Accuracy in Media

With Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) officially dropping out of the 2020 Democratic Party primary, the mainstream media developed multiple theories about why the Democratic Party’s primary field lacks female representation leading to the party’s nominating convention this summer. Among the several theories, the media focused on sexism’s alleged effects on the primaries.

NBC News said that at the start of the race, “it once seemed reasonable to conclude that 2020 would be a good year for a woman to seek the Democratic nomination for president.” Then, it wrote, “For the party’s voters around the country, not so much.”

The article mentioned how the political environment allegedly made it difficult for female candidates to win the public and the media.  Instead, the article repeated the claims of strategists, potential primary voters, and the candidates that the electorate and election narrative were sexist.

Though NBC News acknowledged that candidate quality could have played a part in the primaries, it stuck to the sexist narrative in the article and potentially insinuated that primary voters may be sexist.

One poll that NBC News cited from USC and the Los Angeles Times “found that two-thirds of Democratic primary voters thought a man had the best chance of beating Trump and two-thirds believed that a white candidate did.” But NBC News did not delve into specific mistakes that the female candidates made on the campaign trail.

BuzzFeed News chose the same narrative that sexism doomed female candidates and said that her “candidacy had become mired down in voter fears about electability – and, inextricably, her gender.” Warren criticized sexism’s alleged role in the primaries, which BuzzFeed News and NBC News quoted. Yet BuzzFeed debunked its own narrative when it mentioned that voters felt the female candidates were too angry, too unlikeable, or too inexperienced. Meaning, if voters found a more likable, less angry, and more experienced candidate, the Democratic Party could have a woman as the party’s presidential nominee.

Unlike NBC News, BuzzFeed News detailed the campaign struggles that Warren and female candidates underwent in the primaries. It acknowledged that none ran a perfect presidential campaign, and by extension, implied that sexism was not the sole reason for their exit from the race.

NBC News and BuzzFeed News should have done a better job explaining how candidate quality matters for voters, not one’s sex. Instead, both outlets focused on sexism as the culprit for female candidates’ struggles and misinformed their readers with an inaccurate narrative.

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