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Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy October 29, 2020

Detroit TV station accidentally airs fake election results during ‘The Bachelorette’ in systems test

If Your Time is short

  • A Detroit TV station’s airing of “The Bachelorette” featured a sidebar that appeared to be showing results from the 2020 election a week before Election Day.

  • The results were not real results. They were randomly generated as part of a test of the TV station’s Election Day systems. The station released a statement clarifying the error.

The third episode of ABC’s reality dating TV show "The Bachelorette" was defined by a shouting match, a celebrity-style roast and a whole lot of romance between bachelorette Clare Crawley and the season’s frontrunner, contestant Dale Moss.

And, for some watchers in the Detroit area, the Oct. 27 episode also appeared to preview the results for the 2020 presidential election and other contests in Michigan. "2020 election results air a week early!" said the caption on one YouTube video viewed more than 95,000 times. 

The video highlighted nearly two minutes from the broadcast as it aired on WXYZ Detroit, an ABC affiliate. According to the sidebar accompanying the broadcast, President Donald Trump won Michigan, capturing 50% of the vote to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s 44%. 

The results looked authentic, leading commenters on the YouTube video to claim the election had been rigged because votes were being tallied a week before Election Day, on Nov. 3.

But while the sidebar was real, the election results it showed were not. The sidebar, as the contestants on "The Bachelor" like to say, wasn’t there for the right reasons.

In an apology statement posted to its website the following day, the TV station said the results displayed were "randomly generated" as part of a test of its systems ahead of Election Day.

"During the Bachelorette, WXYZ inadvertently aired an election result graphic as part of our testing of the systems we will use during election night coverage," the station said.

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"The results displayed – the presidential race, the Senate race and a number of congressional races to name a few, were part of a test and NOT actual results. In Michigan, no ballots are counted before election day."

The mishap was covered by the Detroit Free Press and the New York Times. The broadcast’s mock results also showed Republican Senate candidate John James beating Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat, and Reps. Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens fending off their GOP challengers.

In reality, those candidates will have to wait until Nov. 3 for the results to start rolling in. 

Our ruling

A YouTube video said a broadcast of ABC’s "The Bachelorette" showed the 2020 election results a week early.

WXYZ, a Detroit-area ABC affiliate, did show what appeared to be Election Day results in a sidebar accompanying its broadcast of the reality TV show. That generated some confusion.

But the results shown were not real election results; they were randomly generated as part of a test of the affiliate’s system. Michigan’s ballots will be counted on Election Day. WXYZ made that clear in a statement posted Oct. 28, after the Oct. 27 YouTube video was uploaded.

We rate this claim Half True.

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Detroit TV station accidentally airs fake election results during ‘The Bachelorette’ in systems test

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