NPR defends decision to call the race for Clinton

Regardless of whether the Associated Press reported its tally showing that Hillary Clinton had enough delegates to the Democratic National Convention to win the nomination, Hillary Clinton was going to win the nomination with pledged delegates alone in last night’s California primary.

It was surprising that a journalistically conservative news organization like the Associated Press would make the announcement it made Monday night, but it counted the noses, had the data, and reported what it knew. The superdelegates in the Clinton camp aren’t bound — as normal delegates are — but the reality is at this stage of the game, they weren’t going to change their minds. Nonetheless, it felt like it was at least on the edges of “hey, close enough” journalism.

That’s really upset fans of Bernie Sanders, and today NPR’s ombudsman defended the network’s decision to report what the AP was reporting.

“My view is that just because superdelegates could change their minds does not mean that NPR should not report their current stance, assuming NPR trusts that the AP’s reporting is solid,” Elizabeth Jensen wrote today. “There is no reason to think it is not; as NPR’s political editor Domenico Montanaro wrote, ‘The AP canvassed more undeclared superdelegates and enough came forward to publicly declare their support for Clinton Monday night ahead of voting Tuesday.’ ‘Publicly’ is an important qualifier here. Kathleen Carroll, the AP’s senior vice president and executive editor, explained more here.”

Jensen said that NPR is using the phrase “presumptive nominee” because, of course, nothing is really settled yet.

There’s another way to look at it. What if it had been Sanders who clinched under the same circumstances as Clinton and NPR did not report it? Or if NPR had knowledge of a story that was unfavorable to Clinton and held off reporting it, again in order not to influence the elections taking place Tuesday? Voters — Sanders’ supporters — would have rightly called foul.

News happens when it happens. I think the AP’s count was unfortunate timing, coming just ahead of the Tuesday contests, given that a number of analysts, including commentator Cokie Roberts, worried that it would affect turnout. (I have seen no analyses so far that show turnout was affected.) But NPR had no reason to hold off reporting those results, as long as it was clear that the Sanders campaign rejected them and would continue to press its claim. NPR’s reports have done that.

It’s an arguable point. But some Sanders supporters are taking things a little far.

Amy Chozick, a New York Times reporter who wrote up the AP story calling the race, tweeted that she’s been getting threats.

The system isn’t rigged, Jonathan Chait of NY Magazine insists.

Sanders deserves some sympathy. He set out to run a message campaign to spread his ideas. At some point, the race became quasi-competitive, and he discovered that he needed a competitive rationale in order to make the news media cover it, and as he has failed to gain ground, his competitive rationale has gone from strained to ludicrous. Meanwhile, his message has attracted fervent supporters who like him so much they actually believe his crazy process arguments.

Meanwhile, the AP is warning its reporters to be careful, although it told staffers in a memo there is no credible threat to report.

U.S. Staff:

Overnight, AP identified Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. We broke the news via Twitter and covered it in several stories, which has prompted a backlash by Sanders supporters who are angry with AP’s reporting. Statements from U.S. Political Editor David Scott and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll explaining our call are posted on The Definitive Source blog. This AP story also explains how we count delegates.

Some AP staff have received angry communications in the form of emails, social media messages and phone calls. We have not received any specific security threats. If you need to respond to complaints, feel free to point the public to the statements on our blog as appropriate.

…It is always good to practice situational awareness around AP bureaus and offices.

…We have posted some additional tips and descriptions of best practices for personal safety on the AP Global Security page on InsideAP, including security awareness tips for journalists working in protests and large crowds.

As always, do not hesitate to contact me if you have concerns or questions.

Danny Spriggs
Vice President, Global Security

Related: Why the Associated Press called the race for Hillary Clinton when nobody was looking (Washington Post)

  • MrE85

    Elections (even though this one seems like a bad dream) are reality-based events. It’s okay to feel bad when your candidate doesn’t win. But there is no need to “attack the messenger” because you don’t like the news. We should be better than that — and I’m talking to you, too, candidates.

