Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, a Republican, was not caught on tape saying he’s "concerned" Georgians might actually exercise their right to vote. That's just the distortion that Rolling Stone applied to what he actually said.
Here’s what Kemp said, based on an audio recording obtained by Rolling Stone magazine [emphasis added]:
Not long after Kemp began his remarks, the candidate expressed worry about early voting and "the literally tens of millions of dollars that they [the Stacey Abrams camp] are putting behind the get-out-the-vote effort to their base."
"They have just an unprecedented number of that," he said, "which is something that continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote — which they absolutely can — and mail those ballots in, we gotta have heavy turnout to offset that."
Yes, Kemp is worried that his Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, is doing an excellent job galvanizing her supporters and turning them out to vote. That’s it. That’s all Kemp said. This is nothing more scandalous than a candidate worrying that his opponent is doing a good job turning out supporters. Yet, this is the headline that Rolling Stone chose: “Exclusive: In Leaked Audio, Brian Kemp Expresses Concern Over Georgians Exercising Their Right to Vote.”
And this is how the story opens:
Brian Kemp, Georgia Secretary of State and the Republican nominee for Georgia governor, expressed at a ticketed campaign event that his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams’ voter turnout operation “continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote,” according to audio obtained by Rolling Stone.
Oh, come on.
The author, Jamil Smith, even concedes at one point that, “It is fairly typical for a political candidate expressing confidence in his campaign to lament his opponent’s efforts to increase turnout." But then he falls right back into "dishonest mode," explaining why what Kemp said is actually bad:
But Kemp’s position as Georgia’s Secretary of State clouds his statements. While it is not uncommon for someone in such a position to be on a ballot during an election that he or she oversees — they do have to run for re-election, after all — the state’s top elections official speaking of "concern" about increased early and absentee voting raises further questions about a conflict of interest.
Copycat news reports from equally dishonest newsrooms were not far behind. Vox published a headline that read, “In leaked audio, Brian Kemp expresses ‘concern’ over Georgians exercising their voting right. Splinter News went with, “Georgia's GOP Candidate for Governor Caught on Tape Complaining That So Many People Are Voting.”
Naturally, the original Rolling Stone story was a huge hit with journalists on Twitter, many of whom were extremely eager to share the false report with their many, many followers.
And all this work because the Republican in the race was recorded saying he’s worried his opponent is doing a good job spurring a high level of engagement from her supporters.
Of course he’s worried! He doesn’t want to lose, and the race is a close one!