Women’s Rights Advocates, Progressive Groups to Mainstream Media: Stop the Sexist Coverage of 2020 Democratic Candidates

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, May 14, 2019

CONTACT: Brett Abrams | brett@unbendablemedia.com

Women’s Rights Advocates, Progressive Groups to Mainstream Media: Stop the Sexist Coverage of 2020 Democratic Candidates

Letter Demands Diverse Moderators (Women & People of Color) for Town Halls and Debates; Challenges the Media to Ask Male Candidates About Sexism, Maternal Health, Abortion Access and Sexual Violence

UltraViolet Action’s Letter Has Been Signed Onto by Women’s March, EMILY’s List, MoveOn Political Action, NARAL, She The People & More

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, UltraViolet Action, a national leading women’s advocacy organization, penned a letter to media organizations covering the 2020 presidential primaries imploring them to practice unbiased reporting of every presidential hopeful, and to provide accurate, fair, and equal attention to every candidate in a way that does not further sexist or racist stereotypes. The letter was sent to executives at MSNBC, CNN, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, Fox News, Univision, Telemundo and PBS.

Women’s rights and progressive organizations including All* Above All Action Fund, Color of Change, CREDO, EMILY’s List, Feminist Majority Foundation, Girls for Gender Equity, Global Justice Center, MoveOn Political Action, NARAL, National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Women’s Law Center Action Fund, National Women’s Health Network, NextGen America, Not Without Black Women, Pansuit Nation, Positive Women’s Network-USA, She The People, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, United We Dream Action, Way to Win, Women’s March, and National Domestic Workers Alliance have signed onto the letter.

READ THE LETTER HERE: http://weareultraviolet.org/2020sexismmedia

According to an analysis of at least 130 articles from mainstream news outlets, female presidential hopefuls are consistently being described in the media more negatively than their male counterparts.

UltraViolet Action’s letter was written following the absence of women moderators on CNN’s April 22 town hall, where CNN held question-and-answer sessions with five of 2020 Democratic contenders: Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senators Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. At the same town hall, only female presidential candidates were asked questions about sexism, including questions about gender pay gap, messages to young female voters, and what could be done to “level the playing field and empower working women.”

The letter makes three core demands of media outlets reporting on the 2020 democratic primary:

  1. Ensure that at least 50% of Town Hall and debate moderators are women, and 50% of moderators are people of color: It was unacceptable that the recent New Hampshire Town Halls hosted by CNN on April 22 featured three male moderators but no women moderators. Going forward, all networks should commit to having half of their moderators for debates and town halls be women and half people of color for both the primary and for the general election—with a focus on promoting women of color for moderator roles in particular.
  1. Ask male candidates about issues that impact women including sexism, maternal health and mortality, abortion access, sexual assault/violence: Right now there is a sexual predator in the White House, abortion rights are under attack and there is a maternal health crisis in this country, with Black women especially facing a maternal mortality epidemic. We need a candidate committed to protecting and promoting women’s rights, but too often, only women candidates are asked about reproductive rights and justice, maternal health or mortality, combating sexism, and addressing and eradicating sexual violence—if these questions are even asked at all. Women make up over 50% of the electorate. Journalists must ask male candidates about these issues.
  1. Cover women candidates as seriously as you cover men: As a recent study revealed, the media often covers women candidates significantly less, and when the media does cover women candidates, the focus is often negative and less focused on the substantive backgrounds and policies of women candidates. Media organizations must make a conscious commitment to cover women candidates as seriously as male candidates.

Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of UltraViolet Action, explained:

“The 2020 Democratic Primary includes an amazing field of candidates that represent the growing diversity of our country and party – they span a range of genders, races and sexual orientations. That’s a good thing for the Democratic party and a good thing for our country.  But so far, the mainstream media coverage of these candidates appears to be on track to repeat the mistakes of the 2016 election and deny these tremendous candidates fair, equal and bias-free coverage.

“The highly qualified women candidates running for office deserve and should be given appropriate media coverage. It’s long past time that the media stop holding them to different standards than their male counterparts.

“Voters also expect to see themselves represented in the moderators and in the questions being asked of all candidates. Failing to provide fair, equal and bias-free coverage for all the Democratic nominees does the voters of this country a terrible disservice and encourages a culture of refusing to recognize and respect women as leaders.

“Our country has seen what can happen as a result of  inequitable media coverage of presidential candidates. This cannot be our reality in 2020.”

For more information, or for interviews with experts from UltraViolet Action, please contact Madison Donzis at madison@unbendablemedia.com.

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UltraViolet Action is a community of more than one million people that drives feminist cultural and political change. Through people power and strategic advocacy, we work to improve the lives of women and girls of all identities and backgrounds, and all people impacted by sexism, by dismantling discrimination and creating a cost for sexism. Visit www.weareultraviolet.org.