NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – A Tennessee state representative introduced a joint resolution to “reprimand” The Associated Press (AP) on Thursday in response to an article that compiled research regarding racism within the United States military.
The resolution, House Joint Resolution 0709 (HJR0709), can be found below:
The resolution alleges that by publishing an article by writers Kat Stafford, James Laporta, Aaron Morrison and Helen Wieffering, AP as a whole “engaged in the lowest form of yellow journalism.”
The article in question, published in May of 2021, is titled “Deep-rooted racism, discrimination permeate US military” and compiles documents, studies and actions of United States Armed Forces officials over several years in connection to racism, extremism and discrimination within the ranks of several branches.
In the article, Stafford et al. write that over 750 complaints of discrimination based on race or ethnicity were submitted across all branches in fiscal year 2020. The resolution, filed by Tennessee Representative Bud Hulsey (R – Kingsport), states that 750 reports would make up 0.058 percent of active-duty service members, and that the percentage of reports is “exceptionally low.”
Rep. Hulsey’s resolution focuses on the all-branch report total and adds that 0.18 percent of active-duty military members who are members of a racial minority reported discrimination in 2020. The bill does not cite the source of these statistics.
Further into the AP article, writers cite surveys posted to sailors serving aboard several US aircraft carriers. In 2019, writers say 1 in 5 sailors witnessed racial discrimination and nearly a third reported racial jokes and slurs.
Hulsey’s resolution, however, states that the use of earlier report totals indicate that AP “is identifying a problem that doesn’t exist.”
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ONE HUNDRED TWELFTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE SENATE CONCURRING, that it is the sense of this General Assembly that the May 2021 Associated Press article alleging “deep-seated racism” and a “culture of discrimination” in the U.S. military is manifestly untrue and disingenuously presents data to identify a problem that does not exist, and we reprimand the AP for engaging in the lowest form of incendiary journalism.House Joint Resolution 0709
The use of the term “reprimand” in the resolution carries certain legal connotations. Tennessee Code lays out reprimand procedures for judges and individuals licensed to teach or practice medicine in the state, and lawmakers at several levels of government have used reprimands to scold other members of government.
In 2020, former State Representative Micah Van Huss introduced a similar bill that would have officially recognized CNN and the Washington Post as “fake news.” The bill did not pass to become law.
In response to the resolution, Stafford tweeted that the legislative action makes up a “career first” and that the writers “stand by our reporting.”
In addition to her work with AP, Stafford’s website says she was awarded the Michigan Associated Press First Amendment Award in 2019 and is a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan.
WJHL staff have reached out to Rep. Hulsey’s office, and have received no comment on the resolution.
The document faces multiple steps until it is passed according to TN legislative procedure, including the referral and review by a House standing committee and an appearance before a committee consisting of the Speaker, majority leader and minority leader.