The disgraceful legitimization of Stacey Abrams’ election conspiracy theories

Failed gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is the media’s favorite loser.

She lost in 2018 by tens of thousands of votes and she refuses to accept her defeat. It’s as simple as that.

Abrams alleges, without evidence, that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp stole the election from her. Unsurprisingly, many major newsrooms have been more than happy to indulge and spread her conspiratorial delusions. It’s disgraceful.

On Aug. 12, for example, the New Yorker published a bit of pro-Abrams fan mail titled, “Stacey Abrams’s Fight for a Fair Vote.” The subhead adds, “As the 2020 elections approach, Abrams is leading the battle against voter suppression.” As you would expect from an article bearing that sort of headline, the New Yorker article gives a more-than-sympathetic ear to Abrams’ claim that she was robbed in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election.

“Georgians, though, still use the terms ‘won’ and ‘lost’ advisedly, not only because the Democrat never technically conceded but also because of the highly irregular nature of the contest,” it reads.

It adds elsewhere, “Abrams … is focused on addressing the irregularities that her campaign identified,” and “Many people in and outside Georgia believe that, without the irregularities, Abrams would have won.”

Abrams is even quoted as saying, “I’m gonna tell you what I’ve told folks across this state, and this is not a partisan statement, it’s a true statement: We won.”

There is not even an attempt by the New Yorker to question the failed candidate’s ludicrous claim.

Similarly, on Aug. 12, Vogue published a profile with the none-too-subtle headline, “Can Stacey Abrams Save American Democracy?”

You can guess where the article itself stands on Abrams’ unfounded allegations of election rigging. One passage in particular reads:

There is more cheering, and an air of reverence in the room. Abrams’s run for governor in 2018 ended in a loss of just 54,723 votes—a stunning, public blow. And yet she emerged from it as a kind of bellwether Democrat, a vision of her party’s future. She tripled Latino, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander voter turnout and doubled youth participation in her state. She inspired 1.2 million black Democrats in Georgia to vote for her (more than the total number of Democratic gubernatorial voters in 2014). And she gained the highest percentage of the state’s white Democratic voters in a generation. All of this despite widespread reports of voter suppression and a Republican opponent, Brian Kemp—Georgia’s then secretary of state—who oversaw the purging of about 670,000 registered voters in 2017 alone. Some 53,000 voter registrations were still pending a month ahead of the election.

As with the New Yorker, there is no effort from Vogue to question whether Abrams’ post-election narrative is even true.

Speaking of Abrams, she appeared in person on MSNBC this weekend and was asked by host Katy Tur: “Do you think the vote was stolen from you, the election was stolen from you?”

“I think the election was stolen from the people of Georgia,” Abrams responded.

Again, the MSNBC hosts did little to challenge this claim.

Later, on Tuesday, the New York Times published an op-ed claiming Gov. Kemp “played referee, scorekeeper and contestant so he could tip the scales in his favor in the 2018 election for governor against Stacey Abrams, whose voter protection efforts had begun years earlier.” This is not true, as most of the roles listed there were played by county elections boards.

The Washington Post also published a news report Tuesday claiming “widespread irregularities” characterized “the Georgia gubernatorial race, including inaccurate voter rolls, shortages of voting machines and provisional ballots, and lack of uniform rules for counting absentee ballots.” There were no such irregularities, and all election day reports hinting at problems were later accounted for.

Abrams must have an incredible publicist. Two glowing media profiles, cable news appearances, a friendly New York Times op-ed and a Washington Post report published all in the same week? Someone deserves a raise. As for the facts of the Georgia race, those are quite different.

Kemp won with 50.2% of the vote, compared to Abrams’ 48.8%. There is no evidence to support her assertion that her supporters’ votes were suppressed. In fact, as I have written before, the data points in the other direction. Voter turnout in 2018 was 3.9 million votes, massive compared to the 2.5 million votes cast in the previous midterm election of 2014, and almost as many as the estimated 4.1 million votes cast in Georgia during the 2016 presidential election. Turnout was up to presidential levels, very high for a midterm.

Why, then, are newsrooms doing so much to allow Abrams’ unfounded conspiracy to go unchallenged?

Or to put it another way, why was Alex Jones banned from social media if mainstream commentators can get away with saying things just as batty?

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