    • bob johnson

      Unless they’re liars with a clear agenda

  • PaulJ

    I hope NPR doesn’t break its arm patting itself on the back.

    • The ombudsman’s goal is to answer complaints from listeners. Better they should just ignore them like most other news organizations?

      • PaulJ

        It would not be better to ignore complaints. But it is like the batter who goes on and on about a home run; we get it, you did good. Personally, I never try to emphasize how right I am;)

  • William Hunter Duncan

    The banality of evil, the saying goes. What, our closed primaries, or closing polling stations, our colluding with the Clinton campaign, media ignoring or disparaging Bernie throughout, nothing to see here people. You won’t see signs of a slump in voter turnout when you aren’t looking for it, or don’t want to see it. I heard NPR say half a dozen times yesterday that it didn’t matter what happened in yesterday’s election, Hillary was the winner. Apparently subverting Democracy isn’t a big deal now, as long as it is for a woman.

    • William Hunter Duncan

      Btw, everybody is so worried about violence from Bernie supporters. The blood on the hands of ms Clinton is thick, after Iraq, Syria, Libya, Honduras, and again the banality of evil of those who refuse to acknowledge it, like they refuse to see Clinton/DNC/media collusion.

      • Veronica

        Except there are very real, tangible threats from The Sanders supporters. And the only collusion for the media was to pretend he ever had a chance. sanders never had a prayer. Ever.

    • Rob


      • William Hunter Duncan

        Well Veronica, we better sic the total surrveillance apparatus on them!!! Don’t drop a drone bomb though. Sure to hit a few wedding parties. And Mr Toad, just like that baby MPR chose to place as the lead image. Who cares what Hillary is really all about? Must stop Trump! BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.

        • // , just like that baby MPR

          I went with a non-candidate so I didn’t have to hear the usual “See, proof that MPR is in Clinton’s pocket” stuff.

          OK, so it didn’t work… “*)

          • William Hunter Duncan

            Yawn, is pretty much the response I get from Clinton and Obama supporters every time I bring up democratic warmongering, or economic policy that abandons Americans and America to the whim of globalist corporations and banks. Never mind apparently that Dems and Repubs are on the same team in this regard. If it isn’t yawn, it’s shut up you idiot right winger. Only among Dems and Repubs and major media can anti-war and pro local community economics be derided as violence to be afraid of.

          • KenB

            I can’t speak for Mr. Toad, but I believe the yawn is for the complaints about the NPR coverage of the AP report.

          • dreamjoehill

            I was told by a Killary supporter that my concerns about her imperialist war mongering were “silly.”
            And these puffed up hypocrites think they’re so superior to those “ignorant Trump supporters”

          • William Hunter Duncan

            Yeah, typical Dem, oh it’s just so silly to talk about turning Libya into a jihadi pit from hell, oh, it’s just so silly to talk about how Hillary and o backed a right wing coup in Honduras where the murder rate is now about the highest in the world. Silly silly.

          • William Hunter Duncan

            Btw, MPR isn’t in Clinton’s pocket, MPR, Clinton and the media generally are engaged in perpetuating the trend toward globalist corporate and banking control, to the continued impoverishing of most Americans, neo-liberal picking the pocket of the poor to give to the rich. Balanced well with neocon warmaking, in support of globalist elite taking over the world. Basically.

  • BlueMN

    This would be a lot more credible if Tamera Keith and Domenico Montanaro hadn’t been figuratively popping champagne corks and dancing a jig on Twitter after the call. Not to mention their cheerleading for Hillary throughout the campaign.

  • Jeff

    Since the super delegates control the outcome of the Democratic nomination I wouldn’t say it’s over until it’s finally over…all it would take is for a scandal to come out with Bill or Hillary and that might completely change the outcome of the convention since the super delegates could change their mind at any point up to the first vote. Has the FBI completed their investigation yet? Or will they be putting it off until mid-late November…just in time for a presidential pardon…

    • Rob

      but how do you really feel about the presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee?

