While the vote was celebrated among Republicans who blasted the bill as a “partisan power grab,” news publications adopted Democrat messaging with slanted headlines that largely cast the Republicans against “voting rights.” Back in June 2020, Senate Democrats used the filibuster to block Republican Sen. Tim Scott’s, S.C., police reform bill. News publications failed to mention the Democrats’ use of the filibuster in headlines and often labeled the legislation as a Republican bill. When it came to Republicans blocking Democrats’ voting rights bill, news publications didn’t give the same party identifier to the legislation.
Axios used the headline “Senate Republicans Block Democrats’ Sweeping Voting Rights Bill,” for Tuesday’s vote, but when Democrats blocked the GOP police reform bill, it framed the vote as Republicans failing to gain Democrat support.
“Senate GOP police reform bill stalls after failing to gain Democratic support,” the June 2020 headline reads.
The New York Times invoked the filibuster in their coverage on Tuesday’s vote but didn’t use it when Democrats filibustered the 2020 police reform bill. “Republicans Use Filibuster to Block Voting Rights Bill,” the New York Times framed Tuesday’s vote. “Senate Democrats Block G.O.P. Police Bill, Calling It Inadequate,” is how the New York Times framed Democrats using the filibuster to block the legislation.
The Associated Press in a tweet blamed Republican lawmakers for voting against a bill that “would strike down hurdles to voting, curb the influence of money in politics and limit partisan influence over the drawing of congressional districts.” But when it came to Democrats being opposed to Sen. Scott’s bill, the framing was from the Democrat’s perspective.
Twitter critics unloaded on the framing of Tuesday’s vote, calling out their skewed coverage.
“This NYT framing is insane,” Ben McDonald tweeted alongside a screenshot of a New York Times breaking news alert.
“HR-1 is not a ‘voting rights bill,’” The Daily Caller’s Greg Price wrote. “It’s a sweeping overhaul to voting across the country designed to keep Democrats in power forever. Media of course decides to frame it as the former.”
“The media framing Democrat policies as ‘pro voting rights’ and election reform as ‘voting restrictions’ is one of the most coordinated and complete ad campaigns I’ve ever seen,” Mediaite writer Caleb Howe noted.
“If you want to know why people on the right no longer trust major media organizations, look no further than this alleged description of HR1 which might as well have come straight from a Dem press release,” another user responded.
“It would be great for reporters and media outlets who want to call S. 1 ‘Voting Rights Legislation’ to explain why public financing for congressional campaigns counts as voting rights,” Jake Wilkins, communications director for Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., wrote.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday that Republicans voted against the bill to ensure Democrats don’t impose new voting standards on states that would “rig” elections in their favor. He called the substance of the nearly 900-page bill “rotten” to its core.
Republicans took issue with imposing federal standards on state elections that they said would weaken state ID requirements. They also opposed starting a new public financing system for congressional elections and politicizing the Federal Elections Commission that enforces campaign finance laws. Even Republican moderates Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said she couldn’t support the “partisan federal takeover of the election system.”
Democrats, often with the help of several media outlets, framed the legislation as an urgent priority to save democracy in the face of Republican efforts in state legislatures around the country to pass “voter suppression laws.”
Fox News’ Andrew Kugle contributed to this report.