FRONTLINE | The Associated Press, 2023
Author(s): Richard Rowley | FRONTLINE, Michelle R. Smith | The Associated Press
Journalists from FRONTLINE and The Associated Press shed light on Michael Flynn’s role in the plot to overturn the 2020 U.S. presidential election and explored his growing influence on conservative politics since the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The reporting revealed Flynn’s prominence as a political figure has gained momentum since the insurrection, particularly among those who share his belief that conservative Christian ideologies and values should be at the center of American public policy and life.
FRONTLINE, with AP reporter Michelle Smith in the lead on-screen role, delved deeply into the influences in Flynn’s life that shaped his point of view and motivated him to lead a movement that his critics say is challenging American institutions and democracy itself.
Smith and FRONTLINE’s Richard Rowley used poignant on-camera interviews with Flynn, members of his family, friends and colleagues to tell a fascinating tale that starts with Flynn’s upbringing in a conservative Catholic home. They traced his high-profile military career and reminded viewers about the national security roles he has held at the highest levels of government.
FRONTLINE followed Flynn to Florida, where he has relocated and established a base of operations to fight a political war on what he calls “the local battlefield.” The FRONTLINE reporting showed how Flynn and his supporters dominated the local school board election in his new home of Sarasota County, Florida, and how he has become a popular figure at rallies that routinely draw people who oppose vaccines, election deniers and right-wing extremists from around the country.
The FRONTLINE/AP team found that of the 99 candidates who Flynn endorsed, 80% had spread falsehoods or sowed doubt about the 2020 election and two dozen had been at the Capitol on Jan. 5 and 6, 2021.
By reviewing campaign finance records, corporate and charity filings, social media posts and similar open-source information, the team’s reporting revealed that Flynn’s prominence has grown beyond his image as a fringe figure in President Trump’s White House.
“Michael Flynn’s Holy War” provides evidence that the retired three-star general and former national security adviser has grown as an influencer with a cadre of devout followers who seem ready to act on his rhetoric of domestic division and conflict. It’s video storytelling at its best.