The Associated Press fails Election Night test

Democracy is on the line

An Election Week pitch.

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Falling into the same, destructive trap much of the press has been stuck in for four years under Trump, the Associated Press early Wednesday morning committed a major blunder by allowing Trump to dictate the false narrative about the unfolding campaign. Rather than clearly calling out his lies about close, contested elections in states across the country, the AP let Trump make false assertions to dishonestly frame the crucial story of his premature victory declaration.   

"Trump touts wins in key states, says he will fight election in Supreme Court," the influential wire service reported around 2 a.m., following Trump's untrue comments about the ballot-counting process, from the White House.  "President Donald Trump said he is going to the Supreme Court to stop all vote counting in an election he claims to have already won."

The AP committed the cardinal sin of reproducing Trump's lies as news, without first informing readers the comments and assertions are untrue. The AP allowed Trump to promote the thoroughly false claim about the extended election needing judicial oversight because of fraudulent voter behavior. To date, there’s absolutely zero proof of fraud taking place.

Why does that matter? Because the razor-thin election story is going to be fought, in part, in the press. Republicans are trying to spin a tale of widespread fraud while states continue to count the mountain of mail-in ballots that were submitted during this pandemic year.

Trump wants to use the media by declaring himself the winner based on the number of in-person ballots counted on Election Night — in-person, electronic votes that are likely to lean Republican, as compared to early votes which will lean Democratic. Then Trump wants to pressure courts to make sure all the mail-in and early ballots aren't properly counted. He's hoping that recently appointed Supreme Court Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh will help push the Court to stop states from counting votes, just as the Republican Supreme Court ordered Florida to stop tallies during the 2000 recount.



To advance his dishonest narrative, Trump, of course, is lying. When he tweeted “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the election,” early Wednesday morning, Twitter wisely hid the message from users and instead showed the warning, “Some or all of the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process.”

CNN did a much better job than the AP in providing crucial context to Trump's assault on democracy, which unfolded early Wednesday morning:

President Trump attacked legitimate vote-counting efforts in remarks from the White House early Wednesday, suggesting attempts to tally all ballots amounted to disenfranchising his supporters…. His remarks were laced with misleading statements and outright falsehoods and amounted to an assault on the Democratic process.

CNBC was also upfront with news consumers: "President Donald Trump falsely claimed early Wednesday that he had won the presidential election, even though millions of legitimate votes had yet to be counted and a half-dozen battleground states were still not called."

The network also specifically pointed out that Trump's claims of fraud today don't represent a spontaneous critique. "Ever since the coronavirus pandemic necessitated that millions of Americans vote by mail this year, Trump has also worked to sow doubts in the integrity of mail-in voting, baselessly claiming that votes cast by mail are rife with "fraud,"" CNBC stressed.

Over at MSNBC, the network smartly cut away from Trump's live, false comments, while USA Today produced an accurate headline that properly stressed the untruths in play: "Trump falsely claims he has won election, even though ballots are still being counted."

Millions of votes still have to be counted. No news outlet should be helping Trump spread disinformation about the state of the election.

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Susan Glasser at The New Yorker puts the current election story in perspective this morning with her piece, "The Worst-Case Election Scenario Is Happening":

So what now? We can say one thing so far: the anxiety and uncertainty of this election season will extend into a post-election struggle, possibly a protracted one, with potential consequences for our democracy that go well beyond the narrow questions of when Pennsylvania’s absentee ballots will finally be counted and why suburban women in the Midwest appear to have soured on Trump so much more than Latinos in South Florida.

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Nanci Griffith, "Going Back to Georgia”

I just need something that makes me smile. This one always works.


Oh the city snow makes your brown eyes shine
We've gotta look real hard to find a reason to cry
New York, New York is a friend of the traveling kind
And I'm coming around from years of hard times
He's chased me down through the towns and the miles
Once stilled by love he was bound to roll on by