A cable news network apologized to Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton after he wrote a letter in response to the network defining Native Americans as “something else” in an election day graphic.
CNN drew criticism from Batton and from Native Americans nationwide after the network used a graphic that identified white, Latino, Black and Asian voters, but classified Native Americans as "something else” while analyzing data during Nov. 3 election night coverage.
“On behalf of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (Choctaw Nation), I am writing to express my profound disappointment with CNN’s lack of respect and dignity provided to Native American voters during the 2020 election,” Batton wrote.
Batton's letter detailed the history of Native Americans not being granted citizenship until 1924 and could not vote for an additional 33 years.
“Despite these challenges, we have continually turned out in unprecedented numbers and have proven that we can influence elections,” Batton wrote. “From Maine to Florida, across the great plains to the southwestern deserts, into the tundra of Alaska and the islands of Hawaii, we continue to come out to vote.”
The Choctaw chief said Native Americans have fought long and hard to maintain their place and existence in the world but CNN’s “complete disregard of the contributions of Native American voters” perpetuated the “continued marginalization of our communities.”
“The Choctaw Nation Tribal Council hopes CNN will reconcile its inappropriate and offensive actions by properly recognizing the power and influence of the Native American vote and discontinuing its use of “something else” in future reporting,” said Batton.
CNN Chief Executive Officer Jeff Zucker in response said he appreciated Batton for reaching out before agreeing with Batton’s letter.
“We agree with you. You are absolutely right. Our exit poll results included a very poor choice of words. We were wrong,” Zucker wrote.
Zucker said the network did not “intend to minimize” the importance of Native America voters.
“We have corrected it for all of our coverage going forward,” said Zucker.
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