CNN Appoints Some ‘Leaders on Impeachment’: raceAhead

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CNN is under fire, and deservedly so, for this short segment on a group of moderate House Democrats who shifted their position from no to yes on an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. “These five freshman congresswomen changed history by becoming unlikely leaders on impeachment,” runs the headline.

The group in question are seven first-time representatives, all of whom have national security and/or military bona fides, and who explained their decision in a collective opinion piece published by The Washington Post.

“We have devoted our lives to the service and security of our country, and throughout our careers, we have sworn oaths to defend the Constitution of the United States many times over. Now, we join as a unified group to uphold that oath as we enter uncharted waters and face unprecedented allegations against President Trump,” they write. They detail their thinking which boils down to this: “The president of the United States may have used his position to pressure a foreign country into investigating a political opponent, and he sought to use U.S. taxpayer dollars as leverage to do it.”

It was signed by Reps. Gil Cisneros of California, Jason Crow of Colorado, Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia.

The CNN segment focuses only on the five women, who are true and legitimate “badasses,” and who have all served the country in extraordinary ways. And, they are continuing to do so in their conservative-leaning swing districts. This fact is truly unimpeachable.

But the story was not merely an inspiring one of female friendship navigating a strange new world — parts of which are terrific.

It also frames them as surprise saviors of the republic, erasing the many people who have been far ahead of them on this issue, not to mention their two male colleagues who are taking a similar political risk.

Things truly fell apart for me around the three-minute mark, when journalist Dana Bash asked if the group of lawmakers should be considered “the anti-squad.”

What was clearly implied was that they were civilized antidotes to four other first-time members—Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts—all women of color who have been loudly calling for the President to be held accountable on a number of fronts.

And all of whom have been the subject of vicious and racist attacks from the president himself.

The comments on the segment were unsparing.

“This is truly unacceptable. Give the credit to @RepAlGreen for being the first to seek articles of impeachment & doing so repeatedly, & @RepRashida@RepMaxineWaters for boldly demanding impeachment early & fearlessly facing down Trump’s brutal taunting & insults in response,” tweeted Sherrilyn Ifill, the President & Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

“This piece talks about how supporting impeachment puts their seats at risk. Meanwhile, the women of color who have been leading the way on this are getting DEATH threats, left and right. I wish I were numb enough not to be frustrated by this totally predictable mess,” tweeted activist, educator, writer, and Pod Save The People co-host Brittany Packnett.

To make matters worse, the women profiled appeared to take the bait.

“None of us is ever going to get in a Twitter war with anyone else,” Slotkin told CNN, in response to “the squad” question. “If we have a concern with someone, we’re going to go right up and talk to them about it and we’re not going to add unhelpful rhetoric to an already bad tone coming out of Washington.”

“I don’t care who has the headlines,” Spanberger said. “I care about the legislation that we prioritize and I don’t think any of us want to be the loudest voice in the room. I just want to be one of the most effective.”

Ouch. 

Politics is a tough business, and everyone needs to speak to their voter base. I’d like to believe that there is some six-dimensional chess playing going on behind the scenes, and this is political theater. I’d like to believe that everyone is in on the joke.

That said, the optics of this entire episode is unfortunate.

The best thing I can say is that it was a missed opportunity to share the credit on an issue of vital national interest and to help pull fellow Congressional newcomers out from under the wheels of a very dangerous bus. Right now, it feels like politics as usual.

Ellen.McGirt@fortune.com
@ellmcgirt

On Point

Facebook falling short of promise to allow researchers to study disinformation on the site CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised Congress in April 2018 that the company would make huge troves of data available to researchers around the world, so they could study the disinformation campaigns that had targeted vulnerable populations and impacted elections around the world. Now, months later, Facebook says it’s having trouble sharing the data while protecting user privacy. It’s a big problem say experts. “Silicon Valley has a moral obligation to do all it can to protect the American political process,” said Dipayan Ghosh, a fellow at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard and a former public policy adviser at Facebook. “We need researchers to have access to study what went wrong.”
New York Times

