Tiffany Cross and Jonathan Capehart was part of a power panel of Black and brown heavy hitters excoriating the Dems and the media for exalting the white candidates at the expense of Sen. Harris, Sen. Booker, and Sec. Castro.
November 24, 2019

Joy Reid had an incredibly informative and insightful panel discussion on Saturday about media coverage of the Democratic race for the 2020 nomination for President. With very few exceptions (Reid's show is one of those exceptions) media has perpetrated obvious and inexcusable erasure of the candidates who are People of Color, women, and both. What made Reid's panel so notable (and informed) is that it consisted solely of Black and brown people: Tiffany Cross, Jonathan Capehart, LaTosha Brown, Glenda Carr, and Gyasi Ross. Frankly, the panel should not be notable for this reason, but it is, because the media is so white, and the ones who make decisions about what gets covered and who gets attention are primarily white and male.

Here are some examples: CSPAN left Kamala Harris' name off the list of speeches from Iowa's Liberty and Justice Celebration event for hours before it was fixed.

Tom Steyer stole Sen. Harris' campaign's South Carolina voter data, and barely a blip on the media landscape registered. Joy Reid referenced a Huffington Post piece which cited the fact that in U.S. news publications, Mayor Pete Buttigieg's being a Rhodes Scholar was mentioned 596 times, compared to Mayor Cory Booker's Rhodes Scholarship mentions standing at merely 79. It's egregious and appalling.

Tiffany Cross despaired the media's refusal to acknowledge and reflect the increasingly dominant segment of the Democratic base that looks like that panel does.

CROSS: I'm just absolutely exhausted with it, to be honest with you, because this is analysis coming from the chatter class, okay, or the children of the chatter class, who have this very myopic outlook. So when you read these things, you do have to consider, well, who is the narrator? Who are the people telling this story? And they don't reflect this panel. News flash: voters are looking a lot more like this panel than the people that these candidates are going after. To say Amy Klobuchar won the debate? Really? She is constantly talking about how she can win red states. News flash: you're running as a Democrat. Talk to me about how you can win some blue states. Talk to me about how you're gonna appeal to voters like me, and it doesn't happen.

Pete, again, is not polling well with Black voters. They have exalted his candidacy, like he is amazing, despite the fact that he is not winning with this key constituency group while dismissing Kamala Harris' campaign, which is ridiculous. I've interviewed her the day after the debate, and said, "Why do you think that is?" Well, you know, we know why that is. So, I think we have to stay strong with platforms like this one, and let the chatter class know, we got nixed. You all have missed the mark too many times. And it should also be a sign to the media that they need to be more inclusive in their coverage, because as long as it's very privileged, white, myopic views talking to other white voters, then they're gonna keep missing the mark.

By evolution or by force, we have to make that happen.

Reid played a segment from last week's debate when Sen. Harris implied the other candidates weren't interested in the Black community until it came time to court them for their votes, whereas Sen. Harris has spent her entire career trying to improve the lives of Black and other marginalized communities. Jonathan Capehart agreed:

CAPEHART: I think it's unfortunate. Part of the problem has been the polls. The media chases whoever is leading in the polls. Let's not forget, there was a time when Senator Harris was leading in the polls. She was the new, bright, shiny object. Her launch in Oakland...was covered, it was ballyhooed, it was the best launch still, to my mind, of any other presidential candidate, but then she started sliding in the polls, and when you slide in the polls, people discount your candidacy, and that's everyday people and that's folks in the press, and I think folks in my profession have been guilty of ignoring this person who, yeah, she's sliding in the polls, but the fundamentals are still there. She's still a terrific candidate. She still is someone who you can't discount, and I applaud her for taking the question that was meant to get her to jump all over Mayor Pete, and use it to turn the mirror on the party about "Where ya been? and Whatchya gonna do?" for African-American voters, and stop coming to us every four years when you need us to show up for you, but you don't show up for us.

But that reflection in the mirror was not just the Democratic party. It was also to the media. The media plays into that narrative. Going to the Black churches just before primary day or going to the Black churches the weekend before a general election, doing the big "souls to the polls," doing the hand-wringing about "Will they come out?" and "Will the person lose the election because the Black person doesn't come out?" The press also has a responsibility, as the Democratic party does, to look at the African-American community, not just around election time, but every time. Every day.

Cross has never, ever counted Sen. Harris out, and Capehart's open support of fairer and more favorable coverage is certainly welcome — even if he seemed to blame media's lack of coverage on her sliding poll numbers, instead of also recognizing the chicken/egg nature of the poll numbers: they might go down because of media erasure. But his self-reflection regarding media coverage is an example for all of us — especially white people — to follow and consider as we read and consume news coverage.

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