2020 Election
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‘They Deserve Any Mockery They Get.’ Prank Callers Flood Trump’s Voter Fraud Hotline, Forcing the President’s Campaign to Create New Ones

4 minute read

As President Donald Trump refuses to concede an election called for Joe Biden, the Trump campaign has put out a call for people to report instances of “voter suppression, irregularities and fraud” to a hotline. In response, prank callers have been flooding the number—as well as additional numbers the campaign has set up—with spam calls.

Despite the fact that there have been no legitimate allegations of widespread voter fraud, Rudy Giuliani, acting as President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, tweeted out the original hotline number on Friday, prompting Trump detractors to begin pranking the line even before Joe Biden won the presidential election on Saturday. Offering as yet no proof, Giuliani, members of the Trump campaign and the President himself, have launched various allegations like improper mail sorting or lack of access to oversee ballot counting.

Through the weekend, social media users across a variety of platforms started sharing videos of themselves calling in to the hotline with fake tips.

Alex Hirsch, the creator of the Disney Channel show Gravity Falls, is one of the Twitter users whose prank call recording has gone viral. In a video that has been watched over 466,000 times since Friday, Hirsch begins describing the famous McDonaldland character the Hamburglar when a hotline worker answers his call. “I saw a man,” he says. “He walked into this building and he had a black hat, a black mask, a striped shirt and a red tie and I believe there were hamburgers in his bag.”

In the audio recording, you can hear the staffer hang up on Hirsch after he asks to speak to Rudy Giuliani. Hirsch tells TIME that it was Giuliani’s tweet that initially inspired him to prank the hotline. “When a human punchline like Rudy Guliani puts up a hotline to ‘report voter fraud,’ it’s the perfect comedic setup,” he says. “Its like [in The Simpsons] when Principal Skinner bends over to tie his shoes and Bart’s holding a giant tomato. You gotta throw that tomato.”

On TikTok, users have shared recordings of their own hotline pranks. In a video posted on Friday, user @jenny_jenny_jen_jen called the hotline to report an incident of “an obese turtle that has rolled over onto its back,” referencing comments that CNN anchor Anderson Cooper made about Trump following his Nov. 5 speech.

In response to their hotline being inundated with prank calls, the Trump campaign has had to set up a series of new phone numbers, campaign advisor Lara Trump confirmed in a tweet on Saturday.

Team Trump, the official Twitter account for the Trump Campaign, tweeted out the most recent hotline number on Monday morning. The campaign did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.

Describing the Trump campaign’s claims of voter fraud as “beyond parody,” Hirsch says that he has called the hotline a few different times. “As long as they keep putting up these numbers, they deserve any mockery they get and more,” he says. “People say that these calls are immature and childish. To that I say, ‘duh-doy.’ I’m a cartoonist. It’s my job.”

Rather than ring in to the hotline with a false tip, Twitter user Mike Cucinotta opted to simply play a recording of the “losing sound” from The Price Is Right when a Trump campaign worker answered his call on Saturday.

But while Cucinotta describes the prank call experience as “cathartic,” he says that he ultimately thinks the country needs time to heal— something he says the Trump campaign’s efforts are preventing.

“It just seems disingenuous on their part to try to sell this story that there’s some kind of large-scale voter fraud going on when it’s a totally expected result and [the country needs] to heal,” he says. “I mean, making prank calls to the Trump campaign is not helping, but we need to have a conclusive result to heal the divide here. We shouldn’t have this doubt hanging over it.”

This isn’t the first time that Trump has inspired social media users to take action against his campaign. In June, a coalition of TikTok teens and K-pop fans organized through TikTok to sign up for Trump’s first post-shutdown campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., and didn’t show up. Less than a month later, thousands of TikTok users flooded Trump’s 2020 campaign app with negative reviews in response to Trump threatening to ban TikTok.

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Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com