Spot The Difference: Two Governors Reopened Their States, Only One Was Accused of 'Human Sacrifice'

May 14, 2020

The governors of Georgia and Colorado have at least one thing in common. They both took steps to reopen their states' economies in late April amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But for some reason, the media's coverage of Gov. Brian Kemp (R., Ga.) has been slightly different from the media's coverage of Gov. Jared Polis (D., Colo.).

Kemp, for example, has been accused of experimenting with "human sacrifice." So reads the headline of an April 29 article published in the Atlantic, which accuses Kemp of turning Georgia residents into "unwilling canaries in an invisible coal mine, sent to find out just how many individuals need to lose their job or their life for a state to work through a plague."

In a brief aside, the article acknowledges that some other states, including Colorado, "have already put similar plans in motion." Polis, for some reason, is not identified as an accomplice in Kemp's murder scheme.

When Kemp announced his plan to gradually reopen some Georgia businesses, former National Journal editor Ron Fournier echoed the sentiment of many media pundits when he wrote on Twitter: "Mark this day. Because two and three weeks from now, the Georgia death toll is blood on his hands. And as Georgians move around the country, they’ll spread more death and economic destruction." Fournier hasn't tweeted about Colorado in years.

The media have only managed to confuse themselves in attempting to portray the reopening of state economies as a partisan issue. "Republicans are reopening. Why is Democratic Gov. Polis doing the same in Colorado?" reads the headline from one NBC News article published in early May.

While Republican governors are reopening despite critics who "warn they're moving too fast," Polis is a political maverick displaying courageous leadership in trying times. "Jared is a unique individual, and to say that he is a cookie-cutter, standard public official or politician just isn't the case," one Democratic strategist told NBC. "He's always blazed his own trail. And he's confident as to where he's going."

Vox Dot Com has an explainer about one governor's "controversial reopening plan," but not the other's. CNN published articles on one governor's "hugely high-stakes coronavirus gamble," and another about how his state's "business owners are conflicted" about the plan to reopen. The other governor's name is mentioned at the very bottom of a separate CNN article on states "taking their first steps toward a new normal." You already know which governor is which.

The Getty Images photo catalogue reflects the media's heightened interest in Georgia's efforts to reopen the economy compared to Colorado's. It has more than 100 images depicting the gradual reopening of Georgia's economy, most of them part of a collection titled, "Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Climate Of Anxiety And Changing Routines In America."

A search for "Jared Polis" yields 40 results related to the coronavirus, the majority of which were taken during the governor's meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday.

Colorado (population 5.8 million) reported 318 new cases on May 13. Georgia (population 10.6 million) reported 579, an almost identical figure on a per capita basis. Georgia, meanwhile, is well ahead of Colorado in terms of coronavirus testing. Both states are projected to have almost no coronavirus infections by August, according to the most recent projections from the vaunted Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which were last updated on May 12, more than two weeks after both states began to reopen.

That all seems pretty similar. Wonder why the coverage has been so different?