Salem Media Group Stops Distributing 2020 Election Conspiracy Film Amid Lawsuit

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Salem Media Group, a right-wing multimedia company, stopped distributing its film spreading conspiracies about the 2020 election being stolen after a Georgia man sued the company for defamation.

“2000 Mules,” a film released in May 2022, was written and directed by right-wing political commentator Dinesh D’Souza, and it presents disinformation in a false narrative about alleged ballot fraud in the 2020 election.

The documentary depicts a Georgia man, Mark Andrews, as a “mule” who “illegally deposit[ed] ballots into drop boxes.” While Andrews is on screen, a voiceover says “What you are seeing is a crime. These are fraudulent votes.”

Andrews filed a lawsuit in October 2022 against the company, D’Souza and right-wing group True the Vote, Inc. for defamation, arguing that the video footage actually shows Andrews legally dropping off ballots for himself and his family.

His lawsuit notes that despite being publicly exonerated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations and Georgia State Elections Board back in May 2022, Andrews continues to be portrayed by the defendants as a “criminal mule.” As a result, Andrews and his family “have faced threats of violence and live in fear.”

The complaint also argues that the defendants’ conduct defamed Andrews and constitutes a violation of both state and federal law, including Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act and Section 2 of the Ku Klux Klan Act “because their actions threatened and intimidated Mr. Andrews for exercising his right to vote and caused injury to him because he exercised his right to vote.”

Andrews’ lawsuit also alleged that the media group released the film in hundreds of theaters nationwide and online, earning millions of dollars. The month it was released, former President Donald Trump hosted a high-profile screening of the film at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Then, on Friday — over a year and a half since the lawsuit was filed — the media group released a statement apologizing to Andrews and his family and said that the company would stop distributing the film.

“We have learned that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has cleared Mr. Andrews of illegal voting activity in connection with the event depicted in 2000 Mules,” the Salem Media Group wrote. “We apologize for the hurt the inclusion of Mr. Andrews’ image in the movie, book, and promotional materials have caused Mr. Andrews and his family.” 

The company said in the statement that it relied on information from D’Souza and True the Vote, Inc. that numerous individuals, including Andrews, illegally deposited ballots.

On Tuesday, the court approved the dismissal of Salem Media Group as a defendant in the lawsuit. However, the case is still active against Dinesh D’Souza, D’Souza Media LLC, True the Vote, Inc. and others.

D’Souza and True the Vote, Inc. did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publishing.

Salem Media Group said that it has removed the film from its platforms and will no longer distribute the film or the companion book.

Even though this film will not be distributed anymore, there is a much larger right-wing movement denying the results of the 2020 election and pushing a movement to overturn the 2024 election that continues to ramp up its efforts.

Read more about the case here.

Read the Salem Media Group’s statement here.

This story was updated on June 4, 2024 at 11:47 a.m. EDT to add that the Salem Media Group was dismissed as a defendant in the lawsuit.