Native Americans nationwide criticized CNN for using the label “something else” in the same graphic the network identified white, Latino, Black and Asian voters.
We believe the label CNN used excludes and disrespects Native Americans — and Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton justly called out the network in a recent letter.
“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,” he wrote.
Native Americans make up 15.5% of Pittsburg County residents, or roughly 7,000 of our neighbors, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
Native Americans make up 9.4% of Oklahomans — or nearly 400,000 people.
Native Americans make up 1.3% of all United States residents — or a little more than 4 million.
That’s a lot of people CNN disrespected.
Batton wrote in the letter about the role of Native Americans in elections and the history of Native Americans in our country.
He wrote about Native Americans not being granted citizenship until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.
He wrote about Native Americans not being allowed to vote for 33 years after the act passed.
He wrote about Native Americans having to continuously work hard to not be marginalized in communities.
“Despite these challenges, we have continually turned out in unprecedented numbers and have proven that we can influence elections,” Batton wrote.
The Native American Journalists Association also demanded CNN apologize for its use of the “something else” label.
“This type of language continues the efforts to erase Indigenous and other voters who don’t neatly fall into the race categories listed in the graphic,” NAJA said in a release.
The NAJA said “being Native American is a political classification — not merely a racial background” and the label CNN used “fails to recognize the sovereignty and political classification of Native voters.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Batton posted his letter to his Facebook page and included CNN Chief Executive Officer Jeff Zucker’s response.
“We agree with you. You are absolutely right. Our exit poll results included a very poor choice of words. We were wrong,” Zucker wrote.
“We have corrected it for all of our coverage going forward,” he added.
McAlester News-Capital Editorial Board