The conservative group Project Veritas and its former leader are taking the unusual step of publicly acknowledging that claims of ballot mishandling at a Pennsylvania post office in 2020 were untrue.
The statements from Project Veritas and founder James O’Keefe came as a lawsuit filed against them by a Pennsylvania postmaster was settled Monday.
The group produced videos in the wake of the 2020 presidential election based on claims from a postal worker in Erie, Pennsylvania, who said he had overheard a conversation between the postmaster and a supervisor about illegally backdating mail-in presidential ballots.
Pennsylvania is a battleground state in presidential elections and had been a key target for unfounded claims of election fraud by former President Donald Trump and his supporters after he lost the election to Democrat Joe Biden. The claims about the Erie postmaster sparked calls for an investigation from Republicans and were cited in court by the Trump campaign to support voter fraud allegations.
The admission on Monday was the latest evidence that Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election were baseless. The former president’s allegations of massive voting fraud have been dismissed by a succession of judges and refuted by state election officials and his former attorney general, William Barr.
The Erie postal worker, Richard Hopkins, said in a statement Monday that he was wrong and apologized to the postmaster and his family, as well as the Erie post office.
“I only heard a fragment of the conversation and reached the conclusion that the conversation was related to nefarious behavior,” he wrote. “As I have now learned, I was wrong.”
Both Project Veritas and O’Keefe said in their statements posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that they are not aware of any evidence or other allegation of election fraud in Erie during the 2020 election. The conservative nonprofit, which is known for its hidden camera stings aimed at embarrassing news outlets, labor organizations and Democratic politicians, removed O’Keefe last year amid reports of mistreated workers and misspent organization funds.
Erie postmaster Robert Weisenbach sued the group, as well as O’Keefe and Hopkins, for defamation in 2021.
Weisenbach’s attorneys included the group Protect Democracy, which confirmed the settlement, as did Stephen Klein, an attorney who represented Project Veritas and O’Keefe. Both sides said the “case was resolved in a manner acceptable to all the parties.”
An attorney for Hopkins did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Weisenbach, who voted Trump, has previously said the false ballot backdating accusations destroyed his reputation and forced him to flee his home after his address was circulated online and he was confronted by a man yelling at him as he pulled into his driveway, according to court documents.
The U.S. Postal Service also investigated Hopkins’s claims, but found no evidence of backdated ballots, according to a report released in February 2021.
Elections officials previously told The Associated Press the county had received about 140 ballots after the election and just five had an Erie postmark.