After Dishonestly Misleading, CNN Claims GOP 'Misleading' on Voting Law

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Cross posted to the MRC's NewsBusters blog

After his CNN colleagues spent several weeks repeating dishonest claims about Georgia's new voting law, CNN reporter Daniel Dale on Saturday had the audacity to accuse Governor Brian Kemp of "misleading" on the issue after the Georgia Republican tried to correct the media's disinformation.

Fresh off doing a string of interviews to discuss the issue, Governor Kemp on Saturday afternoon gave a press conference in which he reiterated some of the fact-checking he had done on the issues like serving water to voters and drop boxes for absentee ballots.

In the next hour, Dale engaged in some fact-checking of both parties on the issue. After correcting President Joe Biden on just one point by pointing out that he was wrong to claim that voting hours in Georgia would be cut, he then pivoted to finding fault with Governor Kemp's relatively accurate presentation.

CNN weekend host Fredricka Whitfield brought up the most incendiary falsehood pushed by the media, that voters would be denied water even if they were waiting in long lines in hot weather: "Here's another provision that has been quite controversial -- this part about giving water and food to people waiting in line to vote. What is the governor saying about that? And what are the facts?"

Dale began his analysis: "So the governor is being misleading by leaving important parts of this provision out. He's saying, 'Well, it only prohibits people giving out food and water if you're within 150 feet of voting location.'"

He then nitpicked that Kemp had not given enough details on the boundaries where providing refreshments will be allowed:

What he's not mentioning is that it also prohibits people from giving out food and water if they're within 25 feet of any voter in line, even if they're beyond 150 feet from the building. He's saying, "Look, this just prevents special interest groups and candidates from bothering voters in line."

Although Kemp did not mention the 25-foot minimum buffer zone from the line in his news conference, he has previously included this detail when being interviewed, so it's hardly as if he were trying to conceal what is only a minor additional detail.

Dale then added:

No, it does not restrict only special interest groups, people running for office -- it says any person cannot hand out gifts, including food and drink. Now, he is correct -- there is one exception. County officials -- election staff -- can set up an unattended water station, but he's leaving a lot out about the prohibition of everyone else giving out food and water.

But, in the news conference, Governor Kemp did, in fact, state that not just political activists, but "anyone" would be barred from harassing voters in line. Here's Governor Kemp from Saturday: "And, yes, water can be provided to voters who are in line by election workers. And, yes, we are not going to allow political organizations or anyone else to harass or electioneer voters who are waiting in line to vote within the 150-foot buffer."

The CNN reporter then took issue with Governor Kemp not being clear enough in explaining that, even though some counties might see the number of drop boxes for absentee ballots drop from what was used last year, the new law would mandate that every county provide at least one box while imposing a standard formula for how many each county should have.

Dale nitpicking over the accuracy of Governor Kemp's presentation comes on the heels of his CNN colleagues peddling pants-on-fire disinformation on the issue for weeks. A few weeks ago, New Day's Alisyn Camerota claimed that "you will not get water anymore when you stand in line on a hot day" because "giving out water is now illegal," and weekend host Ana Cabrera declared that denying voters water was "an unprecedented attack on voting rights in modern times."

This episode of CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield was sponsored in part by Eharmony. Their contact information is linked.

Transcript follows:

CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield

April 3, 2021

2:19 p.m. Eastern

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: And for a fact check of all the rhetoric and the confusion surrounding Georgia's new voting law, let's bring in CNN's Daniel Dale. So, Daniel, let's start off with what President Biden has said about it.

DANIEL DALE: President Biden has, of course, been very critical of the bill. Some of his criticism has been factual, but some of it has not been. Listen to something he said on ESPN on Wednesday.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Or are you going to close the polling place at 5:00 when working people just get off? This is all about keeping working folks and ordinary folks like I grew up with from being able to vote.

DALE: So this bill does not touch election day voting hours in Georgia which are still 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and it does not force Georgia to close polls at 5 even in early voting. What it does is that there is a mandatory minimum of 9 to 5 hours, but the counties can go from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. if they want to.

