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Previous story Dangerously viral: How Trump, supporters spread false claims Next story

STORY BY AMANDA SEITZ AND DAVID KLEPPER

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Published on December 4, 2020 4:04 AM

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FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2020, file photo, Jake Contos, a supporter of President Donald Trump, chants during a protest against the election results outside the central counting board at the TCF Center in Detroit. President Donald Trump and his allies have fomented the idea of a “rigged election” for months, promoting falsehoods through various media and even lawsuits about fraudulent votes and dead voters casting ballots. While the details of these spurious allegations may fade over time, the scar it leaves o
The cellphone video shot in the dark by a woman in a parked car appeared to show something ominous: a man closing the doors of a white van and then rolling a wagon with a large box into a Detroit election center.

Within hours, the 90-second clip was being shared on news sites and conservative YouTube accounts, offered as apparent proof that illegal votes were being smuggled in after polls closed. Prominent Republicans, including Eric Trump, one of the president's sons, amplified the falsehoods on social media. Within a day, views of the video shot up past a million.

That single video serves as a powerful emblem of the trafficking in false information that has plagued the presidential election won by Joe Biden. In other videos, photos and social media posts, supporters of President Donald Trump, and most notably the incumbent himself, have raised doubts about the outcome based on problems that did not occur.

Though the clip was quickly discredited by news organizations and public officials — the man depicted was a photojournalist hauling camera equipment, not illegal votes — to many viewers it had its intended effect.

Eric Hainline, a UPS driver from Dayton, Ohio, watched the video and many like it, and said the images reinforced his suspicions that the election was stolen from Trump.

"You don't know who to believe anymore," said Hainline, 44. "I think the trust people have is broken."