Coalition Launches New Guide “Reporting in an Era of Disinformation: Fairness Guide for Covering Women and People of Color in Politics,” Ahead of Joe Biden’s VP Announcement

Coalition Launches New Guide “Reporting in an Era of Disinformation: Fairness Guide for Covering Women and People of Color in Politics,” Ahead of Joe Biden’s VP Announcement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, August 7, 2020

CONTACT: Madison Donzis |

Groups Urge Reporters to Avoid Amplifying Sexism and Racism, Disinformation About Women Running for Elected Office

Today, national women’s advocacy group UltraViolet, in conjunction with  ACRONYM, Color Of Change PAC, Disinfo Defense League, EMILY’s List WOMEN VOTE!, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Votes, SumOfUs, Women’s March, Strategic Victory Fund, GQR Digital, and #ShePersisted., is rolling out “Reporting in an Era of Disinformation: Fairness Guide for Covering Women and People of Color in Politics,” a new guide for reporting on the 2020 general election.

The guide details how media representation plays a critical role in how candidates of color and women are perceived by voters, and makes specific recommendations designed to help journalists and platforms identify and avoid unintentional sexist and racist bias or disinformation when interviewing, writing, or moderating content about women and people of color running for or holding political office.


“Representation of women candidates and candidates of color at any political level in the media serves as a critical, if not the highest, indicator of how voters perceive them,” said Shaunna Thomas, Executive Director of UltraViolet. “We see this play out time and again; election after election: Online attacks and disinformation work to undermine women and people of color in politics, when the only things that should determine electability are candidates’ positions, values, accomplishments and service to their country. The 2020 Democratic primary has already shown us the amount of vitriol, hate, and disinformation hurled at women candidates, and particularly women of color candidates, and it’s not going to stop anytime soon if the media turns a blind eye to it. Every single member of the media must take a hard look at how their work can be used to spread racist and sexist ideas and encourage or legitimize disinformation.”

“We know that even in normal times the bar is impossibly high for women in politics, especially for Black women and women of color. This has major consequences for how voters perceive them and the work they are able to do for their communities,” said Arisha Hatch, Director of Color Of Change PAC. “But these are not normal times and nefarious actors are relying more than ever before on misinformation, racism and sexism to discredit, diminish and demean women candidates. The stakes could not be higher for the media to cover women candidates with fairness, accuracy and nuance and this guide gives them the tools to do so.”

“As the nation’s largest resource for women in politics, EMILY’s List is acutely aware of the strengths and successes of the women leaders being considered for the Biden ticket and of the challenges women candidates, particularly women of color, face. They are forced to present themselves to be ‘just right’ for American voters–likeable, not too ambitious, never shrill or angry, and not bossy or bitchy,” said Melissa Williams, Executive Director of EMILY’s List WOMEN VOTE!. “The media coverage will be critical to how voters are introduced to the nominee. With the most important election of our lives in just 13 weeks, American voters deserve a fair view of Biden’s running mate. Bigoted and misogynistic tropes are already moving online. We hope members of the media learn from past election cycles and our research when they go to research, write stories and choose photos in these coming days.”

“We’ve all heard the sexist, misogynistic, and racist insults that are used in the media to describe women in power or aspiring to run for office. Sayings like ‘she’s difficult to work with’ or comparisons to a ‘nagging wife’ are constantly used to demean and diminish women in politics. Most recently we’ve seen this when it comes to describing some of the top contenders to be Joe Biden’s VP, including Kamala Harris, who was described as ‘too ambitious.’ Women are already underrepresented across the board when it comes to positions of power, so we should be encouraging women, not degrading them. The Women’s March won’t sit quietly as misogyny is normalized and accepted,” said Rachel O’Leary Carmona, Chief Operating Officer at the Women’s March. 

