CLAYTON, Oklahoma — The Choctaw Nation Chief, Gary Batton, has expressed his resentment with CNN over its labeling of Native American voters on election night.
Chief Batton says Native Americans across the country took offense to Native American voters being labeled as "something else," as CNN reported exit poll results.
Chief Batton shared the following letter he sent CNN CEO Jeff Zucker on his Facebook page outlining what the news organization could have done better -
Dear Mr. Zucker:
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.
As CNN reported exit polls on election night, Native Americans across the Nation were shocked and deeply offended to see the reporting of critical Native American voters being referred to as “something else.”
Native Americans play a critical role in the elections of this great country. Yet for centuries we have had to continually fight for the right to vote. The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 granted citizenship to all Native Americans. However, it was not until 1957 through the advocacy of our ancestors before state governments that all Native Americans were allowed to vote throughout the country. Today, we continue to fight against voter discrimination.
Despite these challenges, we have continually turned out in unprecedented numbers and have proven that we can influence elections. To ensure our voices are heard, Native Americans have proudly spent countless hours canvassing, phone banking, registering our members to vote, volunteering on campaigns, and lifting our voices up to be heard. We have spent many dollars to increase voter turnout in our communities and are proud of the progress that we have made. 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.
We have fought long and hard to maintain our place and existence in this world. Yet, CNN’s complete disregard of the contributions of Native American voters as demonstrated by its offensive reporting only perpetuates the continued marginalization of our communities and creates a snowball effect that rolls downhill into federal, state, and local governments and neighboring communities that Native American people are not here.
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. Yakoke (thank you) for considering the views and concerns of the Choctaw Nation regarding this matter.
Chief Batton says Zucker replied to his letter with the following response -
Thank you for your email. I appreciate you reaching out.
We agree with you. You are absolutely right. Our exit poll results included a very poor choice of words. We were wrong.
In no way did we intend to minimize the importance of indigenous communities and the Native American vote.
We have corrected it for all of our coverage going forward.
Thank you again for reaching out.
Batton, a Clayton, Okla. resident, became the 47th Chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma in April of 2014. He has worked to expand health clinics, wellness centers, community centers, and build homes for Native American families.