Conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza has every reason to be happy with his new quasi-documentary, 2000 Mules. Since its release earlier this month, the film has become a cornerstone of the Trumpian election-denier movement. Donald Trump embraced it, hosting a screening at Mar-a-Lago and praising it as “the greatest and most impactful documentary of our time.”
But D’Souza has one 2000 Mules problem that he can’t stop talking about: a perceived lack of loyalty from fellow pro-Trump personalities, who he’s accused of downplaying his film or ignoring it entirely. While D’Souza’s video may be burning up the MAGA internet, media outlets and bold-faced names in the MAGA movement aren’t interested — or at least not enough for D’Souza’s tastes.
Right-wing networks like Fox News and Newsmax could have plenty of factual reasons to stay away from 2000 Mules, which centers on the idea that D’Souza and his compatriots uncovered using phone GPS tracking. Fact-checkers have fileted the film’s central conceit that the phone data somehow uncovers proof of voter fraud, with the Associated Press finding “gaping holes” in D’Souza’s argument. On Wednesday, NPR disproved a claim in the movie that the GPS technology at the center of the film was used to solve a murder.
But the channels could have another, more pressing reason to shy away from D’Souza: the threat of lawsuits. Both Fox News and Newsmax were sued in the aftermath of the 2020 election by voting machine manufacturers after promoting false claims that their voting machines were used to steal the election from Trump.
D’Souza appears to recognize that legal fears are driving his film’s smaller cable news profile. In a Sunday appearance on sports pundit Jason Whitlock’s podcast, he made the unlikely claim that covering his film would somehow help Fox News in its legal battle with voting machine company Dominion Voting Systems.
“I guess what I’m saying to Fox is, ‘You actually don’t need to be quite so uptight about it,’” D’Souza said.
D’Souza didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Most of D’Souza’s ire has fallen on Fox’s biggest host: Tucker Carlson.
Last week, the conservative filmmaker claimed that both Newsmax and Fox News were actively working to derail the promotion and “blocking coverage” of 2000 Mules.
“I’m sorry to say Tucker Carlson and his team specifically instructed Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote NOT to mention the movie,” D’Souza tweeted, referring to a guest booked by the primetime show also involved in the creation of his film.
On Twitter, D’Souza posted alleged text messages he claimed Carlson executive producer Justin Wells had sent him, describing them as “highly abusive messages” threatening to “teach [him] a lesson.”
But Fox isn’t alone in snubbing D’Souza.
D’Souza might reasonably have expected some relief from Ben Shapiro, one of the right’s biggest names. Instead, in a lengthy rebuttal to the film, Shapiro tossed cold water on D’Souza’s voter fraud allegation, saying D’Souza had failed to prove his point.
“I think the conclusion of the film is not justified by the premises of the film itself,” Shapiro said. “There are a bunch of dots that need to be connected. Maybe they will be connected, but they haven’t been connected in the film.”
D’Souza’s fans have deluged conservative media hosts with requests that they talk about the film. Demands to discuss 2000 Mules have become so common that talk radio host Jesse Kelly blasted D’Souza’s most ardent supporters in a Twitter thread on Tuesday, dismissing them as “talk about 2000 Mules guys.” Kelly, who said he was fed up with the requests, called the people demanding he devote more of his show to the film the “bottom of the barrel.”
Yet D’Souza isn’t happy with his supporters, either. On Tuesday, he accused his fans of pirating the film, which was initially available for $29.99 online until he dropped the price to a lower $19.99. The conservative filmmaker blamed “people on our own side” for “widely sharing” the film illegally.
“It’s kind of unbelievable,” D’Souza said in a video posted to Twitter. “Someone that came to our Mar-a-Lago premiere recorded the movie.”
“This movie is about illegal activity, and you are promoting illegal activity,” said D’Souza wife, D’Souza’s wife Deborah Fancher. “It’s not a free-for-all kind of movie!”
D’Souza has succeeded at one thing, though: turning 2000 Mules into a sort of litmus test on the right for judging who’s a “true” Trump supporter. On Monday, Real America’s Voice host David Brody quizzed Pennsylvania Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz on whether he had watched 2000 Mules. Brody appeared miffed when Oz said he hadn’t, claiming he had been too busy with his campaign but planned to watch it soon at his wife’s request.
By contrast, Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake has embraced 2000 Mules, joining D’Souza by demanding more news coverage from Trumpian outlets. In a May 14 appearance on Real America’s Voice, Lake complained that an unnamed conservative network had failed to interview her about the film.
“They asked me about everything except the release of 2000 Mules,” Lake said. “I was flabbergasted.”
The Daily Beast