A film and book said to be a debunked conspiracy project has made an impact in playing a role in promoting election conspiracy theories, according to pundits and politicians. But, some in the political world have even screened the film.
Dinesh D'Souza's "2,000 Mules," was released in May and claims that ballot drop boxes have been the location of mass widespread voter fraud, using examples from the 2020 presidential election.
The film and book uses conversations about cell phone geolocation data and surveillance video to make the claims that "mules" were stuffing ballot drop boxes with ballots.
The Texas Tribune reported that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office screened the movie this summer, citing Associated Press story.
The story laid out claims of ongoing dysfunction in Paxton's office, which oversees voter fraud investigations, the Texas Tribune reported.
Voter intimidation claims have been filed with the Department of Justice as Arizona officials took action when armed, masked groups showed up around ballot drop boxes in the state lurking as voters dropped off ballots.
Former US Attorney General William Barr mentioned the film and book when talking to a House Select Committee on Jan. 6, 2021. Barr said he doesn't believe the 2020 election was stolen, CNN reported.
Barr said, “I haven’t seen anything since the election that changes my mind on that, including the ‘2,000 Mules’ movie.”
Garrett Archer, a data analyst at Arizona's KNXV said, “If you talk to people who don’t believe that the election was fair in 2020, nine times out of 10 one of the first things they’re going to bring up is ’2000 Mules.’”
The book "2,000 Mules" was recalled and delayed by two months before it was released with changes, NPR reported.
There were reportedly legal threats. One passage in the book accused a named nonprofit of being involved in illegal "ballot trafficking."
The film and book allege there has been a vast conspiracy between various nonprofit groups, aligning with particular political beliefs, to pay ballot "mules" to stuff vote-by-mail drop-boxes. The project alleges that it was widespread enough to steal the 2020 election.
D'Souza released a follow up book to the film to be more specific about who the alleged nonprofits involved were.
"I am going to reveal the names of several of these nonprofit stash houses in my book '2000 Mules,'" he tweeted in July.
NPR reported that five groups that were accused of involvement all denied the accusations, with two of them going on record.
Bill Gates, a Republican and chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has called the use of the term "mules," "dehumanizing."
Gates said, “these are people who are going to vote, they’re exercising their right to vote in democracy.”
As for direct evidence, Georgia Bureau of Investigations Director Vic Reynold sent a September 2021 letter to the Georgia Republican Party and True the Vote saying, “As it exists, the data, while curious, does not rise to the level of probable cause that a crime has been committed."
The letter said, “[F]or example, there are no statements of witnesses and no names of any potential defendants to interview.”