Time to cancel TikTok? A Guardian investigation reveals that the Chinese-based app, TikTok, has expanded their moderation guidelines to ban any content that could appear to be positive to LGBTQ people or civil rights, including same-sex couples holding hands. This would even apply to places where homosexuality is not illegal. These come on the heels of recent guideline changes that ban speech on topics and speech sensitive to China, including Tiananmen Square and Tibet. If you aren’t already outraged, click through for what’s already banned for conservative countries, like “partially naked buttocks,” cleavage with “a length of more than 1/3 of the whole cleavage length,” and most anything about sanitary pads.
Guardian

Allyson Felix is fast, y’all Felix won a gold medal yesterday as part of the winning U.S. team in the first world championships mixed-gender 4x400m relay. It was her twelfth gold medal, but her first as a mom and advocate for pregnant athletes. She also broke her tie with Usain Bolt for most gold medals won in the history of world championships. “So special, to have my daughter here watching means the world to me,” Felix said. “It’s been a crazy year for me.” Her daughter Camryn, who was shy of four pounds at her emergency C-Section on November 28, spent her first 29 days in the NICU. Click through and celebrate.
NBC Sports

California governor signs bill that will let college athletes get paid Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed Senate Bill 206, introduced by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), which will allow California athletes to earn money from the use of their names, images, and likenesses. The controversial measure has earned praise from NBA stars LeBron James and Draymond Green, and sent shockwaves through the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) who have long opposed the move. “As more states consider their own specific legislation related to this topic, it is clear that a patchwork of different laws from different states will make unattainable the goal of providing a fair and level playing field for 1,100 campuses and nearly half a million student-athletes nationwide,” the NCAA in response. James says nah. “Athletes at every level deserve to be empowered and to be fairly compensated for their work, especially in a system where so many are profiting off of their talents.”
Los Angeles Times

On Background

The shofar heard at Auschwitz It is a nearly impossible tale of bravery, faith, and resistance, and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor’s work to keep the story alive. Dr. Judith Tydor Schwartz, who is an expert on the Holocaust, says her father, Chaskel Tydor, was able to assign work assignments at some 40 Auschwitz subcamps far enough away from prying ears, to send the faithful to distant points where they might be able to pray during Rosh Hashana in 1944. But to signal the High Holy Days requires the use of a shofar, a ram’s horn trumpet with a distinctive sound. “But could camp prisoners have found ways to sound [the shofar] piercing the heavens with sob-like wails and staccato blasts, without putting themselves in immediate mortal danger?” asks Ralph Blumenthal. Click through for the full story.
New York Times

Clinical trials lack racial and ethnic diversity The editors of Scientific American are blunt: It’s unethical and risky to ignore racial and ethnic minorities, they say. The numbers are equally stark. While 40% of Americans belong to an ethnic or racial “minority,” clinical trials are typically 80% to 90% white. “The symptoms of conditions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, as well as the contributing factors, vary across lines of ethnicity, as they do between the sexes,” they explain. Without a diverse group to study, it’s impossible to know if a drug will work, or worse, if there will be side effects. A Congressional remedy, the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act, required the agency to include more women and people of color in their studies. That was 1993. But a 2014 study showed that only 2% of more than 10,000 cancer trials conducted by the National Cancer Institute focused on a racial or ethnic population.
Scientific American

Long distance running is a predominantly white sport. Who knew? Joe Gray is a champion long-distance trail runner, with 16 U.S. national championships and 28 international races under his belt, and the winner of the 2016 World Mountain Running Championships. But yet, he and other non-white athletes can’t get the traction they need to soar in the sport. “[Y]oung black runners (and other minorities) don’t seem to get the attention, media coverage, opportunities, or grassroots access to the sport white athletes do,” he says in this opinion piece. And when black runners are seen in editorial and advertising, they often use influencers or models to portray them. “Social influencers and models are not helping to inspire minority youth to shoot for the stars and to aim for excellence in their sport,” he says. “True inspiration comes from seeing someone accomplish an amazing athletic feat in something you share a passion for—especially when we’re talking about a running brand or media outlet.”
Runners World

Tamara El-Waylly helps write and produce raceAhead.

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Quote

“They were saying my hair was ugly, it was nappy, they were saying that I don’t deserve to live, that I shouldn’t have been born. I was feeling pretty traumatized but I also felt compassion for them, because I felt like if I was in their point of view, something could have happened to them to make them want to do this.”

Twelve-year-old Amari Allen on the three white classmates who attacked her, held her down and cut her locs.

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