There is no longer any pretense made by the Democrats to hide their control of the press coverage given to Joe Biden and his campaign for president. Stories have been written about demands made by Team Joe and the press willingly falls into line. Now some prominent Democrat women are delivering a new set of marching orders to the press. They demand fair coverage of Biden’s running mate, whoever he chooses. We know he will choose a woman.
Biden says he will name his vice-presidential choice this week. As we wait for that announcement, a group of Democrat women has formed “We Have Her Back”. They wrote an open letter to make sure that Biden’s female running mate gets fair coverage. Fair coverage, though, is in the eye of the beholder because the hypocrisy is strong here. CNN commentator Hilary Rosen, former Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson signed the open letter. They vow to defend the VP pick from sexist and racist attacks in the press – assuming the choice will be not just a woman but a Black woman.
The letter was addressed to “News Division Heads, Editors in Chiefs, Bureau Chiefs, Political Directors, Editors, Producers, Reporters, and Anchors.” The women listed as signatories were Fatima Goss Graves (National Women’s Law Center), Ilyse Hogue (NARAL) Valerie Jarrett, Alexis McGill Johnson and Melanie Newman (Planned Parenthood), Debra Ness (National Partnership for Women and Families), Cecile Richards (Supermajority), Jess Morales Rocketto, Hilary Rosen, Stephanie Shriock, Christina Reynolds (Emily’s List), and Tina Tchen (TimesUp). The women point to the “historic moment” of choosing a Black woman as a running mate (or a brown woman) and instruct the press on how not to cover her. They compliment reporters on how they have covered the George Floyd protests and riots and then go on to list ways in which the press might go astray in covering Biden’s choice, given past media coverage of women in politics.
We are calling on you to do this same with this next historic moment. A woman VP candidate, and possibly a Black or Brown woman candidate, requires the same kind of internal consideration about systemic inequality as you undertook earlier this year. Anything less than full engagement in this thoughtful oversight would be a huge step backwards for the progress you have pledged to make to expand diversity of thought and opportunity in your newsrooms
and in your coverage.
Women have been subject to stereotypes and tropes about qualifications, leadership, looks, relationships and experience. Those stereotypes are often amplified and weaponized for Black and Brown women. Attempts at legitimate investigations of a candidate have repeatedly turned into misguided stories that perpetuate impressions of women as inadequate leaders, and Black and Brown women as worse. There are multiple ways that media coverage over the years has
contributed to the facts of the lack of diversity at the top of society’s roles.
• Reporting on a woman’s ambition as though the very nature of seeking political office, or any higher job for that matter is not a mission of ambition
• Relationships with partners, staff, colleagues and donors are characterized differently if the woman is not seen as subservient or supportive
• Reporting on whether a woman is liked (a subjective metric at best) as though it is news when the “likeability” of men is never considered a legitimate news story.
• Reporting, even as asides in a story, on a woman’s looks, weight, tone of voice, attractiveness and hair is sexist news coverage unless the same analysis is applied to
• Reporting on questions of electability of women is, in itself, a perpetuation of a stereotype about the ability of women to lead
• Reporting on doubts women may not be qualified leaders even when they have experience equal to or exceeding male leaders
• Reporting on the heritage of Black women or women of color perpetuates a misunderstanding about who is legitimately American
• Reporting on and using pictures of a woman’s, particularly black women, show of anger at injustice or any other kind of passion in communication perpetuates racist tropes that suggest unfairly that women are too emotional or irrational in their leadership or worse “hate America”
That pretty much covers everything, right? The candidate cannot be held to the same standard as any other person running for elected office. She must be reported on by a willfully blind media – you know, the same ones who report about Joe Biden. The women are particularly sensitive to any coverage that implies the candidate is an angry Black woman who is less than patriotic in her feelings about America, it seems.
The letter also includes an offer from the women to guide the press on coverage. How generous. This is blatant cronyism and censorship of any real press coverage of a woman running to be vice-president yet there is no shame in these women’s games. It is as though this is perfectly acceptable and normal behavior. They dictate to the press on how to cover the woman and that’s that. And there is a threat, too when they say, they will be watching and ready to call the media out.
We are here to help you with this challenge. We would be happy to meet and continue to engage on these issues. This is a defining election no matter your viewpoint. We intend to collectively and individually monitor coverage and we will call out those we believe take our country backward with sexist and/or racist coverage.
I’ll note that the hypocrisy of all this is rich. Does the name Hilary Rosen sound familiar – other than her appearances on CNN? She made a splash during the 2012 presidential campaign when she said that Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life”. Ann Romney was the wife of the presidential candidate, not a candidate herself, yet Rosen, a far-left feminist, took it upon herself to attack Ann Romney. That led Romney to create a Twitter account, by the way, so that she could deliver her own messages.
It is as though these liberal women expect conservatives to forget how Sarah Palin was treated. Democrats said she was uneducated, ignorant, possibly having a child that wasn’t her husband’s, a hick from Alaska, she wore the wrong clothes, she didn’t speak well, they mocked her religion, and so on. It was hideous. Sadly, the Democrats were often joined by McCain’s own staff in treating Palin badly. So, forgive me if I’m less than sympathetic of whatever coverage the Democrat women now think is coming down the pike for a Democrat woman running for vice-president.
Whoever Biden’s team chooses from his list of potential running mates, there will be plenty of fodder for posts. I assure you I will be ready and going for her when the choice is made. Pot/kettle, Ms. Rosen. There will be no special treatment for a Black (or Brown) woman running for vice-president from conservative writers and there should not be.