In trying to both-sides Kemp cancelling a debate, the press still doesn’t get that headlines matter

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 23: Georgia gubernatorial candidates (L-R) Democrat Stacey Abrams, Republican Brian Kemp and Libertarian Ted Metz debate at Georgia Public Broadcasting in Midtown October 23, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by John Bazemore-Pool/Getty Images)
One of these people is directly responsible for the cancellation of their last debate. Hint: it was the guy who canceled it.

This is a bad headline, Washington Post, and whoever wrote it and tweeted it out to the entire planet needs to feel bad.

Kemp, Abrams blame each other after final debate in tight Georgia governor’s race is canceled

Can you spot the problem? Only if you were previously aware of this story from other reporting, or if you bothered to click in to try to deduce it yourself.

Republican candidate for Georgia governor Brian Kemp was the one who informed the debate hosts that he would not be attending, even though the debate had been scheduled six weeks in advance, because he would instead be attending a suddenly much-more-important Donald Trump rally. Perhaps he cancelled because he did not want to debate Stacey Abrams; perhaps he cancelled because he was just that eager to appear next to Donald Trump. It doesn’t matter. He cancelled. There’s no other “blame” to be proportioned out, no matter how feverishly his campaign might insist on it after the fact; he said he’d do the debate and then he told the debate hosts to pound sand. The end.

If you dive into the article, you can see that the headline is a torturous attempt to both-sides the outcome; a debate that one side canceled out on now is not going to be held. Kemp demanded (likely insincerely) that he be allowed to cancel it, attend a Trump rally and then have a new debate rescheduled to a time more convenient for him; unsurprisingly, the Abrams campaign did not have another ready gap of free time available in the very last few days before the election and so that won’t be happening. So yes, Kemp’s team is pretending to be quite put out that, after Kemp bailed out on a planned-for-weeks debate because he wanted to do something else, his opponent isn’t willing to reschedule her own campaign around his last-minute impulses–but guess what?

She doesn’t have to! It’s not his place to demand it! She’s not “cancelling” a debate if her opponent announces he is cancelling it and then attempts a bit of shameless spin by proposing a new last-minute replacement that he is all but certain will conflict with her last-minute campaign plans!

And it’s not the duty of the national press to peddle petulant Kemp team spin credulously, as if nobody can really determine who is to blame for candidate Brian Kemp cancelling a debate appearance at the last minute, of his own volition, because he wanted to do something else. As if it were a mystery to be unraveled, or as if it is somehow a wee bit unseemly that his black, female counterpart is not willing to let the ever-entitled Kemp be in charge of her campaign schedule as well as his own. She’s running a campaign against him, she’s not trying to ride his bus. He doesn’t get to be in charge of those things. He doesn’t get to blame her for not going along with it.

Do better, national press. It’s very, very, important to do better. Using one side’s completely ridiculous campaign spin as the basis for a “both sides” news headline is how we got here in the first place.

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