Here's what changed in Dinesh D'Souza's '2,000 Mules' book after it was recalled
After an abrupt recall and a two-month delay - along with the threat of possible legal action - the election denial book 2,000 Mules has reached bookstores, though with a few significant changes.
Most notably, a passage in the recalled version of the book that accused specific, named nonprofit organizations of involvement in illegal "ballot trafficking" has been rewritten, softening certain claims and outright removing the names of the groups. Separately, sections of the book that purported to link election fraud to antifa and the Black Lives Matter movement have also been deleted.
2,000 Mules is based on the film of the same name, which alleges a vast conspiracy between unnamed left-wing nonprofit groups and paid ballot "mules" to stuff vote-by-mail dropboxes and steal the 2020 election. Law enforcement officials and fact-checkers have thoroughly discredited the film's allegations, and the filmmakers have declined to make key evidence for their central claims public.
Nonetheless, 2,000 Mules has remained highly influential in the pro-Trump election denial movement.
And in response to a viewer of the film who wanted to see more evidence, filmmaker and author Dinesh D'Souza said in July that the follow-up book based on 2,000 Mules would name names.
"I am going to reveal the names of several of these nonprofit stash houses in my book '2000 Mules,'" D'Souza tweeted in July.
The initial version of the book set to be published in August did just that. D'Souza accused five nonprofit groups of acting as illegal ballot "stash houses."
Copies of the book had already reached bookstores, when, just before the release date, the publisher Regnery issued a recall, though they did not catch every copy. NPR managed to find the book on the shelf at a Barnes & Noble bookstore.
D'Souza and Regnery did not give a reason for the sudden recall.
Instead, they blamed an unspecified "publishing error," and declined to answer further questions about the mistake, which was significant enough to cause Salem Media, Regnery's parent company, to lower its corporate earnings estimate.
When NPR contacted the five groups D'Souza had accused of involvement in election fraud, two went on the record to condemn the accusations as "trash," "lies," and "malarkey." One of those groups described the allegations as potentially "libelous."
Even True the Vote, the controversial election denial organization that executive produced the 2,000 Mules film, distanced themselves from the book. "True the Vote had no participation in this book, and has no knowledge of its contents," the group said in a statement to NPR back in September. "This includes any allegations of activities of any specific organizations made in the book. We made no such allegations."
Now, D'Souza and Regnery have officially released the 2,000 Mules book, and changed that section.
D'Souza had previously described left-wing nonprofits as "doing vote trafficking."
The newly-released book tones down that phrase to "potentially storing ballots."
And the names of specific nonprofits that D'Souza accused of election fraud have all been removed.
Now, in lieu of listing specific groups, D'Souza writes, "True the Vote shared their names with me and has offered to make them available as needed to the appropriate law enforcement authorities."
The New Georgia Project, a group that focuses on registering and mobilizing young voters and voters of color, was one of the groups named in the recalled book.
"We're always happy when someone who has been discredited takes our name out of their mouths," said a New Georgia Project spokesperson in a message to NPR.
Given the absence of evidence supporting the allegations, NPR is not naming the other groups cited in the recalled version of the book.
In September, when NPR obtained a copy of the recalled book, Regnery said they would "be happy to talk to you more about 2,000 Mules once it is published." But when asked about arranging an interview this week, Regnery president Thomas Spence declined.
"At this point, Regnery is not offering any comment on the book 2,000 Mules," Spence wrote in an email.
D'Souza did not respond to NPR's request for comment.
The official release of the book also completely removes a claim that True the Vote was able to determine the supposed ballot "mules" had links to antifa and the Black Lives Matter movement.
The film and the recalled version of the book said that True the Vote used a database from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) to make this connection.
ACLED objected to that characterization, and requested a correction from D'Souza.
"This is not the type of analysis you can use ACLED data for, and it is highly unlikely that these conclusions have any basis in fact," a spokesperson for ACLED previously told NPR. The spokesperson said every reference to ACLED in the recalled version of the book was "incorrect or misleading."
Now, ACLED does not appear anywhere in the book. Several paragraphs that attempted to rebut NPR's earlier fact-check about the ACLED data have been removed. And claims that the "mules" had connections to antifa or BLM are gone, too.
"ACLED requested a correction from the publisher based on the incorrect references included in the recalled version of 2,000 Mules, and we are happy to see that these references have ultimately been removed from the final copy of the book," said Sam Jones, ACLED's head of communications. "Our data do not support any of the claims or conclusions that were previously linked to ACLED."
The changes to the book may reflect some concern by D'Souza and Regnery about possible legal trouble.
D'Souza previously said he omitted the names of the nonprofits from the film after getting into a "big fight" with lawyers, who said he could not name them. Since the 2020 election, other prominent election deniers - and the channels that hosted them - have faced lawsuits from election technology companies and election workers, who say election-related lies cost them business, led to death threats, and upended their lives.
There is some evidence that 2,000 Mules has inspired distrust and conspiracy theories around the use of ballot dropboxes, especially given former president Trump's embrace of the film.
Arizona election authorities have issued warnings to people purportedly surveilling ballot dropboxes - possibly inspired by the film's claims - and said they referred complaints of possible voter intimidation to the U.S. Department of Justice.
"There's a group of people hanging out near the ballot dropbox filming and photographing my wife and I as we approached the dropbox and accusing us of being a mule," a voter wrote in a complaint to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office. "They took photographs of our license plate and of us and then followed us out the parking lot in one of their cars continuing to film."