If the words “Florida recount” don’t engender fear and loathing of the media in your heart that would have made Hunter Thompson cringe, you’re clearly one of the younger members of our readership.
The breathless (and biased) coverage of our long, national dumpster fire of an election in 2000 ought to be seared into the collective memory of anyone who was of legal age during that time.
And yes, the stakes are somewhat lower this time around — but so are the standards in our broadcast media. Take Andrea Mitchell of the NBC family of networks, who seems to think that one of the obvious villains in this mess is a rock-ribbed Republican when she’s — quelle surprise! — a Democrat.
For those who’ve been tuning this whole thing out until now, let me introduce you to one Brenda Snipes. Snipes was appointed supervisor of elections in Broward County, Florida, back in 2003 after her predecessor screwed up the job so badly she was shown the door by the governor. Snipes has since been serially elected to the position by her constituents, despite possessing no clear aptitude for her position.
I can only give you a TL;DR version of Snipes’ numerous failings, because you have places to be and we have bandwidth to preserve. Snipes had originally been subject to additional supervision during this election after a judge ruled earlier this year that Snipes had illegally destroyed ballots from a 2016 primary election involving Democrat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz that was unusually close (for a prominent representative like Schultz, at least).
Republican Gov. Rick Scott announced, at the time, that Snipes was on super double secret probation.
“During the upcoming election, the Department of State will send a Florida elections expert from the Division of Elections to Supervisor Snipes’ office to ensure that all laws are followed so the citizens of Broward County can have the efficient, properly run election they deserve,” Scott said at the time.
Well, they didn’t get it.
This time around, Snipes’ office couldn’t accurately tell anyone how many votes had been cast in her county, with the final tally continually inflating. The conservative publication National Review reported “uncounted early ballots” were found hanging around a Broward County office, where they clearly shouldn’t have been. Snipes lost a lawsuit involving her legal obligation to provide accurate and timely information regarding vote updates.
Several other lawsuits against Snipes, which are almost certainly not frivolous, are pending. She decided to mix in accepted and rejected provisional ballots for reasons that didn’t make any more sense when her office explained them.
This, by the way, is just the stuff pertaining to this year, and an adumbrated version at that. For a more detailed explanation of how Snipes reached the Peter Principle level of incompetence long before this, my esteemed colleague Ben Marquis wrote an excellent piece published yesterday compiling her record of abject failure.
But for right now, let’s stick to this, since Snipes is emerging as the supervillain of “Florida Recount 2: Infinity War.” Andrea Mitchell, longtime NBC journalist, is paid a lot to either know and/or research about newsworthy individuals like Snipes. She mostly does a good job of this; although nobody would accuse Mitchell of fairness, let’s give credit where credit is due: She’s one of the most experienced journalists alive today. This isn’t hackery central we’re talking about. I may not like Mitchell’s insufferable biases, but respect is certainly due.
That’s why, when she makes a glaring mistake, the content of the mistake is much more interesting than the mistake itself.
First, let’s also provide some additional context regarding how Snipes is being covered on CNN and MSNBC. If you haven’t been watching, the party line on Broward is: “Nothing to see here. I repeat, nothing to see here. What are you, some kind of conspiracy theorist type? Nothing to see here, nada que ver aqui. Move along. Did we mention there’s nothing to see here?”
So, in that vein, Mitchell dropped this wisdom on her viewers on her MSNBC show Monday: “We should also point out that Brenda Snipes in Broward County is a Republican appointed by former governor, then-Gov. Jeb Bush.”
“So, she was put in by a Republican governor after the mess that we all remember from 2000. And she’s hardly a Democratic official, or someone doing the bidding of the Democratic candidates there.”
Social media users pounced.
MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Tells Blatant Falsehood About Brenda Snipes to Help Democrats https://t.co/f0m6XLt3GH
— Sarah Palin (@SarahPalinUSA) November 13, 2018
And this is why MSM is now known as the enemy of the people. Complete political weaponization of the news media.
— The Conservative Guy (@TheCons1776) November 13, 2018
There were three types of facts in Mitchell’s statement: True, false, and materially true but misleading.
Let’s start with the true facts: Mostly, the proper nouns. This is indeed taking place in Broward County, a county that is indeed in the state of Florida. The individual’s name in question is Brenda Snipes. OK, I think we’re good there.
Now, false facts: Snipes is emphatically not a Republican. She is very much a Democrat. That’s kind of a biggie. She’s also not some DINO or non-partisan civil servant who just happens to be involved with the Democrats because that’s how you get elected in Broward.
If that were the case, why are Snipes’ decisions all leaning in one direction? Mixing rejected and accepted provisional ballots isn’t something any conservative would consider, nor would destroying ballots in a closer-than-average Democrat primary when the beneficiary would be a party insider. If not demonstrably a ward-heeler, Snipes certainly seems closer to that archetype than, say, a pillar of civic virtue like Cincinnatus.
Now, materially true but misleading facts. Snipes was, in fact, appointed by a Republican governor, and that governor was Jeb Bush. (I hear that snickering from the other end of the computer screen, stop it: Jeb! is still a Republican, no matter what your feelings.) Snipes’ appointment came after her predecessor had to be physically removed from her office in 2003 for, as National Review put it, “grave neglect, mismanagement and incompetence.”
However, even if he had wanted to, Bush could have spent the remainder of his time in office finding a qualified Republican in Broward County to take the position — and whoever it was would still have been voted out at the first opportunity. (He didn’t find a qualified Democrat either, but hey, that might have been impossible.) Mitchell, of all people, ought to have known that no Republican would have remained in office for a decade and a half in Broward. A month and a half might have been generous.
Oh, and Jeb also believes Snipes ought to be fired: “There is no question that Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes failed to comply with Florida law on multiple counts, undermining Floridians’ confidence in our electoral process. Supervisor Snipes should be removed from her office following the recounts,” he tweeted Monday.
There is no question that Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes failed to comply with Florida law on multiple counts, undermining Floridians’ confidence in our electoral process. Supervisor Snipes should be removed from her office following the recounts.
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) November 12, 2018
As for Snipes “doing the bidding of the Democrats,” that’s unknown and probably unknowable (or at least unprovable). However, not a single thing Snipes has done so far could be construed as doing the bidding of Republicans, while the vast majority of her mistakes could fall into the other column. That could be coincidence. Draw your own conclusions.
I think we can draw clearer conclusions about Mitchell.
I doubt she meant to say that Snipes was a Republican while knowing full well Snipes is a Democrat — but it was something that fit her preexisting biases, so why Google that sucker?
As for whether or not Snipes is favoring one party over the other, please refer to who she’s losing court cases to and being criticized by.
Andrea Mitchell is an institution and deserves that status — liberal bias and all. However, her mistakes in this matter tell you a great deal about all the preconceptions certain networks had going into this latest Florida recount.
Again, the stakes may be lower than they were in 2000, but the tactics will be too. If it weren’t for those proper nouns, this would be 100 percent fake news.
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