Following reports of a Democratic National Committee Election Day manual giving party workers advice on how to combat potential efforts to intimidate minority voters, conservative media figures repeatedly distorted the manual's content in order to claim that the Democratic Party's official policy is to make baseless allegations of voter intimidation against Republicans. In fact, the manual does no such thing; it simply advises party workers to use standard, uncontroversial communications tactics to raise public awareness about the potential for intimidation. (Click here to view The Drudge Report's image of the DNC's “Colorado Election Day Manual.” )
In contrast to accusations made by several conservative media figures, the manual itself does not encourage party workers -- either implicitly or explicitly -- to fabricate stories of voter suppression. Their false accusations are based on a single sentence: “If no signs of intimidation techniques have emerged yet, launch a 'pre-emptive strike.'” But the subsequent sentences make clear that a “pre-emptive strike” does not mean fabricating evidence of intimidation. Rather, the manual lays out four specific steps that would constitute an effective “pre-emptive strike,” none of which constitute underhanded conduct:
- Issue a press release
- i. Reviewing Republican tactic [sic] issued in the past in your area or state
- ii. Quoting party/minority/civil rights leadership as denouncing tactics that discourage people from voting
- Prime minority leadership to discuss the issue in the media; provide talking points
- Place stories in which minority leadership expresses concern about the threat of intimidation tactics
- Warn local newspapers not to accept advertising that is not properly disclaimed or that contains false warnings about voting requirements and/or about what will happen at the polls
Despite the manual's rather commonplace suggestions for raising awareness about the issue of voter intimidation, conservatives cast the document as smoking-gun proof of Democratic dirty tricks.
On his October 14 show, radio host Rush Limbaugh complained about the DNC manual, saying, “Democrats [are] gearing up now to intimidate, to warn, to accuse before a vote has even been cast, folks.”
CNN co-host Tucker Carlson grossly distorted the manual on the October 14 edition of CNN's Crossfire:
CARLSON: At one point, the guide instructs Kerry operators to accuse Republicans of trying to prevent minority groups from voting even if there's no evidence that the charge is actually true, no evidence at all. Just make it up. ... In other words, manufacture a crime and divisive racially [sic] propaganda, all of it false, to whip minority voters into a frenzy of fear and hatred. ... That's disgusting, actually.
FOX News Channel senior White House correspondent Jim Angle, as substitute host on the October 15 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume, introduced a report on the manual by general assignment correspondent Major Garrett by referring to “the Democratic memo that appears to encourage people to come up with stories of Election Day skullduggery, whether it happens or not.”