In a letter to the presidents of major news networks Monday, a coalition of progressive groups asked that the airing of the Republican National Convention be delayed by one minute in order to "help prevent the spread of dangerous disinformation in real time."
Members of the coalition—including UltraViolet Action, ACRONYM, BlackPAC, Color of Change PAC, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and others—warn that a number of scheduled speakers at the RNC, with speeches and prime time coverage kicking off Monday night, have actively spread disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, police violence, and abortion.
"As our nation battles the dual crises of systemic racism and the coronavirus pandemic, relying on the media for factual, life-saving information is crucial to the health of the American people and our democracy," the letter to the presidents of CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBCUniversal and CBS reads.
The letter highlights Abby Johnson, an anti-abortion activist who has advocated against wearing masks to curb the spread of Covid-19, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the couple made famous when a photo of the pair waving guns at Black Lives Matter protesters went viral, and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who has compared Covid-19 deaths to deaths from influenza while pushing the theory that the coronavirus was developed in a lab in Wuhan, China, according to the letter.
The groups called out President Donald Trump for pushing a "birther" conspiracy against former President Barack Obama and, more recently, about Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris.
"The best way to combat the spread of disinformation is to stop it at its source," the letter reads. "By putting the Republican National Convention on a one-minute time delay, your network will be able to actively correct disinformation in real time, and prevent the American people from being lied to on your airwaves. The future of our country, our people, and our democracy are at stake."
CNN's Brian Stelter warned that news outlets would have to deal with "asymmetric lying" by the nation's political parties, noting CNN fact-checks of the DNC convention last week showed the Democrats spoke mostly in "generalities or offered subjective opinions" but that factual assertions made by convention speakers "have largely been accurate."
"We have seen throughout history how false theories and misinformation have been used to justify oppression and racism if they are not countered and debunked in real time," said Kimberly Peeler-Allen, director of Higher Heights Political Fund. "The rhetoric that is anticipated to come from the RNC will put lives in danger whether it is misinformation about Covid-19 or language that can be used to justify attacks on Black and brown people. We strongly implore all of the major networks to institute a time delay and fact checking because it can and will save lives."
Bridget Todd, a spokesperson for UltraViolet Action, warned the GOP gathering would be a "disinformation cesspool filled with toxic misogyny, virulent racism, and flat out lies about the coronavirus pandemic."
Todd said that while it's not possible to keep the networks from airing the convention, "we can ask that they do their part to correct disinformation in real time and help stop its spread."
"CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, and CBS have previously cut away or run fact-checks in real-time during coronavirus briefings, and this should be no different," Todd added. "We've seen what happens when disinformation is allowed to spread unchecked, and the risks are just too great."