On this Ky farm, an alternate reality where Joe Biden lost

Donald Trump Jr., son of former President Donald Trump, spoke at Eric Deters’ Freedom Fest in Northern Kentucky on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, to a crowd of thousands.

Donald Trump Jr., son of former President Donald Trump, spoke at Eric Deters’ Freedom Fest in Northern Kentucky on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, to a crowd of thousands.

Standing in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall little more than a week ago, President Joe Biden pleaded with Americans to stand up for the Constitution and reject the tenets of ‘MAGA’ Republicans.

“They do not recognize the will of the people,” Biden said in the prime-time address. “They refuse to accept the results of a free election, and they’re working right now as I speak in state after state to give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies, empowering election deniers to undermine democracy itself.”

But in the rolling hills of Eric Deters’ farm in Kenton County on Saturday, Biden’s grave warning was little more than a punchline.

Deters, a long-shot Republican candidate for Kentucky governor and suspended lawyer, hosted his second-annual Freedom Fest over the weekend, drawing thousands of MAGA fans from Kentucky, Ohio and beyond. There, attendees clung tightly to former President Donald Trump’s thoroughly debunked lie that he was wrongfully denied a second term in office through widespread voter fraud and cheating.

“We, the people,” one man’s shirt read, “know Trump won.”

Another man spent much of the festival flying a massive flag, dozens of feet high in the air, proclaiming, “Trump won.”

And there was no surer way to get a robust round of applause from the crowd than to falsely declare that Biden was not the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election.

“Ah, man, they cheated like hell all over this country. They didn’t cheat in Kentucky,” Eric Trump declared after taking the stage. “We won Kentucky. Is there anybody out there that doesn’t think that Joe Biden cheated like absolute hell? Anybody? Guys, I promise you we’re going to get these bastards.”

Though Donald Trump has endorsed one of Deters’ primary opponents, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, back in June, that has not stopped “The Bulldog” from trying to align himself with the twice-impeached president. Cameron has leaned into the Trump endorsement, recently releasing a campaign ad boasting he is the “only one” with Trump’s blessing.

Deters is unlike many of his Republican primary opponents, including Cameron, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and State Rep. Savannah Maddox, who all stop short of saying the election was stolen from Trump.

“I am the only Republican gubernatorial candidate who says (U.S. Senator from Kentucky Mitch) McConnell’s gotta go, they stole the election and January 6 was much ado about nothing,” Deters told the crowd, which he estimated at 15,000 people, Saturday.

Kentucky’s gubernatorial election, in which Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, will face off against a yet-to-be determined Republican, won’t take place until 2023. But a recent analysis from FiveThirtyEight found that some 60% of Americans will have an election-denier on the ballot this November. (Kentucky’s only outright election-denier according to FiveThirtyEight is U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers from the 6th Congressional District.)

Speakers at the event, which lasted for more than four hours, also included Seth Keshel, a former Army intelligence officer who now makes the rounds as an “election integrity” expert. According to an NPR story from June 2022, Keshel has spread his misinformation at at least 129 events in 37 states; he’d previously appeared in Bowling Green in November.

NPR’s report also tracked another speaker from Deters’ event, Doug Frank, and found that he’d spoken in at least 29 states at 138 events, including at least nine prior appearances in Kentucky.

Frank, who told the crowd he’d been in 43 states, touted his close work with MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a Trump ally and frequent promoter of the stolen election conspiracy theory.

“Did you see him lie into your Secretary of State (Michael) Adams this last week?” Frank asked, to scattered applause.

In a rambling, six-minute YouTube video posted Friday by Jessica Neal, a Northern Kentucky Republican candidate for state senate who lost her race and subsequent recount, Lindell slams Adams, a Republican.

“You don’t want us to find out that maybe your election was a selection not an election?” Lindell asks, shortly after being reminded of Adams’ name by someone off camera. “Are you part of the problem, Mike Adams?”

Lindell went on to call for people to “bombard” Adams’ office with open records requests.

Adams, who is running for a second term in office, has very publicly feuded with members of his own party, including State Sen. Adrienne Southworth, R-Lawrenceburg, in an effort to combat election misinformation.

Other Freedom Fest speakers, including headliners Donald Trump Jr. and his partner Kimberly Guilfoyle, also falsely promoted Trump as the true winner of the 2020 election, calling Democrats cheaters.

Deters has planned an additional event, Mountain Freedom Fest, in Pikeville on Oct. 8. Speakers will include Newt Gingrich and Dinesh D’Souza.

This story was originally published September 12, 2022 6:00 AM.

Tessa joined the Herald-Leader as Frankfort Bureau Chief in August 2022. A native of Bowling Green and a 2013 graduate of Western Kentucky University, Tessa has also reported in Texas, Florida and Louisville, where she covered education, criminal justice and policing.

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