Media embrace of Stacey Abrams is a preview of 2022, 2024 election coverage
By Joe Concha
Will media coverage of the 2022 midterms and 2024 presidential election be objective, unbiased and sober? That’s the rhetorical question to end all rhetorical questions, of course, especially when looking back at the past four presidential contests. The 2008 campaign featured, as the great media analyst Bernie Goldberg put it in his bestselling book, “A Slobbering Love Affair” between the media and Barack Obama. The Obama water-carrying continued in 2012, when Obama again avoided much scrutiny of his record, while Republican nominee Mitt Romney was painted as a racist, dog-abusing, binders-full-of-women-carrying Mormon Gordon Gekko who was so clueless that he called Russia our biggest geopolitical foe.
The 2016 election somehow got worse, with Donald Trump cast as the second coming of Adolf Hitler. A USA Today poll summed up what readers and viewers were thinking when it came to coverage of the Clinton and Trump campaigns. “By nearly 10-1, all those surveyed say the news media, including major newspapers and TV stations, would like to see Clinton rather than Trump elected. That includes 82% of Trump supporters and 74% of Clinton supporters,” the paper reported in October 2016. Despite the overwhelmingly biased coverage, Trump went on to win.
In 2020 things went well past biased and straight into full-blown activism. Negative stories about Joe Biden’s son Hunter were censored on social media and ignored by traditional media. Biden avoided scrutiny around his nearly 50 years in politics almost entirely, with the focus myopically on Trump. Town halls for Biden were little more than PR campaigns. In some cases, those asking the questions were firm supporters of the Democrat. One MSNBC presidential historian (Jon Meacham) praised Biden on his campaign speeches that he helped write without disclosing that important fact. So, what will happen in this November’s elections? Look no further than a politician currently more beloved by traditional media than any other: Georgia’s Stacey Abrams.
The embrace comes despite Abrams committing the biggest no-no in American politics today: declaring that an election was stolen, sowing doubt in future elections and calling the secretary of state who oversaw her gubernatorial contest in Georgia “corrupt.” Switch out the name “Abrams” with “Trump” and apply the same rhetoric and we know how the media would respond. “Concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper. …I cannot concede,” Abrams declared in November 2018 following her 55,000-vote loss to Republican Brian Kemp.
“I have no empirical evidence that I would have achieved a higher number of votes. However, I have sufficient, and I think legally sufficient, doubt about the process to say that it was not a fair election,” Abrams said in April 2019. “I believe it was stolen from the voters. I just said it can’t happen again. And that has been my mission for the last two years,” Abrams repeated in November 2020. These are chilling attacks on democracy, no doubt. But it was difficult to find any journalists at liberal outlets condemning this rhetoric. Instead, some even defended Abrams on the matter.
So, it was no surprise when Abrams received similar treatment from the media when it comes to her blatant hypocrisy around masks in schools. Recently, Abrams, a staunch advocate of masking children in schools, visited an elementary school in Georgia. At one point, she thought it was a great idea to take a picture with her in the forefront and kids, all masked as they have been for two years, sitting behind her. But she didn’t wear a mask. The photo went viral on social media.
Abrams committed one of the more egregious political fumbles you’ll see. But instead of showing contrition, she initially (and incredibly) called the criticism “pitiful” and “predictable” while invoking Black History Month to defend herself.
“It is shameful that our opponents are using a Black History Month reading event for Georgia children as the impetus for a false political attack, and it is pitiful and predictable that our opponents continue to look for opportunities to distract from their failed records when it comes to protecting public health during the pandemic,” Abrams said in an Instagram post. The usual suspects in the media made Abrams the victim while portraying Republicans as the bad guys. The Washington Post: “GOP rivals seize on Stacey Abrams’s maskless classroom photo as her campaign calls criticism ‘silly.’“
“Her Republican opponents and conservative commentators seized on the image, pointing out what they characterized as the hypocrisy of a candidate being photographed without a mask despite supporting them in schools,” the story reads. You gotta love it: “…what they characterized as the hypocrisy of a candidate being photographed without a mask…” Abrams eventually apologized. In the 2022 Georgia gubernatorial election polls, Abrams trails her potential Republican opponents in Gov. Brian Kemp (48 to 41 percent) and David Perdue (47 to 43 percent).
But she’s got one thing going for her. She can count on the same media support Obama, Hillary Clinton and Biden received in the last four presidential elections. Many in the media seem heavily invested in making her the next governor of Georgia in order to pave the way for her to become the next president of the United States.
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Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist.