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August 10, 2020

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“Are you ready?”

That’s what Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Sunday when asked by a reporter if he had made his selection for a vice presidential running mate.

So who’s it going to be? Kamala Harris? Elizabeth Warren? Susan Rice? Tammy Duckworth? Karen Bass? Gretchen Whitmer?

We should find out any minute now, but on Sunday, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver said, “I’m not really making predictions here, but I suppose I buy the conventional wisdom here that Harris is the favorite.”

In his segment on ABC’s “This Week,” Silver laid out that conventional wisdom. He explained that it remains a “guessing game,” but here’s what the past has shown:

Of the 28 people nominated to be vice president on a major party ticket since World War II, 20 — or about 70% — were senators or governors. Of those 28, 13 would later go on to run for president. And of those people who actually became vice president, 75% went on to run for president, including Biden.

Which brings up a misogynistic slant in the commentary, particularly when it comes to Harris. The California senator has been criticized for being “too ambitious.” (Harris even addressed this topic recently, as reported in this New York Times article.) Yet, as Silver points out, history has shown that vice presidents often go on to run for president, and no one calls them (all men) “too ambitious.”

“When I hear anonymous advisers complain that Harris is too ambitious,” Silver said, “that really doesn’t ring true as a reason to keep her off the ticket. The VP is often a stepping stone to presidential aspirations.”

Whoever it is, assuming it is a woman, the candidate is going face attacks that a man would not. Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty recently warned the potential candidate to “get ready for an onslaught of online misogyny unlike you’ve ever seen.”

For example, Tumulty points to data that showed how Twitter reacted in the early stages of the Democratic presidential campaign. The results were that Harris, Warren and Amy Klobuchar “faced more attacks than their male competitors from right-wing and fake-news sites between December 2018 and April 2019.”

And it wasn’t just the quantity of attacks, but the kinds of attacks. While male candidates such as Biden, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg were questioned about their actual qualifications and policies, the female candidates were criticized for their personalities and, in the case of Klobuchar, about whether or not she was mean to staffers.

Another Washington Post column — this one from columnist Monica Hesse — had this headline: “Brace Yourself: America Is About To Act Really Awkward About Biden’s Female VP Pick.”

Hesse wrote, “It’s wonderful that Biden has decided to nominate a woman, but by vaguely publicizing gender as his main qualifier, he’s preemptively set his candidate up for pushback. Any time she falters, there will be murmurings of, ‘Well, Biden really wanted a woman.’ As if there was a better gender-blind (male) candidate out there who wouldn’t have faltered at all.”

What it all means

Undoubtedly, the fact that Biden’s VP pick is a woman WILL be a topic for much of the media in the weeks to come. And, yes, there will be misogynistic comments, most likely from right-wing or conservative media wanting Trump to be reelected. The challenge for the rest of the media is to not repeat the misguided coverage even if it is to shoot it down or point out its chauvinism. Better to ignore it and address only the topics that genuinely scrutinize the candidate’s worthiness for the job.

Best response

Hillary Clinton. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd was trying to make a point about how it has been 36 years since a man running for president as a Democrat chose a woman as his running mate. But she bungled it, originally writing that it has been 36 years since a man and woman had been on the Democratic ticket together. Of course it has only been four years since Hillary Clinton ran for president with Tim Kaine as her running mate.

The Times ran a correction and the column was fixed, but that didn’t stop Clinton from taking a fun jab at Dowd with this tweet:

“Either @TimKaine and I had a very vivid shared hallucination four years ago or Maureen had too much pot brownie before writing her column again.”

One other thought: The gist of Dowd’s column was about Geraldine Ferraro’s experience in 1984 as Walter Mondale’s running mate, and what Joe Biden’s vice presidential candidate might face this time around. But Dowd did leave out one other thing. Yes, she was writing about Democrats, but somewhere she should have at least acknowledged that Sarah Palin was the Republican running mate of John McCain in 2008.

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Trump’s treatment of women reporters

President Donald Trump waves goodbye after signing four executive orders during a news conference on Saturday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump abruptly ended a news conference Saturday when challenged by CBS reporter Paula Reid after Trump, as he has done more than 150 times, bragged about passing the Veterans Choice health program when, in fact, Barack Obama signed it into law in 2014.

Reid asked Trump, “Why do you keep saying that you passed Veterans Choice?”

Trump tried calling on another reporter, but Reid continued to challenge the president by saying, “You said that you passed Veterans Choice. It was passed in 2014. … It was a false statement, sir.”

To which Trump paused, looked off to the side and then said, “OK. Thank you very much, everybody,” and walked off.

It was reminiscent of other times when he has suddenly walked out of press conferences when challenged by a female reporter. He has walked out of a coronavirus press conference after being challenged by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins. In another one, he called a question by CNN’s Weijia Jiang “nasty” and refused to answer it. He once told PBS’ Yamiche Alcindor to “be nice” with her questions. In another exchange with Reid, he called her “disgraceful.”

In one interview, he complained about Jiang and Reid, saying they weren’t Donna Reed — what Trump perceived as the stereotypical American housewife of the 1950s and 1960s.

It’s true that Trump has lashed out at some male reporters, most notably CNN’s Jim Acosta, but it’s clear that Trump responds to difficult questions from women differently than he does men.

That was especially evident during two recent high-profile interviews — one with Fox News’ Chris Wallace and another with Axios’ Jonathan Swan. In both cases, Trump was pressed harder than he ever has been before, and yet Trump neither walked out on nor insulted the interviewers in any way. In fact, he thanked both men at the end of the contentious interviews.

Number of the day

5 million. 

That’s the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States. That number was surpassed over the weekend and it is the most of any country in the world.

“And let’s remember,” CNN’s Brian Stelter said on his “Reliable Sources” Sunday show, “when we say 5 million cases, every single case, every single number is a person with a family, with a friend set, with a group of people who are affected by this virus.”

But here’s the other, more disturbing number that can’t be argued or excused away: 163,828. That’s the number of deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19. As Chuck Todd reported on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” that’s 40% more than the number of Americans killed in World War I and nearly triple the number from Vietnam.

That’s debatable

Axios’ Jonathan Swan and Alexi McCammond have the latest scoop on President Trump’s preparation for debating Joe Biden. Among the highlights:

  • Trump wants former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to role-play the part of Biden. Christie acted as Hillary Clinton in debate preparation in 2016 and Trump claims Christie was harder to debate in practice than Clinton in the actual debates.
  • Trump doesn’t believe Biden will sit down for any tough interviews before the election, so he sees the debates as his best chance to expose Biden’s weaknesses before November.
  • And this is really interesting: Trump’s advisers are warning Trump not to be overconfident, telling him that Biden is actually very skilled at debates, despite the occasional gaffes he has during interviews.

Time to tackle this tired topic

Here’s a narrative that is long past annoying and is now just getting exhausting: that sports media members who point out the dangers of having sports during the coronavirus actually want seasons to be canceled.

The tiresome part is that many of these ridiculous claims are coming from other media members.

Two weeks ago, NFL Network’s Kyle Brandt tweeted that there were some NFL media “almost rooting” for the season to be impacted by COVID-19. Then, over the weekend, Joel Klatt, who is a part of Fox Sports’ college football coverage, tweeted that many in the college football media world “have worked hard to push panic and fear.”

To suggest that those who work in an already precarious media world are hoping or working for the very sport they cover to be canceled and, potentially, put their own jobs at risk is simply absurd. Actually, those making such claims appear to have a rooting interest. They appear to be the ones who want to ignore the facts simply because they want their sports — at seemingly any cost.

Three things that popped into my head

Justin Rose, of England, walks past a flock of geese during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at TPC Harding Park on Sunday in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  1. Ever check Twitter on Sundays after NBC’s “Meet the Press?” I happen to be a fan of moderator Chuck Todd, but much of Twitter is not. The amount of vitriol directed at Todd — and a longing for the late Tim Russert — is overwhelming. And, frankly, unfair, in my opinion. Todd is a good man and a much better moderator than given credit for by the armchair moderators sitting at home.
  2. All sports on TV seem strange without fans, but this weekend’s PGA Championship on ESPN and CBS might have been the best sporting event on TV so far in this new sporting world with coronavirus. It actually was quite pleasant to NOT hear fans yelling, “Get in the hole!” or “You da man!” after every drive.
  3. Anyone else shocked by these stories about Ellen DeGeneres’ show being a toxic workplace? Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos has a breakdown of all that has happened, and Vice’s Drew Schwartz has “How Ellen Will Try To Fix Her Scandal, According to Crisis PR Experts.”

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Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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