Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Publisher of ‘2,000 Mules’ election conspiracy theory film issues apology

Dinesh D'Souza's film "2000 Mules" will no longer be distributed by Salem Media, after the publisher apolozized. (Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images)
Shannon Finney/Getty Images
Getty Images North America
Dinesh D'Souza's film "2000 Mules" will no longer be distributed by Salem Media, after the publisher apolozized. (Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images)

The conservative media company behind the book and film “2,000 Mules,” which alleged a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to steal the 2020 election and was embraced by former President Donald Trump, has issued an apology and said it would halt distribution of the film and remove both the film and book from its platforms.

In a statement posted to their website, Salem Media Group, Inc. apologized specifically to Mark Andrews, a voter from Georgia falsely depicted illegally voting in “2,000 Mules.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation cleared Andrews of wrongdoing, and found he was legally dropping off ballots for members of his family. Andrews filed a defamation lawsuit against Salem, as well as the team behind the movie: right wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza, and the group True the Vote.

Though “2,000 Mules” has been widely debunked by law enforcement officials and the media, including NPR, the film and book developed a widespread following among supporters of the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen.

According to Andrews’ lawsuit, the allegations in “2,000 Mules” led to violent threats against him and his family. “They worry that again they will be baselessly accused of election crimes, and that believers in the ‘mules’ theory may recognize and seek reprisal against them, and that they may face physical harm,” the lawsuit alleged.

According to a court filing in a related case, Salem settled the lawsuit brought by Andrews for an undisclosed "significant" amount. In the statement on its website, Salem wrote, “It was never our intent that the publication of the ‘2000 Mules’ film and book would harm Mr. Andrews. 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.”

Salem said that it “relied on representations made to us by Dinesh D’Souza and True the Vote.”

D’Souza and True the Vote did not immediately respond to NPR’s request for comment.

Andrews’ lawsuit was brought with the help of the nonprofit group Protect Democracy, which also worked on defamation litigation brought by Georgia election workers against the former New York Mayor and Trump ally Rudy Giuliani.

A lawyer for Protect Democracy declined to comment on Salem’s statement due to the ongoing case. It is unclear what impact Salem’s apology will have on the lawsuit, which is currently in the discovery phase. Separately, Salem is also suing its insurer for allegedly failing to cover the costs stemming from Andrews’ lawsuit.

This was not the first rift among the makers and distributor of “2,000 Mules.”

When D’Souza published the book version of the film and made allegations of illegal “ballot trafficking” against specific nonprofit groups, True the Vote issued a statement saying that the group ”had no participation in this book, and has no knowledge of its contents." True the Vote added, "This includes any allegations of activities of any specific organizations made in the book. We made no such allegations."

That version of the book was abruptly recalled after already reaching store shelves and replaced with a version that omitted multiple significant allegations.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Tom Dreisbach is a correspondent on NPR's Investigations team focusing on breaking news stories.