For Immediate Release
Action Alert: AP’s Premature Call for Clinton Does Disservice to Democracy
The Associated Press (6/6/16) has unilaterally declared Hillary Clinton to be “the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for president,” based on the news agency’s own polling of unelected superdelegates.
Superdelegates—who have a role in the Democratic nominating process based on their institutional positions rather than being chosen by voters—do not vote until the Democratic National Convention, to be held on July 25. They can declare their intention to vote for one candidate or another, just as voters can tell pollsters who they intend to vote for before Election Day, but like voters they can (and do) change their mind at any time before the actual voting. Media do not generally call elections weeks before the actual voting based on voters’ intentions.
The timing of AP’s announcement–on the eve of primaries in California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Montana and South Dakota, and caucuses in North Dakota—raises concerns of voter suppression, intentional or not. The six states choose a total of 806 delegates on June 7, making it the second-biggest day in the Democratic primary calendar (after “Super Tuesday,” March 1, when 865 delegates were at stake).
News outlets generally withhold the results of exit polling until voters have finished voting, regardless of how far ahead the leading candidate is, because they don’t want to confuse poll-based speculation with the actual electoral results. AP, it seems, has no such qualms.
Compounding the damage done by AP’s premature call were other major news outlets that joined the rush to declare the nominating process over. NBC News (6/6/16) came out with “Clinton Hits ‘Magic Number’ of Delegates to Clinch Nomination.” “Hillary Clinton Clinches Democratic Presidential Nomination,” was CNN’s headline (6/6/16); an onscreen graphic reported that “Hillary Clinton Earns Enough Delegates to Win Democratic Nomination,” an odd choice of verb to describe the inclinations of unelected delegates.
At least NBC and CNN claimed to be making its own independent count of superdelegates; USA Today (6/6/16) had the headline “Hillary Clinton Clinches Nomination: Here’s How She Did It,” as if the AP call were an objective fact that needed no attribution.
ACTION: Please tell AP not to preempt the democratic process by telling voters their votes don’t matter.
To: AP political editor David Scott
Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective.
FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.