ViacomCBS Issues Statement Opposing Georgia Voting Bill; Comcast, AT&T Also Weigh In

African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Reginald Jackson at a protest last week over the Georgia voting law. AP Photo/Jeff Amy

UPDATE, 2:49 PM PT:  Comcast Corp., the parent company of NBCUniversal, and AT&T, the parent of WarnerMedia, weighed in amid the controversy surrounding Georgia’s new voting law.

Neither company specifically called out the state’s new voting restrictions, but instead addressed voting rights in general.

Comcast said in a statement, “Voting is fundamental to our democracy. We believe that all Americans should enjoy equitable access to secure elections and we have long supported and promoted voter education, registration and participation campaigns across the country to achieve that goal. Efforts to limit or impede access to this vital constitutional right for any citizen are not consistent with our values.”

AT&T issued a statement from its CEO, John Stankey. He said, “We believe the right to vote is sacred and we support voting laws that make it easier for more Americans to vote in free, fair and secure elections.

“We understand that election laws are complicated, not our company’s expertise and ultimately the responsibility of elected officials. But, as a company, we have a responsibility to engage. For this reason, we are working together with other businesses through groups like the Business Roundtable to support efforts to enhance every person’s ability to vote. In this way, the right knowledge and expertise can be applied to make a difference on this fundamental and critical issue.”

The industry group Business Roundtable issued a statement earlier on Thursday that addressed greater access to voting, but also in a general way.

ViacomCBS issued a statement on Wednesday specifically opposing the Georgia bill.

The CEOs of Coca Cola and Delta Airlines, both based in Georgia, have come out more forcefully against the law after facing a backlash for issuing statements viewed as too general and too weak.

PREVIOUSLY: ViacomCBS is publicly expressing its opposition to Georgia’s recently passed voting bill, adding its name to a list of corporations that are speaking out on the new law.

The statement does not call for a boycott, and such a move has drawn concerns from figures such as Stacey Abrams that it could hurt more than help.

The ViacomCBS statement says, “We unequivocally believe in the importance of all Americans having an equal right to vote and oppose the recent Georgia voting rights law or any effort that impedes the ability to exercise this vital constitutional right. Increasing voter access and civic engagement is one of ViacomCBS’ core social impact pillars and we will continue to educate the public on the importance of an open and fair voting system through our programming and extensive partnerships with grassroots organizations that promote and increase participation in elections.”

Delta and Coca Cola, both based in Georgia, are among the companies that have come out publicly against the law, which voting rights advocates say will restrict voting in the state.

The Motion Picture Association has not issued a statement so far on the situation.

But some of the calls for Hollywood studios to boycott the state are being met with warnings of caution, as Georgia is not the only state facing new laws that place greater restrictions on voting.

In an op-ed in USA Today on Wednesday, Abrams wrote that she didn’t think it was necessary – yet. She wrote that “one lesson of boycotts is that the pain of deprivation must be shared to be sustainable. Otherwise, those least resilient bear the brunt of these actions; and in the aftermath, they struggle to access the victory. And boycotts are complicated affairs that require a long-term commitment to action. I have no doubt that voters of color, particularly Black voters, are willing to endure the hardships of boycotts.”

She added, “By and large, the events and films that are coming to Georgia will speak out against the laws. And they will hire the targets of SB 202: young people, people of color and minimum wage workers who want to elect leaders to fight for their economic security. I again repeat my admonition from 2019 that leaving us behind won’t save us. So I ask you to bring your business to Georgia and, if you’re already here, stay and fight. Stay and vote.”

The Georgia bill, signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp last month, has tougher ID rules for absentee ballots, limits the use of drop boxes like those implemented during the 2020 elections, and gives state election board officials the ability to override local boards. It also makes it a misdemeanor to offer food or water to voters waiting in line. The bill, however, does expand some early voting in primaries and general elections.

The state has become a production hub over the past decade, as a generous set of production incentives have lured major studio tentpole pictures and led to the development and expansion of studio facilities. But the state’s Republican leadership has been at odds with Hollywood progressives. Back in 2016, then-Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a religious liberty bill that ultimately targeted LGBT residents, after major studios and other companies spoke out in opposition and in some cases threatened to take their business elsewhere. In 2019, some studios threatened to reconsider plans to shoot in the state should a new abortion law go into effect. A federal judge ruled last year that the law was unconstitutional.

Tyler Perry, who owns the massive Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, called the new voting law unconstitutional and said that it “harkens to the Jim Crow era.”

President Joe Biden also has weighed in, calling the law an “atrocity.” In an interview with ESPN, Biden said that he would “strongly support” moving the All Star Game in July out of Atlanta.

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