Opinion

Media coverage of Sanders at DNC misleading

Recently released emails from the Democratic National Committee indicate that Hillary Clinton’s supporters on the Democratic National Committee acted dishonorably to disadvantage Sen. Bernie Sanders, even though the DNC is supposed to remain neutral as candidates compete for the party’s nomination for president. Now that Clinton has won the nomination, some personnel in the Democratic Party and in news media are continuing the problematic behavior in an apparent effort to foster party unity for the nominee.

Patrick Healy and Jonathon Martin reported in the New York Times that “In a gesture meant to unite the party, Sen. Bernie Sanders asked that Hillary Clinton be nominated by acclimation during the roll call vote at the Democratic National Convention.”

John Wagner, Ed O’Keefe, and David Weigel reported in the Washington Post that “… Sen. Bernie Sanders … asked that Clinton be declared the nominee by acclimation … .”

Nicole Gaudiano reported in USA Today that “Sen. Bernie Sanders … moved Tuesday to give Clinton the party’s presidential nomination by acclimation … .”

Ben Wolfgang and Valerie Richardson reported in the Washington Times that “Mr. Sanders himself moved to nominate Mrs. Clinton by acclimation … .”

All of those assertions about Sanders are untrue. At the conclusion of the voting by convention delegates, when Clinton’s total vote far exceeded the number required for nomination, Sanders briefly addressed the convention from his seat in the Vermont delegation. Here’s what he said: “I move that the convention suspend the procedural rules. I move that all votes, all votes, cast by delegates be reflected in the official record and I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States.”

Sanders then hugged his wife and they made their way up the stairs toward the exit from the hall.

He is an articulate man and throughout the campaign chose his words carefully when speaking in public. If he had intended to ask for a unanimous vote for Clinton from the delegates, to foster party unity or for any other reason, he would have done so unambiguously.

He said nothing about nominating Clinton by acclimation. His emphatic insistence that “all votes” (he repeated that phrase) be reflected in the official record indicates that a unanimous endorsement of Clinton by convention delegates was not what he wanted.

Nevertheless, the convention chairwoman at the podium on stage (an African-American and as such presumably a Clinton supporter) immediately mischaracterized Sanders’ motion as a call for nomination of Clinton by acclimation. She then called for a voice vote from the thunderous crowd on the convention floor and opined that the “ayes” carried the day, officially making Clinton the nominee.

Not all voters watch the telecasts of political conventions. Those who did not watch the Democrats on Tuesday night can find out what actually happened after the delegates voted from a YouTube video. The Wednesday morning USA Today article cited above includes an embedded version of it showing Sanders’ brief remarks to the convention after the voting, the convention chairwoman’s immediate mischaracterization of his motion “to select” Clinton, and the subsequent voice vote by delegates. A Wednesday morning Los Angeles Times article (author not identified) included a link to the same YouTube video. Thank goodness for that coverage by those newspapers.

The Wednesday morning New York Times article cited above also includes an embedded video that appears at first glance to be identical to the USA Today and LA Times version. But it’s been edited in such a way, with significant omissions, so as to create a completely false impression about what Sanders said after the voting and what the chairwoman said and did in response to Sanders’ remarks, i.e., it shows Sanders’ motion “to select” Clinton as the nominee but not his preceding sentence insisting that all votes by delegates be reflected in the official record, and it shows the chairwoman calling for a vote on “the motion” but not her preceding remarks reformulating the motion “to select” Clinton that Sanders actually spoke.

It would be difficult to ascertain whether the false claim in major newspapers and the false impression created by the edited video in the New York Times will have a significant beneficial effect on Democrat party unity. Even if they have no effect, news media personnel who are responsible for widespread publication of that claim and the Times’ video should be severely criticized for news coverage that’s either extremely careless or deliberately misleading.

As Hillary Clinton might ask about those two alternative characterizations of the news, “What difference does it make?” The answer is none. Both are shameful.

Phil Edmunds is a Boalsburg resident.

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