Oct 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

USA Today breaks tradition by endorsing Joe Biden

Photo illustration of democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

USA Today, one of the largest newspapers by circulation in America, gave Joe Biden its first-ever presidential endorsement on Tuesday.

The big picture: A slew of media companies are endorsing a candidate this year for the first time ever, citing the unprecedented nature of this election.

  • "This is not something we do lightly or do eagerly," said Bill Sternberg, head of USA Today's editorial board.

Between the lines: The newspaper posted a “dis-endorsement” of President Trump in 2016, but fell short of actually endorsing Hillary Clinton.

  • "In 2016, the conservative members of the editorial board could not stomach taking that one extra step and going so far as to endorse Hillary Clinton," said Sternberg.
  • "This time when it was a question of Joe Biden versus Donald Trump, there was a full consensus of the board not just to dis-endorse Donald Trump again, but to go that extra step and endorse Joe Biden, who is a less polarizing and less controversial figure than Hillary Clinton."

Details: In the endorsement, USA Today's editorial board says that it's endorsing Biden because Trump's character is ill-suited for the position.

  • "If this were a choice between two capable major party nominees who happened to have opposing ideas, we wouldn’t choose sides."
  • "Different voters have different concerns. But this is not a normal election, and these are not normal times."
  • "This year, character, competence and credibility are on the ballot. Given Trump’s refusal to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power if he loses, so, too, is the future of America's democracy."

What to watch: The company has a practice of including the opposing view to its opinion pieces, and so it included an editorial on Tuesday from Vice President Mike Pence, making a case for a second term for him and President Trump.

  • "There is no doubt that 2020 has been a time of unprecedented challenges," the editorial reads. "Thankfully, we have a president with the toughness, energy and resolve to en- sure that America’s best days still lie ahead. A vote to reelect President Trump is a vote for a safer, stronger and more prosperous America."

The election has triggered many news companies to endorse a candidate for the first time in their history. This is especially true for science and medical outlets.

  • Scientific American backed Biden in first endorsement in its 175-year history.
  • Lancet Oncology backed Biden in first endorsement in its 20-year history.
  • New England Journal of Medicine, for the first time in its 208-year-old history, came the closest it's ever come to giving an endorsement but publishing a scathing rebuke of the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus.
  • Nature endorsed Joe Biden last week.

Some local newspapers and niche sites are also endorsing Biden for the first time ever.

  • El Nuevo Día, the largest-circulated Puerto Rican newspaper, endorsed Biden in the first endorsement of its 50-year history.
  • A few other smaller entities, like Surfer, have also made first-time presidential endorsements this year for Biden.

The bottom line: Trump won in 2016 despite getting fewer endorsements than any other major presidential candidate in history, The Hill notes.

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