The rabidly pro-Donald Trump One America News Network has been getting special access at the Arizona "audit" of last year's election, and one of its reporters is helping to fund the effort, much to the astonishment of other journalists and media ethics experts.
OAN correspondent and former Trump administration official Christina Bobb had no background in journalism before joining the right-wing network, where she has pushed election conspiracies and is raising money for out-of-state Republicans to check out the audit, reported the Washington Post.
"The entire country knows it will unravel the Democrats' schemes from 2020," Bobb told viewers on her OAN opinion show shortly after the audit began in April. "Joe Biden is not a legitimate president."
Bobb is reportedly in contact with Trump about the operation, which Arizona's secretary of state says has been riddled with irregularities, and the OAN correspondent's role there is puzzling to other journalists.
"[It] is more reflective of the old Soviet state and autocratic regimes than it is a functioning democracy," David Bodney, a media attorney who helped news outlets sue to gain more access there. "If state government engages in an activity so central to the functioning of democracy as an election recount, then the public has a right to know how that recount is happening, what it involves and who is doing it, as seen not through state media but a wide range of news organizations."
Bobb, who has enjoyed greater access at the ballot site than other reporters, serves as CEO of the Voices and Votes group that has raised at least $150,000 for the audit, which helped pay for Republicans from other states observe the process so they might do the same back home.
"We were hearing a lot of reports about OAN getting more access than others," said Chris Kline, president of the Arizona Broadcasters Association. "We would see their reporter on the convention floor when we were told we weren't allowed there, or they would have live access."
Local journalists were required to volunteer for six-house shifts, which newsrooms prohibit as a conflict of interest, in exchange for access, and reporters were required to turn over their cameras, phones, pens and notepads before entering, although organizers eventually relented and allowed a "pool" of three outside journalists to sit 10 rows above the audit floor."The purpose of getting access is to help ensure public trust," Kline said. "If there's not an independent group of people observing what's happening, how can anybody, regardless of political affiliation, expect to have confidence in those results?"