Twitter blew up on Tuesday after it was revealed that an email sent to Hillary Clinton supporters—one celebrating Monday's premature and controversial nomination call—contained an image labeled "secret win" which gave many the impression that the campaign was ready to pounce even before the Associated Press and other outlets made their surprise announcements on the eve of Tuesday's primaries.
As this widely shared tweet shows:
The images in this Clinton email are labeled "secret win." pic.twitter.com/YR4uCdQTZv
— Christina Bellantoni (@cbellantoni) June 7, 2016
Furthermore, based on the individual urls of the images, the files (here, here, and here) appear to have been created by the Clinton campaign over the weekend, well before the AP controversially declared that Clinton had secured the Democratic Party nomination on the basis of superdelegate "commitments."
For example, the piece of the image that reads "So this just happened" is dated Saturday, June 4. The other smaller images which created the larger image sent in the email are all dated in the same way.
— Keith Kahn (@keithkahn) June 7, 2016
— Sam (@LastSonofAnshan) June 7, 2016
Though there was public worry and speculation that some media outlets might attempt to declare Clinton the "presumptive nominee" before Tuesday's consequential voting contests were complete, the questions surrounding the Clinton campaign email only heightened the anger of Sanders supporters critical of the way in which the media has reported the delegate count throughout the primary season.
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The revelations also added to the call for AP to retract its declaration, which came ahead of seven remaining presidential primaries and specifically based on the misleading inclusion of superdelegates.
In an interview with NBC's Lester Holt that will air later on Tuesday evening, Sanders himself said he was "disappointed" in the decision by AP to report the results as they have.
As Jim Naureckas, communications director for the media watchdog group Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), explained on Tuesday, the media's premature declaration should be seen as a disservice to the democratic process:
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.