Patrick Byrne is a conspiracy theorist and the founder of Overstock, an internet furniture store. In 2019, he resigned as CEO of Overstock after his ex-girlfriend Maria Butina was outed as a Russian spy.
In the wake of the 2020 presidential election, Byrne became an outspoken proponent of unfounded claims of ballot tampering and a stolen election. In 2021, Dominion Voting Systems sued him for defamation for spreading lies about the security and accuracy of the company’s voting machines. Byrne is among four pro-Trump conspiracy theorists who reportedly entered into a screaming match in the Oval Office on December 18, 2020 during a six-hour meeting with Trump and his White House legal team to determine the best mix of extreme measures the defeated president should take to hold on to office.
January 6, 2021
- On the evening before the insurrection, Byrne spoke at a pre-rally at Freedom Plaza hosted by Women for America First—the same group that organized the Jan. 6 rally at the White House Ellipse. In his speech, he told the crowd that “they’ve eroded many of our freedoms over recent decades… but the one thing we can never ever accept is to put up with a rigged election.” He also referred to Biden as an “imposter president” and accused mainstream media of “gaslighting” Trump supporters. “We’re seeing the world correctly, and they’re the kooks,” he said. “We’re gonna be victorious tomorrow.”
The Big Lie
- Byrne has consistently denied the results of the 2020 presidential election, claiming that—despite lack of any evidence—Biden only won because of rampant fraud and ballot tampering.
- On Dec. 18, 2020, Byrne met in the Oval Office with Trump, attorney Sidney Powell and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to discuss the possibility of overturning the election. The New York Times reports that the meeting “descended into shouting as a group that included Mr. Cipollone [the White House attorney], who had absorbed most of Mr. Trump’s frustrations for weeks as he tried to stop a number of legally questionable ideas, tried to dissuade the president from entertaining a range of options the visitors were proposing.” In the PBS documentary Plot to Overturn the Election, Byrne says that he proposed Trump order federal forces to seize voting machines, among other ideas.
- Byrne has maintained a blog dedicated to promoting lies and unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 presidential election. In one post titled “Evidence Grows: ’20 Election Was Rigged,” he claims that Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic—companies that supply voting machines and other elections equipment—were “developed for Hugo Chavez” and “were used strategically & aggressively to rig our election.” Byrne has elaborated on similar conspiracy theories in a series of entries on this blog.
- In addition to the blog, Byrne has funded multiple rallies at which he spoke and invited other speakers such as Flynn and Roger Stone.
- Byrne founded The America Project, an organization that spreads disinformation around the 2020 election and Covid-19, and raised funds for the election audit in Maricopa County, Arizona. By May 2021, he said he had personally donated $1 million to the nonprofit.
- In February 2021, Byrne self-published a book titled The Deep Rig: How Election Fraud Cost Donald J. Trump the White House, By a Man Who Did Not Vote for Him (or what to send friends who ask, “Why do you doubt the integrity of the 2020 election?”). According to The Daily Beast, the book topped sales charts on Amazon, “even though much of it was taken directly from Byrne’s blog, produced in such haste that the printed version included hyperlinks and video embeds rendered useless by being printed… in book form.”
- In August 2021, Dominion Voting Systems filed suit against Byrne for defamation on grounds that he had claimed its machines mistallied ballots in cities where the voting machines are not even used. The lawsuit also accuses Byrne of fabricating a strange lie about Hugo Chavez, the former Venezuelan president who died in 2010, playing a role in the 2020 election.
- Byrne was a key fundraiser for Cyber Ninjas, the group that conducted the partisan election audit in Maricopa County, Arizona. According to The Washington Post, Cyber Ninjas received more than $3.2 million from Byrne’s nonprofit, The America Project, for the audit effort.
- In addition to fundraising for the Arizona audit, Byrne starred in a documentary about the Arizona audit. Based on his book The Deep Rig, the documentary by the same name was directed by Roger R. Richards, a filmmaker who previously released a documentary claiming that aliens were responsible for 9/11.