After refusing to acknowledge on KELO-TV that Joe Biden won the 2020 election and is the legitimate President of the United States, Republican candidate for secretary of state Monae Johnson acknowledged on SDPB that Joe Biden won the 2020 election:
Hendry: Your opponent in our conversation with him, he called you an election denier. I want to give you a chance to respond to that. Do you believe the 2020 election was a free and fair election?
Johnson: Well, one thing is President Trump did win South Dakota, but Joe Biden did win the key states, so he is our President. For me, I wasn’t in the office at the time, so I want to move forward. I want to have people moving forward to the primary and to the general and making sure that what their votes count, what their votes, count, who they vote for is what’s tabulated. So I’m just pushing forward for that [Lori Walsh, Jackie Hendry, and Chris Laughery, “Secretary of State 2022,” SDPB, 2022.10.24; transcribed by CAH/DFP].
Three elements of this exchange annoy:
- Slipping into agnostic faux-objectivity, SDPB’s Jackie Hendry frames the question about election denial as name-calling by Democratic candidate Tom Cool rather than an objective recollection of words that came out of Johnson’s own mouth that show she will not stand against the baseless lies of the MAGA-Republicans whose election denial threatens our election system.
- Speaking code for her denialist base, Johnson refers to Trump with his old title but does not do the same for the current President.
- Most significantly, Johnson still buries a direct answer in all sorts of irrelevant and barely intelligible commentary. Compare her deliberate diversion with Cool’s consistent, comprehensive, and clear response:
Hendry: You’ve mentioned your opponent—you say she’s an election denier. Do you believe the 2020 election was stolen?
Cool: Absolutely not. Joe Biden was elected. We’ve had 60+ court cases that have shown that. And actually the South Dakota Governor actually said that the 2020 election, at least in South Dakota, was fair. The other question is whether there was voting fraud, and there were—the Secretary of State office as I understand it does not investigate voting fraud, that is up to local counties—but there were no cases filed in 2020 alleging or proving voter fraud in South Dakota [Walsh, Hendry, and Laughery, 2022.10.24].
Notice that Hendry again frames the question as one of an allegation from Cool, but here she refers to words that came out Cool’s mouth in a way that she doesn’t with Johnson. And she gets the words not quite right: earlier in his conversation with Hendry, Cool said “several have described” Johnson “as an election denier.” That construction is itself a bit tricky, but Hendry gives us another instance where SDPB subtly goes a little easier on Republicans and little harder on Democrats than full, forceful objectivity would require.
Here’s an objective assessment of the two candidates seeking to run South Dakota’s elections: Democrat Tom Cool directly acknowledges the fact that the 2020 election was honest and not stolen, while Republican Monae Johnson can’t give a consistent straight answer. Telling plain facts should not be hard for a Secretary of State or any other public figure.