“We’ve seen the way anti-choice extremists and the Radical Right rely on disinformation and sexism to advance their unpopular ideological agenda—and far too often, the media plays right into their strategy by amplifying their falsehoods and vitriol,” said Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “As Vice President Biden prepares to face-off against unapologetic misogynist Donald Trump, there is no question that whoever he selects as his running mate will face virulent sexism. We cannot let misogyny go unchecked or allow the media to boost or parrot the Radical Right’s sexist attacks on women candidates. It’s critical that we work tirelessly to unmask the misogyny, white supremacy, and lies at the heart of their strategy, and make sure it isn’t perpetuated in the media.”

“There’s no question that whomever Biden picks as his running mate will face an unprecedented amount of sexism, disinformation, hate, and vitriol,” said Jenny Lawson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes. “As an organization that studies disinformation spread by the anti-abortion movement, we know this vitriol will only get worse when you have a powerful, strong woman running to be our next vice president–and only more so if she also happens to be a woman of color. This kind of vitriol is meant to reinforce misogynistic stereotypes and can discourage women from running for office or pursuing positions of power—incredible detriments to creating a more just and equal society. The media has a responsibility to combat this type of hateful disinformation and be informed so it does not infiltrate their reporting.”

“Women candidates are too often met with sexist and misogynistic criticisms that not only question their credibility, likeability, and accomplishments but also critique their personal life, ambition, and physical appearance. For women of color, these unsubstantiated attacks almost always have a racist undertone and for Black women, such biased attacks are a product of the misogynoir that exists in our country,” said Amanda Brown Lierman, Managing Director of Supermajority. “As the election cycle continues, we must hold everyone accountable for how they report on women candidates. We can no longer tolerate, accept or condone reporting that questions a candidate’s qualifications and motivations based on sexists beliefs about women in power. If we do, there will be real consequences, like discouraging more young women of color from running for office. A more fair and representative democracy demands fair and representative reporting.”

“I look forward to the day when I can safely read articles about a VP candidate without hearing about her appearance or how annoying her voice is.” says Emma Ruby-Sachs, Executive Director of SumOfUs, a campaigning community of over 15 million. “The SumOfUs community cares deeply about the scourge of misogyny, racism and misinformation — so until that day comes, we’ll be keeping tabs on all major outlets and calling out the worst offenders.”

“The playbook of attacks targeting women on social media is both lazy and sexist,” said Kelsey Suter, Vice President at GQR. “We need reporters to get smart to them, so they don’t continue falling into the same traps of reporting on and legitimizing these attacks as if they are news.”

“We know that whoever Joe Biden picks as his running mate will be a target of coordinated misogynistic attacks and disinformation online simply because she is a woman,” said Tara McGowan, founder of Democratic super PAC, PACRONYM. “While it’s critical Democrats and progressives plan accordingly and proactively counter false narratives with facts wherever voters get their information, it’s equally important to recognize the media’s role in amplifying those narratives.”

“Online attacks aimed at delegitimizing women candidates are a common occurrence, often perpetrated by trolls and bots in total impunity. Yet, in a period marked by disinformation, the issue of women’s experiences online is not being taken very seriously. This is made worse by social media companies who refuse to take responsibility for the outcome of their products and the harm they cause to society, elections and democracy. Traditional journalism can do better by checking their own bias in media coverage, and reporting on the way disinformation distorts reality. This guide goes a long way to setting the record straight, so we can ensure a more fair media environment for women to compete based on their qualifications,” says Kristina Wilfore, Senior Advisor, Disinformation Defense, Strategic Victory Fund.

“Talking to dozens of women in politics all over the world for my research, I kept hearing what an obstacle traditional media represents for many of them.” said Lucina DiMecowomen’s leadership expert and author of #ShePersistedWomenPolitics & Power in the New Media World. “Globally, the news coverage female politicians and candidates receive is heavily biased, as news stories around them are on average fewer, and often fraught with sexist stereotypes. It’s time that the media takes full responsibility for the role it plays in shaping society’s expectations around women’s leadership – and with the US Presidential election around the corner, stakes could not be higher.”

recent survey of female elected officials from all over the world found that 41.8 percent of them had seen extremely humiliating or sexually charged images of them spread through social media. Women politicians of color, LGBTQ people, and religious minorities are at even greater risk of becoming targets of disinformation campaigns.

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