers put aside Covid-19 conspiracy theories, turning to God and making allegations of electoral fraud. Many are quoting Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, an ardent supporter of Donald Trump. The day after the election, Vigano, who was a papal diplomat to the U.S. before he fell out with the Vatican for his outspoken criticism of Pope Francis, wrote a letter to “all Catholics and to all Americans of goodwill.” The document, which was widely distributed within QAnon networks, described the election as the “most colossal electoral fraud in history.”

World leaders — including Trump’s fellow populists — have, however, largely kept quiet

  • In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has said nothing himself, but state-aligned media outlets have told people what to think in no uncertain terms. Kremlin channels have amplified the narrative of widespread election irregularities and fraud. “You get an impression of chaos and unpredictability, underlined by a sense of injustice, perhaps even madness,” reads this Russian-language  RT editorial. “While politicians on both sides celebrate victory, Americans are fleeing their country,” said Tsargrad, a private Orthodox broadcaster, which has been responsible for some of the most dramatic coverage of the election.
  • Not a peep from India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who recently faced widespread criticism for breaching diplomatic convention by endorsing Trump — an accusation that he denies. As the count became closer, the president of the nation’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party pointed out the differences between the two men. “Trump couldn’t handle Covid properly” while Modi “saved” India, he said. 
  • Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro is taking a different approach and openly supporting Trump, emphasizing doing so does not count as interference in U.S. politics. Outside his official residence in Brasilia on Wednesday, he told a crowd of supporters that “the Democratic candidate, on two occasions, spoke about the Amazon. Is this what we want for Brazil? That is interference from the outside in.” 

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Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa is the only leader to hail a Trump “victory.” He said that mainstream media denying that Trump had won would only “accentuate the president’s final triumph.” Jansa is close to Hungary’s President Victor Orban. Orban’s position is interesting. According to NPR, he has publicly predicted a Trump victory throughout the campaign, while privately preparing for him to lose.

Back to the bizarre. While Paula White’s video (here it is again, in case you missed it) is top of the charts for me, here are four more things that stood out for us in a pretty weird week: 

  • Trump gained ground with voters in many places that have recorded some of the highest Covid death rates in the U.S.
  • North Dakota Republican David Andhal won a seat in the state legislature, despite dying of coronavirus before the election. 
  • In Michigan, some Arab-American voters decided that Kanye West wasn’t a good enough candidate and voted for Lebanese pop singer Haifa Wehbe.
  • In a live broadcast about the count in the southern state of Georgia, ABC News showed pictures from the recent parliamentary election in the nation of Georgia.

And, last but not least, we hope you agree that this election has once again shown just how much we need robust, independent journalism. This is why Coda is participating in Newsmatch, a program that doubles donations made to non-profit journalism organizations. Every dollar counts, and all it takes is a click.  

Thanks for reading, hit reply any time to send us your feedback and questions and see you next week. 

Natalia 

The story you just read is a small piece of a complex and an ever-changing storyline we are following as part of our coverage. These overarching storylines — whether the disinformation campaigns that are feeding the war on truth or the new technologies strengthening the growing authoritarianism, are the crises that Coda covers relentlessly and with singular focus. But we can’t do it without your help. Today, you have the opportunity to double the impact of your support for Coda Story. From now through the end of 2020, a year’s worth of monthly payments or a one-time contribution will be matched, all up to $5,000. Support journalism that stays on the story.

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Natalia Antelava

Natalia Antelava is the Editor-in-Chief of Coda Story.

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