Ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as his running mate, a group of powerful Democratic women sent a letter to top executives in the media to warn them against any hint of racism or sexism in news coverage about the candidate.
What are the details?
In the letter, provided here by Axios, the group, referred to as “We Have Her Back,” essentially gave marching orders to the media on how and how not to report on the forthcoming news.
The group explicitly positioned itself as a watchdog-of-sorts intending to “collectively and individually monitor coverage” and “call out those we believe take our country backward with sexist and/or racist coverage.”
Translation: If you step out of line, we will bury you.
The letter, sent last Friday, was signed by some familiar names: “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).”
Here is a particularly colorful portion in which the undersigned offer examples about what would be considered racist or sexist coverage — i.e. what will be summarily denounced by the group:
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.
o 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
o Relationships with partners, staff, colleagues and donors are characterized differently if the woman is not seen as subservient or supportive
o 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.
o 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 every candidate
o Reporting on questions of electability of women is, in itself, a perpetuation of a stereotype about the ability of women to lead
o Reporting on doubts women may not be qualified leaders even when they have experience equal to or exceeding male leaders
o Reporting on the heritage of Black women or women of color perpetuates a misunderstanding about who is legitimately American
o 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’s a pretty extensive — and specific — list of do’s and don’t’s.
In her coverage of the news, Hot Air’s Karen Townsend noted the hypocrisy of such a letter coming from Democrats given their past treatment of Republican women such as former potential first lady Ann Romney and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
“It is as though these liberal women expect conservatives to forget how Sarah Palin was treated,” Townsend wrote. “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.”
According to Townsend, it would appear that racist or sexist messages are really only condemned when one’s party affiliation is Democratic. It’s hard to argue the point.