You know, some critics have said, "Well, but, yes, it allows counties to shut at 5 if they want." The thing is, Fred, that they already allowed counties to shut at 5:00 under the previous bill. The previous bill said counties have to go "normal business hours," so what this bill does is specify that normal hours means at least 9 to 5. You can't say, for example, 10 to 4. There are other provisions of the law -- I'll get to this -- that are quite restrictive -- but this hours thing is not one of them.

WHITFIELD: Here's another provision that has been quite controversial -- this part about giving water and food to people waiting in line to vote. What is the governor saying about that? And what are the facts?

DALE: So the governor is being misleading by leaving important parts of this provision out. He's saying, "Well, it only prohibits people giving out food and water if you're within 150 feet of voting location.' What he's not mentioning is that it also prohibits people from giving out food and water if they're within 25 feet of any voter in line, even if they're beyond 150 feet from the building. He's saying, "Look, this just prevents special interest groups and candidates from bothering voters in line."

No, it does not restrict only special interest groups, people running for office -- it says any person cannot hand out gifts, including food and drink. Now, he is correct -- there is one exception. County officials -- election staff -- can set up an unattended water station, but he's leaving a lot out about the prohibition of everyone else giving out food and water.

WHITFIELD: And then what's the governor saying about the provisions that entail the drop boxes?

DALE: Yeah, so he's really spinning that provision to the point of being misleading. So this new law will require big urban counties -- say, Atlanta's Fulton County -- from -- to -- excuse me -- significantly cut the number of drop boxes from the number they had in 2020. Fulton County had 38 boxes in the 2020 general election -- they say they'll now be forced to go down to eight. Now, Kemp is saying this is not a cut because the boxes were only authorized last year under a temporary pandemic rule. He says now they're a long-term part of actual law. But, look, a cut from 38 under a special rule to eight in a long-term law is still a cut from last year to this year.

WHITFIELD: Big difference.

(...)

Georgia press conference

April 3, 2021

GOVERNOR BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): SB-202 expands access to voting, secures ballot drop boxes around the clock in every county, expands weekend voting, protects no-excuse absentee voting, and levels the playing field on voter ID requirements as well as streamlining election procedures. 

And, yes, water can be provided to voters who are in line by election workers. And, yes, we are not going to allow political organizations or anyone else to harass or electioneer voters who are waiting in line to vote within the 150-foot buffer.

(....)

Some of them have complained about drop boxes like we're taking something away. For people who don't know and have not read the bill, like Joe Biden, we've never had drop boxes in our legislation in decades in Georgia. We do now, for the first time ever, codify it in the law. They were used last election because of an emergency order by the state board -- not by the members of the general assembly behind me. We have done that this year.

We are requiring the local election officials to do continuous counting so you don't have breaks and doubt and confusion in the ability for either party to monitor the process. No one has said anything about those provisions. The ones that have complained about the water are factually wrong, including the President. A voter can bring food -- they can bring water -- they can order a pizza while they are standing in line, but we're not going to let the NRA or the Sierra Club to hand out pizza or water to people that are in line within the boundaries specified in the law. If you are one foot over that boundary, you can set up a table and hand out water or pizza or whatever else you want.

(...)

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I was wondering if you could respond to some of these specifics on how they do not restrict voter access, such as the banning of mobile voting centers like the ones used in Fulton County -- you said the codifying of the drop boxes that have not been in law before but effectively reduces the number of them compared to what was used in the November election...

(...)

GOVERNOR KEMP: First of all, on the drop boxes, there's a very simple formula that is going to be used on the drop boxes for all counties. There are counties -- you know, people are saying we're taking something away with drop boxes -- there's counties that did not have a drop box last election. Now, every county -- is it 49? -- 49 -- now, every county will be required to have one drop box

(...)

Fox & Friends

March 31, 2021

BRIAN KEMP: The political groups and others, nonprofits, whoever can still do that, Brian, if they're outside the 50-foot buffer around the polling location or 25 feet from the end of the line. So it's not like you still can't do those things. We're just trying to keep voters from being harassed and electioneered while they're standing in line preparing to vote. We've had laws like that in most states around the country for years.

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