Women’s Groups, Racial Justice Organizations Call on News Outlets to Proactively Counter Bias and Disinformation In Tonight’s Presidential Debate

Women’s Groups, Racial Justice Organizations Call on News Outlets to Proactively Counter Bias and Disinformation In Tonight’s Presidential Debate

Tuesday, September 25, 2020

CONTACT: Anya Silverman-Stoloff | anya@unbendablemedia.com

Women’s Groups, Racial Justice Organizations Call on News Outlets to Proactively Counter Bias and Disinformation In Tonight’s Presidential Debate

WASHINGTON, DC — In a new open letter to members of the news media, a coalition of women’s groups and racial justice organizations are calling on news outlets to proactively counter racism, sexism and disinformation that may come out of tonight’s first Presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Specifically, the letter asks news outlets to provide live fact-checking of statements made during the debate to keep readers and viewers informed about whether or not someone is lying to them, and provide balanced analysis of the debate – including the viewpoints of women and people of color in the conversation.

The letter, organized by UltraViolet, and signed by ACRONYM, BlackPAC, Color Of Change PAC, EMILY’S LIST WOMEN VOTE!, Higher Heights Political Fund, MomsRising, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Votes, SumOfUs, Supermajority, UltraViolet, and Win Black / Pa’Lante, explains:

In an age of widespread disinformation and confusion, Americans depend on media sources like

yours to provide accurate information and to counter racist and sexist biases. Headlines,

photos, social media previews, and the content of a story can be used to spread racist and

sexist ideas, and encourage or legitimize disinformation and extremism, as noted in “Reporting

in an Era of Disinformation: Fairness Guide for Covering Women and People of Color in


It’s up to the media to counterbalance bias for your viewers and readers. We hope we can trust

your newsroom to identify dangerous racist and sexist narratives and disinformation. You must

provide live fact-checking and balanced debate coverage on Tuesday as well as in weeks to


The debates have yet to begin, but already earlier this week, debate moderator and Fox News

host Chris Wallace announced his debate framework, which includes the dangerous trope “race

and violence in our cities.” This racist dog whistle framework equates Blackness with violence

and has no place serving as a foundation for our national conversations. Meanwhile, Donald

Trump and the extreme-right have spread racist and sexist lies about Kamala Harris, Ruth

Bader Ginsburg, Ilhan Omar, Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and other women

leaders across social media and during campaign events.

Disinformation campaigns draw on negative stereotypes to lend a sense of credibility while

attacking the intended target. The so-called “Pizzagate” conspiracy that spread across social

media and resulted in a shooting in Washington, D.C. relied on the narrative that Hillary Clinton

was unlikeable and untrustworthy — insults that are frequently lobbed at women running for

office. The birther conspiracy theory used to discredit President Obama relied on both racist and

Islamaphobic ideas. False information about voting deadlines and requirements have kept

people away from the polls and suppressed votes for centuries. Disinformation paired with

racism and sexism puts lives at risk: death threats have been aimed at women of color

candidates and leaders, healthcare clinics have been attacked at gunpoint, and most recently,

Kyle Rittenhouse murdered people in Kenosha based on conspiracy theories and racism spread


Medical disinformation has helped the coronavirus spread and puts lives at risk and furthers the harms of systemic racism. Our nation has exceeded 200,000 deaths from COVID-19–with a

disproportionate impact on Black, Latinx and Indigenous people–and medical disinformation

about the coronavirus puts lives at risk. Donald Trump’s promotion of unproven

Hydroxychloroquine led to overdoses and a medication shortage that made the drug

inaccessible to chronic illness patients who rely on it–predominantly women of color.

Disinformation regarding disinfectants led to people drinking and inhaling poisonous household cleaning products.

VIEW THE FULL LETTER HERE: http://weareuv.us/debatememo 

“Between Fox News hosting, and Donald Trump participating, the first Presidential debate is going to be a disinformation cesspool, filled with toxic misogyny, virulent racism, and flat out lies about the coronavirus pandemic. We can’t stop news outlets from covering it, but we can ask that they do their part to correct disinformation in real time and help stop its spread,”
explained Shaunna Thomas, executive director at UltraViolet Action. “News outlets should actively correct disinformation and prevent the American people from being lied to in real time. We’ve seen what happens when disinformation is allowed to spread unchecked, and the risks are just too great.”

Last month, 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, launched Reporting in an Era of Disinformation: Fairness Guide for Covering Women and People of Color in Politics.

The guide 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 race, gender, and disinformation, including:

  • Consider biases that are at play when it comes to race, gender, ability, orientation, and other protected statuses, and question and debunk stories and language that perpetuate bias.
  • Ask yourself how this strand of disinformation is targeting those who are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander, LGBTQ people, women, Muslims, immigrants, and other underrepresented communities.
  • Write headlines and social media posts as if they are the only things people will read. Headlines that sensationalize disinformation and racist or sexist attacks help to spread disinformation and attacks when the headlines circulate on social media and in news aggregators.
  • Reporting on disinformation rather than debunking it can help spread it. Name disinformation as unfounded, a conspiracy theory, debunked, dubious, unlikely, misleading, a lie, false, etc. in the headline if you must write about disinformation. 
  • Avoid covering “trending” topics on Twitter as reflective of broad support, even when total volume is still very low. Twitter “trends” are based on many factors, and do not necessarily mean a large number of users are participating in a conversation.


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