Vice presidential candidates typically have to face scrutiny, and Joe Biden's choice, especially given the presidential candidate's advanced age and cognitive decline, will be no exception. He could have done the right thing by choosing his old friend Chris Dodd. Instead, Biden has selected an old rival, Kamala Harris.
Democratic Party operatives, liberal activists, and media pundits—to the extent there's a difference—have been preparing for this moment for some time. An active campaign is underway to shape the media's coverage of Biden's female running mate, declaring almost every form of criticism to be off limits.
Last week, for example, a group of liberal activists, including former White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, circulated a memo to "the most powerful people in media" offering guidance on how to cover Biden's running mate.
"We wanted to respectfully share some thoughts with you about the media's role in the scrutiny and coverage of women and women of color candidates in general, and the vice-presidential candidate in particular," the memo read. Among the examples listed of things deemed out of bounds:
- Describing a female politician such as Kamala Harris, who launched her career by taking advantage of a noble, powerful man (Willie Brown), as "ambitious."
- Criticizing a female politician such as Amy Klobuchar for abusing members of her staff because it doesn't align with stereotypes of women in "subservient or supportive" roles.
- Describing a historically unlikable candidate such as Hillary Clinton as being unliked, which is a "subjective metric at best," even though it's not.
- Writing about a female public figure's physical appearance and fashion choices, unless her name is Michelle Obama and her lewk is [fire emoji].
- Reporting on a female candidate's "electability," as though whether a candidate is likable enough to be elected should be an important consideration.
- Describing female politicians as unqualified or "reporting on doubts" about their ability to lead the country without providing additional context regarding the sexist nature of said doubts. Obviously, this doesn't apply to Republican women such as Sarah Palin; they are too dumb to be leaders.
- Reporting on the "heritage" of non-white candidates, even if they like talking about it themselves, because it "perpetuates a misunderstanding about who is legitimately American."
- Publishing unflattering images, especially ones that portray female candidates as expressing "anger," because it "perpetuates racist tropes" and suggests that women are "too emotional" and might even "hate America."
The authors further suggest that no coverage of the VP candidate—in this case, Harris—will be complete or fair absent an "internal consideration about systemic inequality" in America on the part of media institutions. The liberal activists, of course, "would be happy to help [the media] with this challenge" but will also be standing by to enforce the guidelines they have set.
"We intend to collectively and individually monitor coverage and we will call out those we believe take our country backwards with sexist and/or racist coverage," the libs wrote in the memo. "As we enter another historic moment, we will be watching you. We expect change."