      • Jeff

        I feel the Democratic nomination is controlled by their political insiders…I was simply coming up with possible plausible situations that could change the minds of the super delegates, who have 100% control of who the nominee will be.

        • Having covered many national conventions, they’re all insiders.

          • Jeff

            Is Trump, is Bernie and are his supporters?

    • crystals

      They (superdelegates) really don’t. This fixation with them, especially on the part of the Sanders camp & his supporters, is bizarre.

      If they did control the outcome, Barack Obama would have never been the nominee in 2008. If Bernie Sanders got more votes, and therefore more delegates, than Hillary Clinton this year then he would be the nominee. It’s not that complicated.

      • Jeff

        Well if Bernie had 80% or more of the super delegates supporting him he’d get the nomination instead of Hillary…right now Hillary has 92% of the super delegates so it’s not impossible for the tables to be turned by some large scandal from the Clintons.

        • crystals

          So you think democrats should hold off on confirming our presidential nominee just in case a large scandal comes up? Are you advising republicans to do the same thing? Their candidate is ACTUALLY in the middle of a court case right now, you know.

          So tired already, and it’s so far to November.

          • Jeff

            Republicans don’t have a super delegate system, so there is no overriding Trump unless something happens to him physically between now and the nomination. The super delegates can change their mind with a whim…that’s not up for debate.

          • crystals

            Republicans do have a similar equivalent, actually. 3 per state, but they are bound to vote for whomever won their state’s caucus/primary.

            I understand why people are railing against the superdelegate system, I do. But JFC, it’s been this way for years. It looks & stinks like sour grapes that it’s an issue now, and it reeks of hypocrisy on the part of Sanders fans. (We hate superdelegates and think they’re awful and undemocratic, until we want to have them change their mind and vote for us instead!)

            I’d be thrilled if the DNC moves to better system after this election, and I hope they are smart enough to figure out a better way. I will NOT be thrilled if a solution means delegate slots for regular people like us ultimately get taken up by the elected officials who currently get their vote through the superdelegate system.

  • Jeff

    BTW, it’s completely unacceptable for Bernie’s supporters to threaten violence or even commit violent acts against anyone including journalists or political opponents.

  • Gary F

    Come on Bernanistas, you know MPR/NPR is the official station for Hillary Clinton. It just took you some time to figure that out. Just listen in the next few months, they are ready for Hillary.

    • jon

      I’ve heard bernie supporters complaining about NPR reporting on Clinton/Sanders since roughly December… didn’t take them much time at all to figure it out, though why any one would expect NPR to report on NPR’s coverage of Hillary until after the primaries are settled is beyond me.

      • The ombudsman has been reporting on how NPR covers the elections for years.

  • Mike

    The establishment, including NPR, got the candidate it wanted. That isn’t a surprise in the end, though what is surprising is how much suspense a 74-year-old democratic socialist injected into the race. Now we have the two must unpopular candidates in the history of polling. Yes, we have the best democracy that oligarchy can buy.

    • jon

      Jeb! might disagree with that last sentence…
      He raised and spent more than twice as much as Trump, and did didn’t even make it through the first week of May.

      • Mike

        Right. Ultrarich Jeb Bush got beat by ultrarich Donald Trump, who was a more charismatic candidate. That doesn’t disprove my point.

  • Schwerpunkter

    No surprise that NPR and affiliates would be part of the establishment and, in the case of my local affiliate, WNYC, takes money from the Clinton Foundation, be soft on her and run with any story that is a positive win. And the AP makes the news. Also, you think Trump would keep funding for NPR et. al.? You think Sanders wouldn’t fund Pacifica Media faster than you can say quinoa salad and give some stiff competition to the already dwindling media-space that passes for journalism in this soon-to-be Third World nation of ours.

      • Schwerpunkter

        I … have been Bogarted … Hard to recover from that in a debate of ideas. Also, with all these NPR tote bags in my possession, I guess my position as objective is compromised. I fold and will Netflix the Caine Mutiny. Great film.

        • “Ah, the tote bags. That’s when I knew had them!”