The inventor behind one of the worst gadgets of all time has joined the motley crew of quasi-experts trying to defend President Donald Trump’s unfounded election fraud claims despite being wildly unqualified to do so.
His name is Jovan Hutton Pulitzer, and he testified before the Georgia State Judiciary Subcommittee this week, introducing himself as an “inventor and pattern recognition expert” whose “prolific” patents for computer-readable code are licensed by nearly every global tech giant and used on more than 12 billion devices worldwide.
It’s a wholely outrageous claim that you won’t be surprised to learn is far from the truth. In reality, Pulitzer didn’t invent QR codes or the technology that powers them, but he is the brains behind the CueCat, a relic of wacky early aughts gadgetry that failed so spectacularly that he later had his name legally changed, ostensibly to distance himself from this multi-million-dollar disaster.
The CueCat was a cat-shaped, handheld barcode reader (hence the name) that debuted in 2000 and has been widely criticized by Time Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and scores of tech reviewers as one of the crappiest inventions ever. The gadget’s whole schtick was it could read barcodes from magazine ads that when scanned into your computer would lead to... the same ad. Just the online version of it. But, hey, you didn’t have to type a URL into your browser, and boy howdy that sure is convenient!
Yeah, you can see now why it didn’t exactly catch on. However, with that sales pitch, Pulitzer (then going by Jeffrey Jovan Philyaw) managed to rack up $185 million in funding from high-profile corporate backers such as Coca Cola and General Motors. Needless to say, the CueCat bombed. Partly because the gadget received scathing reviews across the board, and partly because a massive security breach left the personal information of its 140,000 users open to hackers.
And from the ashes of that trash fire, Pulitzer has emerged like a shit-covered phoenix to cash in on yet another doomed misadventure: Trump’s increasingly desperate attempts to prove he didn’t lose the 2020 presidential election fair and square.
As flagged by tech analyst Christina Warren on Twitter, Pulitzer spoke before a subcommittee of state senators on Wednesday where he hawked his forensic voter fraud detection system and talked a lot about paper. His rambling diatribe, which you can check out on YouTube, painted an election-stealing conspiracy involving machine-generated ballots, “fake squiggles,” and the supposed clues that can be deciphered from paper folds—er, excuse me, “kinematic artifacts.” The day before his testimony, he posted a video on Twitter covering the same talking points and tagged the president, several conspiracy theorists, and far-right media personalities, presumably in an attempt to go viral among the diehards Trumpers still tantruming about supposed election interference. (Note: Twitter flagged the video for spreading disputed election fraud claims).
Pulitzer was one of several “experts” the subcommittee heard from as Georgia’s upcoming Senate runoff election, which will decide the majority leadership of the Senate, remains under a national spotlight. Apparently realizing that his voter fraud charade isn’t long for this world, Trump tweeted out a call for Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to resign Wednesday and called the state’s GOP leadership “fools.”
Countless pro-Trump conspiracies have cropped up in the weeks since the election, many of which have been echoed by Fox News and other conservative news outlets. Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems, two voting machine companies at the center of many of these unfounded allegations, have begun pushing back with legal challenges and threatening defamation lawsuits. And while these histrionics may be entertaining to watch, just as a reminder it should be noted that federal election officials have declared the 2020 presidential race “the most secure in American history.”