- More than 40 current or pending appointees to more than a dozen prestigious federal commissions and boards have publicly endorsed President Trump’s lies about fraud in the 2020 election or supported politicians who do, an Insider investigation has found.
- Some made shocking allusions to aggression and violence, before and after the January 6 insurrection. Some experts say they should lose their appointments.
- Insider reviewed federal appointments to boards and commissions which oversee institutions like the Holocaust Museum and the Kennedy Center, advise Congress and the White House, among other functions. Read the full investigation here.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A handful of federal appointees to prestigious boards and commissions made shocking allusions to political violence in public comments following the contested 2020 presidential election. Some experts and activists say they should lose their powerful positions.
Actor Jon Voight sits on the Kennedy Center board of trustees. In a November 2020 video he posted to Twitter, the “Midnight Cowboy” star compared liberals to Satan, said the country was facing its “greatest fight since the Civil War,” and made what appeared to be a call for widespread violence in response to the election being called for Biden.
“My fellow Americans, I stand here with all the feelings I do, disgusted with this lie that Biden has been chosen,” Voight said in a somber tone. “As if we all don’t know the truth. And when one tries to deceive, we know that one can’t get away with it, there will be a price to pay …. Let us fight this fight as if it is our last fight on Earth.” Paraphrasing Muhammad Ali, Voight said, “It’s not over until the last punch you have.” A spokeswoman for Voight told Insider he was not available for comment.
Government integrity experts expressed alarm over Voight’s comments. They said such calls to violence could be a violation of the oath of service many appointees swear when taking their positions.
“Anyone who takes an oath to uphold the Constitution has an obligation to protect democracy,” said Austin Evers, a former Obama administration appointee who now leads American Oversight, a non-partisan government integrity watchdog. “Words have consequences. Democracy is fragile … Anyone who is simultaneously serving as a federal official while engaging in rhetorical arson like this has no business holding their position.”
Other allusions to violence came from professional mixed martial arts fighter Colby Covington, appointed to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition. “I know a lot of my right-wing conservative people, they want blood right now,” he told a radio audience in March, promoting an upcoming fight. “We were cheated out of the election. It was an unfair election with Donald Trump. They cheated, they rigged the system. So we want blood on our hands. So I know a lot of Republicans and right-wing people that want blood. I want to give it to them,” Covington said, apparently referring to his upcoming bout. Covington could not be reached for comment.
Covington is one of two mixed martial arts fighters appointed to the fitness council. UFC fighter Jorge Masvidal was also tapped for a seat on the panel – and also alluded to violence as a response to the election results.
“The media state has declared Joe Biden the President. I wonder when trump gonna drop the hammer to fix the scorecard?” Masvidal, who holds the record for the fastest knockout in UFC history, tweeted on November 7.
Masvidal could not be reached for comment. A council representative declined to comment for this story, and referred inquiries to the White House. The White House did not respond.
Voight, Covington, and Masvidal received their appointments from former president Donald Trump.
Overall, an Insider investigation found more than 40 appointees who called for violence after the election was called, publicly propagated unsubstantiated vote fraud claims, downplayed or condoned the violence of January 6, or donated generously to politicians who did.
Bureaucratic inertia appears to have delayed the consummation of Covington’s and Masvidal’s membership on the presidential fitness board. While Trump appointed both men to the panel last December, they appear not to have been sworn in and seated. The Biden White House has not taken steps to establish the fitness board in the new administration. Insider could not determine whether the holdups in forming the panels were intentional, or whether the new White House simply hasn’t gotten around to them. The White House declined to comment.