- Tulsi Gabbard supporters and detractors sparred on social media over the weekend on the hashtag #TulsiMediaBlackout
- Her critics say her campaign is astroturf, and most of her supporters are actually “Russian bots” unleashed by the Kremlin.
- Her supporters say the media is ignoring her because she’d actually shake up the status quo. Are they right?
Starting late Friday night and building to a crescendo Saturday, #TulsiMediaBlackout is trending on Twitter.
The hashtag refers to claims by supporters of Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard that the media is sweeping her presidential campaign under the rug.
Tweets on the trend appear to be an even mix of Gabbard supporters and Democrats saying there are no Gabbard supporters.
Their theory is that even the trend #TulsiMediaBlackout is the product of “Russian bots” and a Kremlin conspiracy.
This line of attack echoes comments about Tulsi Gabbard that Hillary Clinton made on a podcast last month. One of Tulsi’s supporters fired back.
He argued that Tulsi’s platform sets her further apart from the policies of Donald Trump than the rest of the Democratic field.
Another pointed out that the Russian interference conspiracy theory is full of holes. There is no credible evidence of a Tulsi Gabbard connection to Russia.
If there were, how could she pass the vetting process to be DNC Vice Chair? Or serve on the House Armed Services Committee?
Is there really a #TulsiMediaBlackout?
Tulsi Gabbard has consistently polled in the single digits throughout the 2020 Democratic Primary. So far, her numbers have trailed behind the three front runners– Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders.
But she does hold a solid place in the middle of a crowded pack of contenders. And it turns out the corporate press doesn’t cover Gabbard in fair proportion to her poll, search, and social media numbers.
In June a study of the available data from Spectrym, the Vanderbilt News Archive, and Google confirmed a #TulsiMediaBlackout.
Tulsi Gabbard ranked 14th by corporate media mentions, despite ranking 8th in terms of Google search interest.
A self-described “Tulsicrat” crunched the numbers, but you can check them for yourself. And before anyone suggests this individual is a Russian bot, they have been on Twitter since December 2014.
In September an Axios study of the polling and media coverage data also found Tulsi Gabbard under-indexes in corporate media mentions. Despite polling in ninth at the time, Gabbard ranked 13 in online corporate media mentions, and 14 in cable news mentions.
Gabbard has also received the seventh most tweets during the most recent Democratic debate at the time. And the gap between media coverage and Tulsi Gabbard’s popularity may be widening.
At the end of October, a national survey by Suffolk/USA Today found Gabbard leading Sen. Kamala Harris by one point.
That same week a CNN poll found Gabbard leading Sen. Kamala Harris by two points in New Hampshire, and Cory Booker by three.
Gabbard also led Beto O’Rourke by three points in the CNN poll, a candidate the September Axios study found over-indexes in corporate media coverage.
Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign gathered strength in the following two weeks. A YouGov/Hofstra University poll conducted in the middle of November placed her solidly fourth behind the three top-tier candidates.
Confirming a #TulsiMediaBlackout, 64% of respondents to a Quinnipiac poll released Nov. 18 said they “haven’t heard enough” about Gabbard to form a positive or negative opinion about her campaign.
The Tulsi Gabbard Smear Machine
Studies have found the establishment press has done more than merely snub Gabbard. When it does cover her, its coverage is overly negative.
In May, non-profit media researcher Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) said that reports on Tulsi Gabbard’s non-interventionist foreign policy platform “primarily use it to negatively characterize” her campaign.
After Tulsi Gabbard announced her presidential campaign earlier this year, NBC News published a hit piece claiming that Russian automatons were stirring up support for her campaign.
It was quickly followed by a bombshell revelation that NBC based its report on data from a firm that had already been caught faking Russian social media support for Roy Moore in the 2017 Alabama Senate election.
This shows a major lapse in editorial judgement at NBC News, to use such an ironically discredited source to build a political narrative against Tulsi Gabbard. Maybe #TulsiMediaBias will start trending next.