Accuracy in Media

The 2020 presidential campaign is a chaotic race to this fall’s televised debates, with almost two dozen presidential candidates vying for the Democratic Party nomination next year. To make a televised debate, candidates have to reach certain polling thresholds in multiple polls, in addition to a specified number of donors.

There are different tiers of candidates, according to the political pundit class, but this has not stopped lesser-known candidates from criticizing the more well-known candidates. One example is Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran.

Gabbard’s debate performance in the last debate surprised pundits and the media. Gabbard criticized Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) over Harris’s record as the state attorney general.

Harris made her time as the chief prosecutor in California a central part of her messaging, and Gabbard claimed Harris’s depiction of her public service was flawed. Gabbard’s performance led to a drop in Harris’s poll numbers, but Gabbard scored a public relations victory nonetheless with interviews on cable news networks in the days following the debate.

As a result of her performance, the media wonders what Gabbard’s strategy is. Politico wrote an article whose headline highlights the media’s speculation, “Tulsi Gabbard’s daredevil act.” In the article, Politico questioned whether Gabbard is “angling for vice president or a Cabinet post; that she’s weighing a third-party run; or, perhaps, that she’s looking to land a contract as a TV talking head while plotting her next move.”

Considering Gabbard is hovering at about 1 percent in polling, which is below the debate threshold for the fall debates, it is unusual for the media to focus on lesser-known candidates like her. But due to her debate performance against Harris, the media took note and their increased scrutiny and speculation about Gabbard’s plans reiterated how the media is far from neutral.

The Politico article quoted Gabbard’s campaign, but also pushed a talking point from Harris’s camp that Gabbard is “a low-polling candidate desperate to break out who has fixated on the California senator to use the attack as a launching pad for notoriety.” Gabbard’s campaign responded and said the accusation of her being soft on Assad is a “smear” by the Harris campaign.

Photo by Gage Skidmore

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